If I’m honest, all this had been written long in advance. There are no lies left untold. No deceptions left unexploited. No half truths turned to face the mirror as the smoke machine fires up. And then wallop! In walked Ruth Davidson and if the nation votes to stay in the EU on Thursday it will be very hard indeed to resist the temptation it was Ruth that did it.
Almost an hour and a half had passed when she stared Boris Johnson in the eye and turned the face the 6,000 strong crowd, who, if the whoopometer is a reliable measure, were on balance seemed to be of a Brexit disposition.
“You’re being asked to make a decision on Friday that’s irreversible, you can’t change it, and you’re being sold it on a lie,” she thundered. “They lied about the costs of Europe, they lied about Turkey. They lied about the European Army. We have a veto on all those things. They’ve put them in their leaflets and it’s Not. Good. Enough. You deserve the truth. You deserve the truth!”
They went utterly wild.
On a personal note, I’ve had my nose pressed up against the glass of this referendum for far too long, and from a starting position of immense uncertainty, I made my mind made up me long ago. It’s immigration versus the economy. And the Leave side are just offering lies on immigration, so it’s no debate at all.
I’ve watched the debate descend into the darkest places - naked fascism, to be exact - the ghosts of dead Great Britons argued over like the last Digestive biscuit. And if the ghost of Churchill has showed his face at all, it was in that moment.
In long and gruelling months, it has been tempting to wonder whether a single utterance from a single politician, however impassioned, has changed anyone’s mind one iota. I believe that did.
If you’ve left it til now to take an interest in the EU Referendum debate then good for you. There’s every chance you found last night’s events genuinely illuminating.
As for the rest: Andrea Leadsom still speaks as a mum. Gisela Stuart is still an immigrant and a mum. Boris Johnson is still the grandson of immigrants.
“My family has benefited enormously from immigration,” said Boris, which goes some way to explain why his Dad Stanley, his sister Rachel and his MP brother Jo are all campaigning for the other side.
Remain had handed the script to some new actors. And it worked.
“Your campaign hasn’t been about Project Fear, it’s been Project Hate,” Sadiq Khan screamed at Boris Johnson.
“Pressure on wages comes from those greedy bankers crashing the economy. And if we leave, we’ll crash it again,” the head of the TUC, Frances O’Grady boomed at the 6,000 strong audience, wisely mitigating for the small risk that the microphone wasn’t working.
For the first hour, applause broke out each time Vote Leave succeeded in their mission to end every utterance with the words take back control. In the final 45, something changed.
When Frances O’Grady asked Andrea Leadsom if leaving the EU would bring immigration numbers down, the greatest deception of all appeared to be skewered. That at no point have Vote Leave promised to bring the number down, the 350,000 number. And the audience knew it too.
Later in the evening, Priti Patel wandered into the Spin Room, to tell some TV news crew how “the brightest and the best” will be welcome in this country. But the brightest and the best still go to the GP. The Brightest and The Best still have kids that go to primary school. It’s not the Brightest and the Best that people are bothered about. It’s the size of the number.
At the very end, Boris Johnson, wandered to the centre of the stage, stared down the barrel of the camera, and compelled the audience to ‘make June 23rd our Independence Day.’
He’ll have imagined it was all very Churchillian. But his side’s problem? They were completely Ruthless.
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