Ruth Davidson shines in BBC debate… and even wins over Labour figures
Allies of George Osborne also showered praise on the Tory politician as bookies slashed leadership odds.
Scottish Conservatives leader Ruth Davidson made a series of passionate calls for Britain to remain in the European Union as she took centre stage in the BBC’s referendum debate.
Davidson lined up alongside London mayor Sadiq Khan and TUC boss Frances O’Grady to make the case for the Remain side in front of 6,000 people at Wembley Arena.
The Scottish Tory leader helped to save David Cameron the in Scottish referendum in 2014 - and political observers suggested she may have done same in the EU debate with passionate and punchy performance.
In her closing statement, Davidson warned against Brexit: "You have to be 100% sure because there's no going back on Friday morning and your decision could cost someone else their job.
"I know that the EU isn't perfect but the benefits far outweigh any costs and the Britain I know, the Britain I love works with its friends and neighbours, it doesn't walk away from them… There is nothing more positive than having a stronger economy, supporting jobs and opportunities and that's why I believe you should vote Remain."
The Leave campaign was represented by former London mayor Boris Johnson, Labour MP Gisela Stuart and energy minister Andrea Leadsom.
Davidson also tore in to Johnson over possible job losses after a Brexit. She said: "Boris Johnson said will there be job losses. There might or there might not. That is not good enough! That is not good enough! How many jobs would go Boris? How many would go?"
Johnson replied: "Back to Project Fear!"
She also boldly accused Leadsom of telling "a blatant untruth" about how many UK laws are made in Europe.
For his closing statement, Johnson branded this Thursday as “independence day” as he claimed that voting to leave was about standing up for democracy.
He said: “At the end of this campaign, I think you'll agree there is a very clear choice between those on their side who speak of noting but fear... and we on our side who offer hope. Between those who have been endlessly rubbishing our country and running it down and those of us who believe in Britain.
“They say we can't do it, we say we can. They say we have no choice but to bow down to Brussels, we say they are woefully underestimating this country and what it can do. If we vote leave we can take back control of our borders, huge sums of money... and of our whole lawmaking system, the democracy that is the foundation of our prosperity.
“And if we stand up for democracy we will be speaking up for hundreds of millions around Europe who agree with us but have no voice. If we Vote Leave and Take Back Control I believe this Thursday can be our country's independence day.”
However it was Davidson who was declared the big winner on the night.
William Hill twice shortened the odds on the Scottish Tory leader succeeding David Cameron during the debate - 33/1 to 25/1, then onto 16/1.
Her performance prompted highly appreciative tweets from key members of George Osborne’s inner circle. As the chancellor prepares to do battle with Johnson for the Tory leadership, his close ally Matt Hancock and his communications chief James Chapman were both keen to talk up Davidson’s performance.
Davidson’s performance was also applauded by Labour heavyweight John Prescott and the Labour-supporting schools campaigner (and partner of Alastair Campbell) Fiona Millar – and many more Labour supporters.