As passions rise over the June 23 European Union referendum, Prime Minister David Cameron was savaged by a restive audience when he appeared for a live TV session to make the case for Britain remaining in the EU.
Clearly on the backfoot in the face of a belligerent Sky News studio audience and a tough interviewer on Thursday night, Cameron repeated what many called “scaremongering” as part of “Project Fear” to highlight the adverse effects of Britain voting to leave the EU.
After Cameron featured in the first live referendum-related session, justice secretary Michael Gove, one of the leading lights of the “Vote Leave” camp, was scheduled to appear on the same news channel on Friday night and admitted to being “nervous”.
The consensus after Cameron’s appearance was that the session did not exactly enhance his stature or win any news converts to his pro-EU cause. Charitable commentators said he was fast coming across as Tony Blair in his last days as prime minister; others were more biting.
The most severe blow during the live session was delivered by an English literature student, Soraya Bouazzaoui, who accused him of “waffling” about risks posed by Turkey’s links with Islamic extremists.
Bouazzaoui said she wanted to vote for the UK to stay in the EU but the Remain campaign had been “nothing but scaremongering”.
As Cameron began to reel off the “positive case for staying”, Bouazzaoui interrupted him: “Let me finish now, because I’ve seen you interrupt many people beforehand. Let me finish now. I know waffling when I see it, OK?”
She continued, “I’m sorry, but you have not answered my question. How can you reassure the people who do want to vote out – because I have many friends who want to vote out – that we are safe from extremism when we are willing to work with a government like Turkey who want to be part of the EU?”
Senior Conservative leader Iain Duncan-Smith, a leading “Vote Leave” campaigner, accused Cameron of lying on live television on the issue of controlling migration from within the EU.