The five things you need to know on Wednesday June 22, 2016…
One of Ruth Davidson’s most powerful closing lines last night was that by voting Leave “your decision could cost someone else their job.” It brought home the fact that the EU referendum was not just some bit of fantasy politics, a parlour game that has until now been restricted to jokes about Bill Cash or talk of bendy bananas: it is a decision that is deadly serious.
But of course the person whose job is most immediately at risk from Brexit is David Cameron. Many Tory leavers want to get out the message that there will be no move to oust the PM should they win the referendum. There’s talk of a letter being signed by MPs to make that clear and as Nick Watt reported on Newsnight, the plan is for Gisela Stuart to give the first formal Leave reaction to a Brexit vote. Gove and Boris would wait for the PM to speak first.
Asked on the Today prog if he would quit, Cameron again insisted he was going nowhere - at least not soon. “I will accept the instructions of the British people and get to work on Friday morning to deliver them.” I may be wrong, but the tone of that answer sounded like he would simply stay on in a caretaker capacity and would accept the inevitable once the UK had started the exit process.
The PM has pulled out all the stops as D-Day approaches, with a blizzard of newspaper and TV and radio interviews, and even that slightly bizarre steps-of-No10 appearance yesterday to warn old people not to betray their grandchildren.
On Today, Cameron highlighted the Times letter from big and small business backing Remain. He did a consummately professional job of making his case, turning every immigration question into an answer about the economy. “Best of both worlds” (which I haven’t heard for a while) made a comeback. He got most passionate when he said “We are not shackled to a corpse…you can see the European economies recovering”.
The last ORB poll for the Tel yesterday gave Remain a seven point lead. We can expect final polls today from ComRes, Opinium and YouGov. And there may be an Ipsos Mori poll on Thursday morning.
The last TV debate of the campaign takes place on Channel 4 at 9pm, as Jeremy Paxman oversees the clash between Alan Johnson and Nigel Farage and others. Will Farage take the chance to apologise for the poster? Will he make another gaffe? Vote Leave will be hoping not, while hoping he can further appeal to Labour voters in the north. Garage’s final campaign speech is at 11am.
The air war becomes literally that today as Boris takes a helicopter to fly from London to the north with seven campaign stops along the way. Labour In campaign has two propellor planes in the skies today and tomorrow, trailing the message “Labour says vote Remain.”
2) RAISING THE RUTH
The BBC Debate last night was one of the best of the entire campaign. While many of us hacks are deadened by months of the economy/migration/security arguments, many of the public will have tuned in - literally and metaphorically - for the first time last night.
Boris underlined his status as the star of the Leave campaign and as I said last night the Brexiters would be much weaker without him on board. As much as Tory members like The Gover, he is still a divisive figure for many (Tim Farron had a zinger that Gove’s dislike of experts was the reason why he was “such a dreadful education secretary”). But Boris has a panache and cross-party appeal that could prove decisive. His final pay-off that Thursday could be ‘independence day’ got his supporters out of their seats.
Yet he’d had to endure 100 minutes of incoming of Sadiq Khan and Ruth Davidson. At last the In camp had found some passion to match their dry economic arguments. Khan was cheered even before he spoke, so it was clear that he had an X-factor to match Boris’s at least among Remainers. Frances O’Grady was less effective though she forced the Outers to admit they couldn’t guarantee immigration would go down.
It was smart of the Remainiacs to deploy three new voices and faces. Not just because Khan and Davidson were excellent performers who went in hard on ‘Project Hate’ and ‘lies’ respectively. But also because of their very novelty, the media sat up and took more notice. The Leave camp was Ruth-less, but not in a good way.
And they also allowed us to look over the horizon beyond the current referendum to the state of British politics more generally. Khan can’t possibly step down as Mayor before 2020, but he could be a Labour leadership contender in 2025. Ruth Davidson shows no sign of being lured to Westminster…but you never know.
Alan Sugar became the Remain camp’s very own Nigel Farage last night after his disgraceful tweet last night about Gisela Stuart being a German and having no right to talk about the UK’s future. Sugar refused to back down on Twitter despite being disowned by the Inners.
