David Cameron evokes ‘fighter’ Peter Mandelson in ITV Brexit showdown
There was no clear winner as the Tory and Ukip leaders faced tough questioning from a 200-strong audience.
David Cameron appeared to evoke Peter Mandelson as he faced a live TV audience for the second time in the European Union referendum campaign.
The prime minister said leaving the EU was for "quitters" not "fighters" as he faced questions from the studio audience.
Earlier in the programme, Nigel Farage faced accusations of "inflammatory" scaremongering and he slipped up by telling a female audience member to calm down.
But neither politician faced a knockout blow – prompting Westminster insiders to declare the showdown a score draw.
Cameron's fighting talk came after one audience member had been sceptical about his deal with the EU and his ability to reform the bloc.
The prime minister back: “Our membership is right for Britain. It helps us work with other countries to get what we want. We need to be in this organisation, fighting for British interests and for British jobs.
"I don't think we're quitters, we’re fighters."
His soundbite immediately prompted speculation among political commentators about whether the prime minister was taking inspiration from Mandeslon, intentionally or not.
The New Labour architect memorably confounded his critics back in 2001 by telling them he was "a fighter not a quitter", as he was re-elected in his Hartlepool constituency with a commanding majority - five months after being forced out of the government.
Cameron also argued that "the British thing to do is to fight for a Great Britain inside a European Union, and don't take the Nigel Farage 'little England' option".
Just before Cameron took the stage, the Ukip leader said being British meant not being bullied by anybody.
Farage also defended comments he made about the Cologne sex attacks, but he made the mistake of taking an aggressive tone towards the audience member who had raised the issue.
The female audience member had told the Ukip leader this evening: “You have basically suggested that vote to Remain is a vote for British woman to be subdued to same horrific assaults.”
Farage hit back: “Just calm down there a little bit alright. Sometimes in life what it says at the top of the newspaper page and what you’ve actually said can be slightly different things.
“I’m used to being demonised because I’ve taken on the establishment.”
David Cameron was previously accused of sexism after he told Angela Eagle to "calm down dear" during a Commons exchange.