AFTER nearly forty years as the venerable face of the BBC’s election coverage, Question Time presenter David Dimbleby hosted the biggest debate of his career as leading Brexit campaigners battled with top Remainers in front of thousands of people at Wembley Stadium.
It was fitting that Dimbleby’s old Bullingdon Club cohort Boris Johnson joined him on the panel for a discussion that repeatedly tackled the influence of the elite in British politics, although Johnson’s own nepotistic rise to power went largely unnoticed.
In recent weeks the Leave campaign has argued that the metropolitan elites of Islington are trying to foist their dastardly plans for Brussels domination on British workers, when in truth working class concerns have been hijacked by a group of neo-liberals intent on stripping Britain of its public assets.
This point was finally made by a Remain campaign that has only awoken from its slumber after slipping traumatically in the polls, when trade unionist Frances O’Grady attacked the idea of dismissing expert opinion.
“If you don’t believe the experts, listen to the shop floor,” she thundered, arguing that working people are being used by the Brexiteers for their own private gains, regardless of the financial risk involved for those at the bottom of the pyramid.
She was joined in making the Remain case by Ruth Davidson, leader of the Scottish Conservatives who made a strong impact in recent local elections and was making her first prime time televised appearance south of the border.
Davidson went straight to the jugular, namely her alleged colleague Boris Johnson, attacking him for hogging the limelight while indirectly contributing to what she herself called ‘the Boris show’.
For his part Johnson stuck to his lines, claiming that Britain should ‘retake control of its destiny’ while weathering the onslaught from his fellow panellists in nonchalant form, the same man who said in February “What I won’t do is take part in loads of blooming TV debates against other members of my party”.
Still energised from his historical election as London mayor, Sadiq Khan enjoyed himself, rounding on his predecessor Johnson whom he accused of relying on slogans rather than policies, and hypocritically benefitting from UKIP’s racist campaign while publicly denouncing it.
He won himself a fair round of applause for his own slogan-esque jibe at the Leavers, suggesting that they were masterminding ‘project hate’ in their hefty focus on immigration and casting foreigners as outsiders intent on destroying British identity.
Khan also took on one of the Leave campaigns greatest deceptions when he denounced the claim that Turkey is about to join the EU as a ‘big, fat lie’.
Although Boris Johnson is of Turkish descent and has previously written of his unwavering support for Turkey’s accession to the European Union, he has lent his support to Brexit propaganda that the nation is on the verge of joining, despite talks being at the lowest ebb in decades and member states retaining a veto over new membership.
With the referendum only a day away, it is unlikely that the debate will have any real impact on the result and both sides will be anxiously awaiting the count knowing that neither landed the knock-out blow they so desperately craved.