David Cameron survives first big TV test on Brexit
The Tory leader was sure-footed when taking questions from the studio audience - even when they were rather rude.
David Cameron last night attacked Leave campaigners as “quitters” as he took part in the first major live televised programme of the referendum campaign.
He also repeatedly stressed the risks of Brexit, most notably by telling voters that leaving the European Union would be to "roll the dice" on their children's future.
The prime minister emerged relatively unscathed from his Sky News grilling, but the smiles on the faces of the Brexiteers in the spin room afterwards suggested they felt it had done their chances of victory no harm at all.
Cameron used the TV appearance to hammer home his warnings about the economic and security implications of leaving the EU.
“I’m the Prime Minister who sits around the table with 27 other heads of government and state and sometimes this organisation drives me crazy,” he said.
“But do I sit there and think Britain would be better off if we left, are we quitters, do we think we quit the European Union, we quit the single market and that somehow we would be better off? Absolutely not.”
Sky’s political editor Faisal Islam left Cameron looking distinctly uncomfortable on a few occasions. His best zinger came when he mocked the Remain campaign’s Project Fear strategy by asking the PM: "What comes first, World War 3 or the global Brexit recession?”
The Tory leader was more sure-footed when taking questions from the studio audience, drawing on his experience gained from years of Cameron Direct town hall meetings.
There were no killer blows, but English literature student Soraya Bouazzaoui won Twitter by rudely accusing the prime minister of "waffling" as he began to answer her fears over Turkey joining the EU in the future.
Cutting across him, she shouted: "That’s not answering my question. Let me finish now. I’ve seen you interrupt many people before hand. Let me finish. That is not answering the question. I’m an English literature student, I know waffling when I see it. I’m sorry."
She later denied being rude and told Sky News that Cameron was “getting a taste of his own medicine”.
The Cameron soundbite, which he rushed to get out at the very end, was a claim that leaving the EU would be to "roll the dice" on the future of "our children and grandchildren".
In the spin room afterwards, senior Conservative and Labour politicians were both on hand to talk up the prime minister's performance.
Work and pensions secretary Stephen Crabb said: “He held his own, I thought he explained in a very clear and cool way just why staying part of Europe is the best thing for Britain, why our economic prosperity depends vitally on being part of that single market of 500 million consumers, and I think the Prime Minister did a very good job tonight.”
Labour’s Chris Bryant said Cameron had been right to argue Britain would suffer if it left the EU: “I’m not a fan of David Cameron but I think he put some of the arguments really well; there are other arguments that I think he could have put better."
He added: “The most important thing for me is that we as a country I think would be cutting off our nose to spite our face if we were to decide to leave the European Union.”
But batting for Brexit, Iain Duncan Smith insisted: "You quit if you remain in because what you’re remaining inis the beginnings – it’s not even the beginnings now; it’s pretty much two-thirds of the way to being a superstate. That’s quitting. Leaving is about taking back control.”