Cameron should make way for people capable of making a positive case for Remain

Last night I spent an hour of my life I won’t get back listening to two men who, respectively, don’t much like and loathe the EU, take questions separately from an ITV audience.

It was every bit as dire as you would expect and then some. Watching Cameron head up the case for Remain is a bit like watching that kid (who would have been me at my school) with no hand-eye co-ordination being forced to captain the netball team. Except, of course, that nobody forced Cameron into that position. He chose to pander to the right wing of his party and UKIP.

What was worrying is that the worm thing on the Times Red Box website was mainly pro Farage, but I did wonder if that was because the sort of demographic who would be using it would be more predisposed to Leave. Matt Chorley’s email this morning confirms that, saying that 80% of those using it were pro Brexit to start with.

The problem is that he sounds half-hearted in his arguments for the EU. There is no positivity, nothing in his demeanour or his words to inspire people to vote his way.

During the Scottish referendum, for all he increased the Yes vote every time he opened his mouth, he did at least appear sincere about wanting the UK to stay together. Don’t, he said, vote Yes to hammer the f-ing Tories. He seemed genuinely worried, at least until the result was declared and then he was quick to put party before country and pointscore on English Votes for English Laws.

Last night, Cameron did a lot of Leave’s job for them, legitimising their anti-immigration lines rather than spelling out the many positives of immigration. The whole programme centred round the economy and immigration. That was it. Nothing on human rights, nothing on workers’ rights. The latter is the one argument that I’ve found can switch people. Very few people actually think that the Tories would preserve their hard-won employment rights, particularly if they move substantially to the right post Brexit.

My main conclusion from watching the debate last night was “Where’s Paddy when you need him?”

In the last two weeks of campaigning we need to hear a lot less from the PM and the Chancellor and a lot more from the likes of Paddy, Tim, Shirley, Yvette Cooper, Caroline Lucas and Nicola Sturgeon. They are all capable of making the case to remain in a way that means something to people.

Oh, and as I said before, we should just have Alex Cole-Hamilton’s debut speech to the Scottish Parliament on repeat.

If David Cameron can’t find some mojo and get out there and make a positive case for the EU, he should take a back seat and let those who can influence the key sections of the electorate take the spotlight.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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30 Comments

  • Ruth Bright 8th Jun '16 - 9:46am

    Exactly right. Cameron looks so uncomfortable. We need new voices. Miriam Gonzalez was brilliant on Channel 4 News last night so was Tim doing his spiel in front of the gold car (hope it wasn’t a used gold car!) The feel in the shires is really worrying. I was told yesterday that my branch of my local party is 50/50 on the referendum.

  • At least Cameron is trying, god alone knows where Nicola Sturgeon, Tim Farron and any of the Labour leadership have been for the last of month. The “remain” side have been using people like Nick Clegg, John Major and Peter Mandelson – can they find a more useless bunch. If the “remain” side win this referendum it will be down to David Cameron – I’m not a fan – but he’s put 10 times more effort into this campaign than the rest of them put together.

  • nigel hunter 8th Jun '16 - 9:58am

    Cameron cock sure of himself thought that it would be an easy ride to combat UKIP and keep his party together with the referendum even though he is lukewarm on the EU like Corbyn. Political in fighting in the Tories seeking power for their own ends has led to division in the country. Now that this fiasco is upon us we do need a stronger voice, sincere positive and cool to front the debate, vote Tim (and Brown).

  • Richard Underhill 8th Jun '16 - 10:13am

    I recorded this and watched it with a pause button. I also recorded and watched Newsnight compered by Evan Davies.
    ITV wanted the PM and Cameron wanted to avoid Blue on Blue, which he achieved.
    The Leave side are split and Farage is not their official spokesman.
    I love Scotland, met my wife in Edinburgh, went to 2 federal conferences in Glasgow, was in Coldstream during the Scottish referendum, but it does look different down here.
    Scotland’s problem with emigration, was mentioned at PMQ last week. Northern Ireland is also affected, while in Wales there is internal migration from England partially caused by house prices. Greater London has a larger population than Scotland, including many able Scots in work and providing leadership.
    Cameron’s mention of the risk of a second referendum on Scottish independence is worrying, but Nick Clegg has said the same thing, while the SNP leader differs from her predecessor.

