08:23 Tuesday 23rd February 2016
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
DOTTY MCLEOD: David Cameron is taking to the road today answering questions from voters, as he begins campaigning for Britain to stay in the European Union in the forthcoming referendum. He’s facing criticism though from Conservative Eurosceptics, who have accused him of launching a personal attack in the Commons on the Mayor of London Boris Johnson. Boris Johnson has decided to support those wanting to leave the EU. The spat is splashed across most of this morning’s newspapers. I’m joined now by our Political Correspondent Paul Rowley. An argument in the House of Commons between two Old Etonians Paul, it strikes me that this is slightly peculiar front page news.
PAUL ROWLEY: It’s bizarre to be honest with you. I’m very worried in a way that it’s been portrayed as a kind of psycho-drama Dotty, a bit like the tensions we saw when Tony Blair was Prime Minister and Gordon Brown wanted to be Prime Minister. Although I think this may well be overplayed by some of my colleagues in the national press, just because it’s easier frankly to tell this story as a kind of soap opera through the eyes of two of the leading characters, rather than talk about the ‘ishues’, as Tony Benn used to call it. But I tell you, this is what’s happening on Day One of the campaign. Heaven only knows what it’s going to be like by the time we all get to vote in four months time.
DOTTY MCLEOD: David Cameron then taking to the road today. Is that right?
PAUL ROWLEY: It is. Yes. He’s going to meet voters, real people. Well it’s a specially selected group of voters Dotty, at a business in Berkshire, where he’ll take questions from workers. The focus is going to be on the threat to industry, to jobs, in the event of Britain leaving the European Union, which I think is going to be a common theme throughout this campaign. I’m told there are going to be two or three of these events every week between now and June 23rd. Those who want to go it alone are accusing the Government of Project Fear, trying to frighten the voter. Those who want to stay say well, it’s the hard truth. In the end it’s up to you to decide. Not you Dotty McLeod, but you the listener, the voter, in, in my reckoning, 121 days time. Yes I’ve been striking the notches off my bedpost Dotty. And you know what? I really think I should be going out a little more.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Do you think Paul? Do you think? Of course in some ways the new line if you like today is this signatures from 200 businessmen. Tell us about that.
PAUL ROWLEY: Well they’re big names. Asda, BT, Marks and Spencer, they’ve jointly signed a letter to The Times saying that Brexit as they call it would deter investment and threaten jobs. They include 36 of the top FTSE companies, 100 in total. That’s the Financial Times Share Index, although Footsee to me Dottie coming from Wigan was a Northern soul song by Wigan’s Chosen Few back in 1975, when funnily enough we had the last referendum, indeed the only referendum, on Europe in this country. But those who want to leave are saying well you know, a third of the companies may have signed it but what about the other two-thirds? They’ve not signed up to it yet, or will they sign up? I know that some companies, the likes of Tesco, are absent at the moment. I know others like Nissan, Toyota, JCB, are saying it doesn’t matter to us. We’ll still stay here anyway. It won’t affect the job numbers. And a lot of small businesses I’ve spoken to Dotty believe there’s too much red tape coming out of Brussels, so they won’t mind leaving ultimately. So you’re going to get this kind of argument. But what’s noticeable about this letter, I saw a phrase in it which said ‘Britain will be stronger, safer and better off in a reformed European Union.’ And i think I’ve seen that somewhere before. Well I have, boy I ever have, because the Prime Minister used that phrase no fewer than nine times in interviews over the weekend. So clearly it sounds like Downing Street wrote this letter or clearly had a hand in it. It is not a spontaneous event. You’re going to get lots of these between now and when is it? June 23rd. Yes that’s it.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Paul Rowley, thank you very much for that. Our political correspondent.