IN front of a handpicked studio audience wielding predetermined questions, David Cameron and Nigel Farage squared up over Brexit on June 7.
Promoted as a debate, the ITV spectacle was nothing of the sort and instead saw Farage submit to 30 minutes of audience wooing before Cameron’s performance. The two never exchanged meaningful words in entirely separate sessions.
Farage was flummoxed by certain key questions and betrayed an exhaustion usually hidden by his enthusiasm for rhetoric. Narrowing in on technical details and highlighting his contradictions, some questions left the Ukipper rummaging around his skull for an elusive answer.
At one point he told a female audience member to calm down after she suggested that he was manipulating the Cologne attacks to his advantage. Much time was spent defending himself, and perhaps this was precisely the reason Vote Leave were infuriated that the polarising investment banker was chosen to represent the Brexit cause.
Cameron’s was a smoother and slicker performance, and he would certainly be declared the winner if the referendum were to be decided on rhetoric, conviction and communication. Alas it won’t be and the prime minister relies heavily on his eager financial salesman approach, failing to understand the underlying fears and motives of his electorate.
Appealing to the authority of the IMF, WTO and other financial institutions, Cameron derided the idea that Brexit would enhance sovereignty, essentially by admitting that whatever happens we’ll have little control over the country anyway.
It was a lacklustre event and, if it did somehow convince anyone disinterested until now to sign up to vote and have their say, the official government registration website crashed in the immediately aftermath of the show.
Cameron and Corbyn are now scrambling to see if the registration deadline can be extended, with the Brexiteers notably silent on the issue, perhaps content they have all the votes they need.