  • Hi Carron. We are agreed!
    My comment posted in the last 48 hours:
    “theakes 6th Jun ’16 – 5:18pm

    “I have suggested to the National Campaign, not the party one, that Farron takes over fronting the Remain campaign on the media. Think it could swing things in the last week rather like Steel taking over from Jenkins did in 1983”.

    Remain needs a new face fronting things with the media, people are getting tired of Cameron and Osborne and people I know have stopped listening. Farron would be that face and could get people interested again.
    Mind you in the end hopefully it will be the economy and with capital flowing out, the country could be in trouble come 10 days time, have to hke interest rates etc to try and cover.

  • I’m afraid we’re stuck with Cameron. Any change now – which won’t happen – would be seized on by the Brexit lot as a major triumph.

    My hunch is – no thanks to Cameron (who subjected us to all this hullabaloo for ill judged internal party reasons) – there could be a last minute swing to remain as happened in the Scottish referendum.

    One thing I’m clear about. The level of political leadership in this country on all sides is pretty dire. Come to that, the whole body politic – including especially the right wing ex-pat tax avoiding press – is pretty dire.

  • Richard Underhill 8th Jun '16 - 11:06am

    Ruth Bright: where is your local party please? At least tell us Scotland, Wales, England or Northern Ireland.
    The registration website crashed last night. The deadline should be extended.
    If the issue is raised at PMQ it would not be good enough to say ‘Not my job’.

  • Sadly for some it needs to be accepted that whatever gains have been made since 2015 the Lib Dems, and therefore their leader are still not trusted by the wider public. I agree someone need to take over but I feel it needs to be someone un-tainted by Party Politics. That said I don’t have a decent candidate!!!

    @malc
    “god alone knows where Nicola Sturgeon, Tim Farron and any of the Labour leadership have been for the last of month. ”

    At a guess Tim has been trying but is being ignored by the media, Sturgeon is secretly hoping for a Brexit so she can achieve the stated aim of the SNP, and Corbyn is (at best) lukewarm about remaining…

  • Richard Underhill 8th Jun '16 - 11:13am

    If Evan Davies was right on Newsnight the Remain side may need to broaden its approach on issues. I agree with Shirley Williams. When David Cameron appeared with the Tim Farron, green leader Natalie Bennett and Labour’s Harriet Harman there was coverage of the fact that they had shared a platform, but there was presumably nothing new and newsworthy in what DC said. (Not to be confused with David Coulthard).

  • Richard Underhill 8th Jun '16 - 11:15am

    Labour’s Hillary Benn was also interviewed for Remain on BBC.

  • Matt (Bristol) 8th Jun '16 - 11:53am

    I agree we’re stuck with Cameron.

    This is depressing.

    I was trying to think of an charismatic but not unduly divisive elder statesman / woman with cross-party and nationwide appeal … but I am struggling.

    The Tory wheeling out of both Major and Hague in consecutive weeks has been helpful to some extent in that it broadens the appeal beyond Cameron, but it’s too late.

    The whole thing is compounded by the crisis within Labour, none of whose recent leaders have anything like a chance of gaining acceptance and listening across the country (or within their own party).

  • Richard Underhill 8th Jun '16 - 12:01pm

    The BBC could do us a favour by showing Marty Feldman’s weather forecast.
    Farage’s statement about passports was misleading, presumably intentionally. Lord Carrington at [email protected] agreed a common format, but the passport is issued by the UK.

  • Nick Clegg would be great.

  • Nick Clegg would be great

    He can tell us what the EU will be like in ten years.

  • Malc will be pleased to know that Nicola Sturgeon will be appearing for the SNPs Scotland in Europe campaign on the ITV referendum debate at 8pm tomorrow (9 June).