And under the ‘with friends like these…’ section of this debate, don’t forget Donald Trump’s backing Brexit. Last night on SkyNews his campaign has renewed his support for the UK quitting the European Union. His spokeswoman Katrina Pierson said “America is here because of its own little Brexit”.
3) GOVE-RNMENT BY EXPERT
In the BBC debate, “All the experts say” was Remain’s equivalent to “take control”, a mantra repeated over and over until it finally got through. The In camp clearly think it plays well.
But what’s this? The Telegraph has splashed on Michael Gove’s line on LBC yesterday in which he compared anti-Brexit ‘experts’ to propagandists in the ‘pay of government’. Gove even managed to compare himself to Einstein as he invoked Goodwin’s Law (as a discussion becomes more heated, the more likely are references to Hitler or Nazis).
“We have to be careful about historical comparisons,” Gove said, before failing to take his own advice. “..but Albert Einstein during the 1930s was denounced by the German authorities for being wrong and his theories were denounced and one of the reasons of course he was denounced was because he was Jewish. They got 100 German scientists in the pay of the government to say that he was wrong and Einstein said ‘Look, if I was wrong, one would have been enough.’”
It seems Gove is tapping into a wider distrust of experts/figures of authority of all kinds. On Newsnight last night, a bloke in Kingston was asked what he thought of warnings of Brexit-inspired recession by Bank of England Governor Mark Carney. "He's Canadian isn't he?...They know nothing” the guy said.
Gove proved he wasn’t much of an expert of footballers’ views of the EU. Having tried to counter Beckham’s backing for Remain on the Today prog yesterday, he said John Barnes was a Brexiter. Barnes has come out and said that he’s in fact a Remainer. Bear Grylls and Daniel Craig are the latest ‘slebs’ to back the In camp. But if people won’t trust the ‘experts’, it’s unclear they will be swayed by celebrities…
BECAUSE YOU’VE READ THIS FAR…
Some people joke about spanking bankers. But this shocking video has gone viral in China after it showed bank employees being given corporal punishment for not hitting targets.
4) JO’S DAY
A series of events is being held across the world to mark what would have been Jo Cox’s 42nd birthday. The MoreInCommon event (based on her maiden speech phrase that we have ‘more in common’ than that which divides us) will see tributes in Brussels, Paris, New York, Washington, Auckland, Nairobi and Dublin.
People are set to gather in London's Trafalgar Square from 4pm, when a simultaneous event will take place in the market square in Batley, West Yorkshire. A moment of silence will be held at 4.25pm.
Before the Trafalgar Square event, there will be floating commemoration on the River Thames. Departing from the house boat community where Jo and her family lived, a boat will transport her widower Brendan and their two young children and arrive at Westminster Pier at 3pm.
Last night, the BBC aired a very moving interview with Brendan, in which he said his wife was killed because of her strong political views. She would have been out today campaigning hard for a Remain vote in the EU referendum, he said, but she was "worried about the tone of the debate" amid concerns it was "whipping up fears and whipping up hatred”. Sadiq Khan’s line last night didn’t make explicit the link to Jo’s death, but few watching would have missed his point. Yvette Cooper tweeted yesterday a threat to her children that she’d received via email.
It was also notable that Brendan stressed Jo was worried about the coarsening of political debate in general "from left and right”. And he also dismissed suggestions that he would run for his late wife’s seat in the by-election. “She would have been very annoyed with me if I decided that when an angry man kills a young female MP she would be replaced by another man. So I hope that whoever replaces her will become another female MP."
5) DIESEL WORDS
Here’s another diesel danger story. Research seen by the BBC suggests pollution levels from many popular diesel cars are much worse when the outside temperature is lower than 18 degrees. It means millions of vehicles (known as Euro 5s) could be driving around for most of the year with their pollution controls partly turned off.
Carmakers insist it is to stop the vehicles breaking down. But Emissions Analytics CEO Nick Molden told the BBC "If we were talking about higher emissions below zero, that would be more understandable and there are reasons why the engine needs to be protected. But what we've got is this odd situation where the [temperature] threshold has been set far too high, and that is a surprise”.
There are currently 5.1 million Euro 5 diesels on Britain's roads and they are likely to be driving around for another 10 to 15 years. This is all legal, but no wonder campaigners are urging the DoT to investigate further.
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