What brought two MEPs, a former deputy prime minister of Poland and a Japanese film crew to Chiswick last night? The Chiswick Calendar’s EU Elections debate. Proof, if proof were needed, that the Brexit debate has completely polarised Britain and made us an international laughing stock.
In an area which voted 70% Remain I was quite surprised that the audience was split, very loudly and quite aggressively so. People had come from far and wide to see their man, the Brexit party’s top candidate in London, Ben Habib, debate with candidates from five other parties: Scott Ainslee (Green party), Helen Cross (Lib Dem), Seb Dance MEP (Labour), Jan Rostowski (Change UK) and Charles Tannock MEP (Conservative).
Charles Tannock, a committed European who has served as an MEP for 20 years, applied for Irish citizenship in response to Brexit. ‘Traitor’ someone yelled when this was mentioned.
“No Deal was not voted on” said Seb Dance. “It was” yelled the Brexiteers. “Nigel Farage told us we’d have a better deal (than we currently have in Europe) Seb shouted back. “Lies, Lies, Lies”
The bloke sitting next to me in the audience kept up a loud running commentary. When someone mentioned “good Europeans”, “that’s an oxymoron” he said. When Scott Ainslee was trying to make the case for working together in Europe to tackle climate emergencies: “None of them have done a day’s work in their lives, they’re politicians!” he shouted.
The debate was wide-ranging. Each of the candidates managed to articulate their key policies, though Charles Tannock was somewhat hindered in that respect by the lack of a Tory party manifesto in these elections.
People said it was a good event and at least one person said it had helped her make up her mind which way to vote. But it was not an evening for the faint-hearted.
There were a variety of international media covering it: German, Dutch, Spanish and Belgian as well as Japanese. God knows what they made of it.
Thanks to Torin Douglas for chairing.