    In the meantime, feel free to read and use the Scotland in Europe’s Wee Bleu Book (link below) which makes the relentlessly positive case for Scotland remaining in the EU. For example, did you know that EU immigrants contribute a net £55 per second to the public purse! You won’t hear positivity like that from any of the London based campaigns.
    http://www.scotlandineurope.eu/wee_bleu_book

  • Tony Dawson 8th Jun '16 - 12:46pm

    @david:

    “Nick Clegg would be great.”

    Change being as good as arrest? 😉

    I agree that Tim Farron combined with John Major and maybe Andy Burnham would be a lot better than Cameron but Cameron we have got. 🙁

    The real problem is the working class voters to whom Cameron appeals not a jot and Corbyn hasn’t really bothered to try to reach. My taxi driver summed it up this morning:

    “High rents and low wages.”

    Blair opening the doors to mass migration without mass house building was an utter sin. It is very difficult to argue with people that we cannot undo the past. They do not believe politicians in general and it is very easy for the scaremongers to plant in their minds the idea that this situation will only continue and maybe get worse.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 8th Jun '16 - 1:42pm

    Caron

    I do not agree, I have never understood the dislike of Cameron , as a personality,at his worst , flashman, at his best , one of the most reasonable and diplomatic personalities in politics.Same as when he went the rounds in the EU , too many criticised his efforts , had he won no concessions remain would not have a chance!

    Last night he convinced me more than he would if he had pushed Tim and Paddys tired arguments you allude to , for immigration.We all , or at least many of us do , know, or keep hearing of the benefits of it , our side need to show some understanding of other peoples fears , that is not pandering !

    It is important people in our party wake up to peoples concerns , very moderately and frequently expressed on this very site!

    And Farage was not as convincing as usual precisely because Cameron is so patriotic!

  • Ruth Bright 8th Jun '16 - 1:43pm

    Sorry Richard – Hampshire, that’s why I said shires.

  • Pete Shallcross 8th Jun '16 - 2:31pm

    I’ve long held the opinion that the Remain camp need to make much greater use of Ken Clarke. Clarke is probably past his political prime, but his appeal across the political dividing lines is much greater than any other Conservative politician and his enthusiasm for the EU unwavering (although I have to concede William Hague was effective on both the radio and in the Telegraph yesterday, plus his Eurosceptic credentials are a useful card to have in hand).

    On our side I think Tim is doing an excellent job, his passion for Remain is genuine, he’s certainly batting above his weight in terms of media coverage and he’s pushing a positive case for the EU. Get Paddy Ashdown out on the stump too, another elder-statesman with mass-appeal. With a heavy heart I have to agree with the analysis that Clegg is toxic for the general electorate at the moment.

    Very conscious I’ve called for two politicians who have had their day to step forward, but sadly I’m really scratching my head to think of anybody who could muster widespread appeal from the current generation, the SNP undoubtedly have very talented politicians but I just know from my own experience the revulsion with which the SNP is held for many English voters.

    What happened to Stuart Rose?!

  • Eddie Sammon 8th Jun '16 - 2:46pm

    I think it is best to make the nuanced argument for the EU. If the key remain spokespeople are too positive it will look like they think the status-quo is fine and therefore nothing much needs to change. There’s a difference between being pro immigration and being pro sustained mass immigration which is the territory we are now in when it comes to immigration numbers.

    At least Cameron isn’t as negative as Corbyn. You can tell Corbyn’s heart really isn’t in it.

  • Matt (Bristol) 8th Jun '16 - 5:23pm

    This whole conversation here to me reveals the degree of popular apathy, political antipathy, widespread slander and blame British politics seems to have been locked in for some time… worsening since at least the Iraq war, gathering speed with the expenses scandals and the financial crash, and not really recovering in any sense since during or since the Coalition (and yes, alas, tuition fees fed into that process).

    It is telling that Blair, another person to whom in past eras we might have looked for leadership and a sense of statesmanship, has further soured the air with a full-frontal attack on Corbyn today, obviously seeking to get his retalitation in first in response to red-on-red attacks in his own party in the run up to Chilcott publication.

