Eddie Izzard is an ornament to public life in Britain. Over a distinguished career on stage and screen, he has brought joy and laughter to millions of Britons. More recently, his impressive feats of personal endurance - running 27 marathons in 27 days in aid of charity - put the labours and health of the rest of us to shame.
But – and you could tell there was a “but” coming – his current campaigning in favour of continued British membership of the European Union is bad for his reputation, bad for the causes he espouses, and bad for public debate in Britain. A few weeks ago, on The Andrew Marr Show, Izzard was incoherent and unpersuasive when asked about his pro-EU views. On Question Time this week he was actually awful.
For some reason Izzard, a highly intelligent man, slipped into a frankly bizarre kindergarten lingo about the need to stick together and co-operate rather than be divisive. He spoke in platitudes about our history, and cut across his fellow panellists in a way that made Nigel Farage appear the height of decency and civility.
In Westminster, the word is that the Remain camp are going to use Farage as their secret weapon over the coming weeks, arguing that we ought not to let his vision – allegedly Little England rather than Great Britain – triumph in just under a fortnight’s time.
This might be too clever by half. In his two big television outings this week, Farage was his usual tetchy but passionate and erudite self, and though he may not mobilise swing voters, he will certainly energise his base. The same cannot be said of Izzard, who provided millions of viewers with one of the best adverts for Brexit we have seen in a long time.
Someone in his camp should have a friendly worth with unsteady Eddie, and tell him he’s doing himself – and his cause – no favours when he argues the case for Remain.
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