Last night, as those of you not watching England v Portugal might have picked up on, the prime minister went on Sky News to be grilled by Faisal Islam on why we should stay in the EU, followed by questions from the studio audience on the same topic.
After it was all done, the commentariat weighed in. This is where it gets interesting.
If you’d read the Guardian, you’d have thought that Cameron won the day decisively. That yes, there had been a few tough moments to navigate, as you’d expect, but that the PM had made his case well. Andrew Sparrow even commented, in regards to a question from an audience member, that “when Cameron made his point about America not buying British beef, the questioner actually seemed to be learning something.”
Meanwhile, if you’d read the Telegraph, you’d have thought that last night was crushing blow not only to the Remain campaign but to the political career of Cameron himself. Their headline on the event was “EU referendum: Cameron savaged in Sky News debate as voters revolt”. It makes it sound as if the studio audience ran riot and began smashing the place up after one too many mentions of immigration statistics.
I realise that the Guardian has an editorial line that is pro-Remain and the Telegraph has one that is pro-Brexit, but does anyone else find it weird that it was the Guardian that found itself cheerleading for a Tory leader they have spent the last decade castigating, while the Telegraph savaged (their own word for it) the same guy they said it would be a disaster for the country if anyone else led it just last year? For a supposedly non-salient issue, it is amazing how much this referendum campaign has turned British politics on its head.
It also makes a mockery of so much political discussion that came before it. The same newspaper that would have you believe that all Tories are evil zombies, desperate to chew on poor people’s brains, now has to admit that some Tories do have a point sometimes – that some Tories are better than others when it comes to certain issues. The other newspaper meanwhile tells us that a steady ship is what is needed to get the UK through currently choppy geopolitical waters – except that we should pull out of all of our bilateral trade agreements and just see what happens next. That big, unprecedented change is totally fine. Oh and we need it to save the NHS, apparently, which is a sudden concern.
What this amounts to is that the EU referendum is pulling apart the distinctions of Left and Right in this country. It will be interesting to see if things go back to normal from June 24th onwards, or if we really are in new political terrain. I used to think it would definitely be the former, but now I’m not so sure, whatever the result.