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Convictions unchanged at the EU Referendum debate?

The short version

Bees are the most important issue in this entire EU referendum debate. We’re going to lose them all, it will be the end of the world, and someone has to take the blame dammit.

The long version

Simon Warley (Labour) was a very good, likable speaker. He was generally positive, and pointed out all the funding we receive from the EU, but ignored that all this wonderful money was ours in the first place.

* “It’s a myth that we’re being told what to do by the EU,” he said, which sounded more like wishful thinking given that this is one of the principle causes of animosity towards the EU bureaucracy.

* He also credited the EU for putting an end to our pumping raw sewage in the sea, as if we Brits, left to our own devices, like nothing more than to pump raw sewage into the sea.

But my own bias aside he made a genuine case and some good points.

James Flanagan (Liberal Democrat) is an excellent speaker, and no doubt missed by the Liberal Democrats on Canterbury City Council.

Arguably the debate might have been better had it been a simple Brazier v Flanagan heads-up match, with more of a back and forth between them.

I found I wrote less about Flanagan and Brazier, which I think was because I listened to them more.

Alas, his one sound bite about Donald Trump wanting the UK to leave (as a reason to vote to stay) was good (if easy) theatre, but hardly fool proof, given Trump’s overt Liberalism.

Michelle Freeman (Green Party) was not a bad speaker, but was outshone by both Warley and Flanagan. She defended immigration by saying that the problem was not the pressure that this places on such things as housing. In her view the real problem was that “we sell housing off to foreign investors and they don’t pay tax.”

In one fell swoop (swan dive?) she’d defended foreigners, attacked foreigners, and the use of that magic word “tax” to boot. It might have impressed her supporters, but not many others. Also, her suggestion that the war in Syria was part caused by drought seemed, well, lacking in hydration.

Harriet Yeo (Vote Leave) awkwardly quoted her 9-year-old in such a way as to suggest that the child was a modern day political sage, who should be worshiped while seated on a cushion Tweeting things.

But Yeo, formerly of Labour but now UKIP, delivered one of the better lines of the night. Trade Unions, not the EU, fought for workers’ paid leave, she said, which produced an uncomfortable silence from those on the left, forced to temporarily abandon convictions to support the more immediate cause (politics, eh?)

Keith Walsh (UKIP) was less than convincing, and I suspect did little more than meet the expectations many already had about what a UKIP spokesperson might sound like.

Certainly among the students, a restless group at the best of times, who made known their feelings after each answer. (Incidentally the students also proved that it’s possible to both buy and wave an EU flag totally free of irony).

There was a silly question about the EU becoming a caliphate, which seemed textbook UKIP, and was dismissed as such. When he quoted that there were 500 members of ISIS in Europe, it seemed one step short of announcing he had a list of names in his pocket.

The students, who started each question with “I was just wondering…” did nothing except show themselves to be intelligent and politically engaged, if a little pleased with themselves. But while they asked good questions, most were for Julian Brazier. Entirely understandable, but it meant we heard less from the Remain side.

Julian Brazier MP (Conservative) was (as you might expect) at his best when addressing security, and that the EU was better able to bring peace.

This was easily dismantled by Brazier, who pointed to the catastrophic failure of the EU in Bosnia – which was left to NATO to untangle (to the universal objection of the left), but also the current situation in Ukraine, and the EU’s foot dragging over effective sanctions of the Putin regime.

I’m not sure many people would have had their minds changed on the night, although there were fewer undecided arms raised at the end of the debate than at the beginning. I’m obviously biased (see above), but I’d wanted my convictions to be challenged a little more. Those bees though… terrifying.

The best line of the night though came not from any member of the panel, or from the floor. It was between the two retired ladies behind me, on hearing that we practically export pensioners to sunny Europe to retire.

“Would you like to be exported Barbara?” said one lady, turning to her friend.

“Actually, I think I would.”

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