5 key quotes from the Sturgeon vs Johnson debate and what they tell us


Some of the debaters key attack lines are revealing about the competing campaigns

WITH LESS than two weeks to go until the UK’s referendum on EU membership Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and former Mayor of London Boris Johnson held a seminal debate on the vote.

Strugeon headed up the In arguments with Labour first secretary of state Angela Eagle and Conservative government minister for climate change Amber Rudd. Johnson headed a team with Conservative MP Andrea Leadsom and Labour MP Gisela Stuart.

The heated debate will be one of the last before the vote on 23 June, and represented the current state of both the Out and In campaigns

CommonSpace looks at some of the key quotes from the debate and what they tell us about the campaign.

“I want to do what Boris Johnson once said he would do – make the case for immigration and the positive contribution that it makes.” Nicola Sturgeon

Boris Johnson was once considered to be on the ‘left’ of the Conservative party in some respects. He once, for instance, argued for Turkey to be brought into the EU – a scenarios that is now a key scare tactic of the Out campaign.

Sturgeon is trying here, not just to speak to people’s fears over the unrelentingly negative discussion about immigration, but also flag up Johnson’s politically unreliable nature – something alluded to consistently throughout the debate.

“On the streets of our city, on the streets of London, because of European judges there are terrorist and murders and very serious criminals that we cannot deport.” Boris Johnson

Deploying rhetoric like this is a very risky strategy. Johnson is trying to appeal to a populist mood in the UK public, but that can easily open him up to ridicule should the scare stories become too flamboyant.

It is likely that the Out campaign will be dominated by immigration and related issues, as it is the only issue which has improved the polls for them.

“We need to look at the numbers, though I fear the only number that Boris is interested in is the one that says number 10.” Amber Rudd

Amber Rudd’s biting criticism of Johnson’s ambitions has been widely taken as a barometer heatedness of the faction fight within the Conservatives.

But it also touches on a major theme of the In campaign – the personnel of the Out campaign. Those campaigning to stay in the referendum know that, though Johnson is relatively popular by the standards of politicians, he and his cohorts in the Out campaign like Michael Gove and Nigel Farage are divisive personalities, and invoking the idea of them running the country is an effective deterrent.

“It doesn’t cost £350m a week to be a member of the European Union, and you know that’s true.” Angela Eagle

All three In debaters attacked the Out campaign for the claim that is emblazoned on it’s materials, that the UK pays £350m pounds every week to the EU.

After the UK’s rebate from the EU the figure is £120million, that’s before we receive any money from the EU for UK based projects.

It is another major risk for the Out campaign to deploy a dubious figure, but they are keen to promise material improvements to things like education and health in the event of a Brexit.

“Locked in the back of the EU car, driven in the wrong direction, going to a destination we do not want to go, we say we can take back control.” Boris Johnson

The official Out campaign’s slogan “take back control” is perhaps the strongest on either side of the campaign and speaks directly to the disillusionment of voters who experience a democratic deficient not just as an alienation from the EU, but from democratic and political institutions in general.

It also dovetails with another Out campaign theme – that there are inherent risks involved with staying in the EU, not just with leaving.

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Picture courtesy of Carl

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