Boris vs Cameron and why we all like a good scrap

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‘Don’t let the referendum tear the Tory party apart,’ says William Hague on the front page of today’s Daily Telegraph. Oh, I don’t know. Please do – it’s a good spectator sport. Some of us are rather uplifted by the sight.

Europe, eh – it’s always good for an internecine scrap, and David Cameron and Boris Johnson were grabbing each other by the tie in the Commons yesterday, metaphorically for sure and perhaps literally too if they chanced on each other in the corridor afterwards. Maybe they engaged in a belly-banging contest too as both of them are equipped for such a brotherly bout.

There is something compelling about naked hostility between members of the same tribe, and two posh boys scrapping in the political playground is something the rest of us will crowd round to see.

Now we all have our views on Europe; mine, as explained previously, is a slightly hesitant ‘stay’. But the trouble with deciding one way or the other is the company you end up keeping.

Mark Steel made this point on BBC Radio 4’s The News Quiz last week. Now Steel is a rarity in being a comedian who is both genuinely hilarious and left-wing. What he said in precis was: Farage is anti-Europe so I’m definitely voting ‘yes’; but Blair’s a ‘yes’ so I’m definitely voting no, and so on.

His observation was a good one, and it returned to my mind while watching Channel Four news last night. The problem with this debate, I decided, is that it’s conducted by politicians; can’t they get someone else to explain the arguments? Surely there must be someone sensible out there.

The thought arose because of the unseemly sight of two politicians messily scrapping outside Parliament, with John Snow towering over them in his role as an exasperated moderator.

The pair here were Nigel Farage for Ukip and Tory MP Anna Soubry, the Minister for Small Business; or perhaps it was minds – I forget now. Anyway there they were, Farage with his toady double chin and his saloon-bar belligerence; and Soubry with her brittle arrogance and her, well, aggressive weirdness. He wants us to leave (obviously); she wants us to stay. God what a depressing encounter that was – enough to put anyone off having anything to do with the whole referendum.

Do I really want to say ‘yes’ and keep company with Soubry and the Prime Minister; will I ever be able to look myself in the face again?

The papers this morning are full of David Cameron’s three-hour statement in the Commons yesterday – quite an achievement for a man who, according to reports, had spent long days in Brussels living off takeaway pizza and Haribo sweets.

It was a good speech, based on the bits I heard before switching off the news. Heavens we’ve got four months more of this to come.

Today’s headlines won’t help anyone seeking guidance through the mud-popping ideological quagmire. The Telegraph has Cameron letting rip at Boris, while The Guardian and The Independent say much the same; the Daily Mail goes for “Now Cameron turns nasty” – a surprise to those of us who always thought he was; and the very ‘anti’ Express settles for “Boris boosts fight to quit EU.”

The ‘i’ has “On your Bike, Boris” next to a photograph of the MP and Mayor of London cycling towards controversy (you take a sharp right turn just before the House of Commons); and the Sun loses its sure touch with the over-wrought “NoGo v BoJo” in which Johnson has a speech bubble proclaiming: “Rubbish! Rubbish! Rubbish!” – words he was heard delivering in an incantational mutter in the Commons yesterday afternoon.

Incidentally, Channel Four News managed to find a woman in Liverpool who’d never heard of Boris Johnson. What blissful ignorance! How on this salted earth had she achieved such a remarkable feat?

Anyone looking to the Labour leader for a steer won’t have come away with much yesterday, as Jeremy Corbyn’s performance was sadly lacklustre – and a little beside the point, as all everyone wanted to see was that scrap between Cameron and that tousle-haired blond bloke who remains unknown to one woman from Liverpool.


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