    There is no trust of the political class, there is no trust among the political class.

    Not an ideal time in which to run a cross-party campaign on a complex and multi-layered constitutional issue of national importance (and some would argue, one that has something of the nature of existential threat, though obviously that is disputed).

    I really cannot see how Cameron can do anything but limp on after this, and I am not convinced that remaining in will do anything for his personal credibility in the country.

  • I’m not fond of Cameron, but the reality is no one else wants to be too heavily associated with possibly being on the losing side. Also he is the Prime Minister. He did call the referendum. And it his is job.
    Maybe, these things have a life of their own largely driven by the general public and the idea that any one leader can deliver anything very much is just wrong.

  • Stevan Rose 8th Jun '16 - 6:13pm

    The right leader of Remain is Alan Johnson, a man who could have been PM had he put himself forward, and very popular across all political persuasions who can speak with authority across a wide range of subjects. And he is humourous and self-deprecating. I do sometimes get a feeling Cameron and Osbourne are actually saboteurs.

  • It’s curious how people can watch the same thing and perceive it so differently. I actually thought Cameron was quite persuasive, so much so that by the end of the programme I felt far more firmly on the In side than I have at any other point in the campaign. I find it interesting that Lorenzo – who like me is only mildly in favour of In – seemed to react in a similar way.

    The fact is that hardly anybody is likely to be inspired by the EU, and the few who are will obviously be planning to vote Remain anyway, so it’s much more important for Cameron to be attracting those voters who are not so keen on the EU but might yet be persuaded that it’s nevertheless better to be in than out right now. I think he did a good job in that respect. Let’s not forget that one of the reasons the AV referendum was such a calamity was that the Yes campaign tried to make out it was the best thing since sliced bread when it obviously wasn’t; the public didn’t buy this for a second and moved en masse to No.

    I’m not sure why you say Cameron said nothing positive about immigration. He referred a number of times to the benefits of immigrants working in and contributing to the UK.

    @Lorenzo: “our side need to show some understanding of other peoples fears , that is not pandering !”

    Of course it isn’t. I trust that those who go on and on about how concern over immigration = racism took note of the ethnicities of some of the audience members who voiced such concerns on the programme last night. There will always be a racist element who object to immigration for that reason, but the large majority of people are not motivated by that and are not opposed to all immigration.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 8th Jun '16 - 8:33pm

    Well said stuart!

  • Peter Davies 8th Jun '16 - 9:20pm

    The Evening Standard / London Live debate was the most inteligent I have seen yet. The remain side put up CBI chief Carolyn Fairbairn, entrepreneur Rohan Silva and Labour MP Chuka Umunna – no Tory politicians. They clearly won. While the debate appears to be an internal Tory fight, it’s all going to be about which side can cast the other as the establishment.

  • @Stevan Rose
    You may be on to something with Alan Johnson perhaps with an equally acceptable personality from the right…

  • Matt (Bristol) 9th Jun '16 - 4:02pm

    The joint Blair-Major intervention in Northern Ireland is a perfect example of a well-thought-out usage of the resources ‘In’ campaigners DO have.

    Sanity strikes!

    Success of this speech are:
    – keeping Blair out of England
    – keeping both away from bashing their own parties,
    – The two figureheads being of equal status, as both ex-PMs
    – The two speaking in unity and not at cross-purposes
    – Both speaking on a specific subject (Northern Ireland) on which they still – despite their mutual flaws – have some credibility with the general public

    I suspect, though, it will do little for the Labour ‘In’ campaign in general, with Blair-phobia being so rife in ‘his own’ party.

    But I hope the In campaign makes limited, targetted, usage of both these two, as both are so hated by many on their own side, putting them into the general melee risks collateral damage.

  • I do wish most folks did not automatically reach for a male figure.
    Shirley Williams is not being used.
    The women plus Boris worked and Amber Rudd was good and also made a positive case better than any Tory I had seen.
    Shirley Williams is my most wished for person in the campaign.
    All the men on both sides tend to stick to same boring argument without making it understandable.

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