EU Referendum

Anger on streets as EU debate heats up

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionCornish fisherman protests against the EU

The temperature is rising in the TV studios - witness John Major's attack on the Leave campaign on the Andrew Marr programme - but what about on the streets?

I've spent recent days with activists campaigning on both sides in the EU referendum.

And there is no doubt that the question facing the British public has captured people's attention - in Technicolour.

On a hot day beneath clear blue skies in the Cornish town of Camborne I watched Labour "In" campaign chief Alan Johnson's stump speech get vigorously heckled.

Cornish fisherman Dave Hicks was unhappy about EU fishing quotas and took the opportunity to try to tell the gathered remain crowd about it as loudly as possible.

It was a moment of unplanned political energy that the campaign has helped bring to villages, towns and cities well away from Westminster.

Of course, a national debate with only one of two clear outcomes taking in issues like immigration, jobs and sovereignty was always going to be passionately fought over.

But at other times you have to wonder whether the campaign has also unleashed, among some, a kind of shouting match that is obscuring the debate.

At the same event I also witnessed two activists of different hues in a verbal confrontation before accusing each other at close quarters of aggression.

At a different rally last week, a young Vote Leave activist told me how she had been sworn at in the street and called a "racist" by a passer-by.

And at a nearby railway station I heard a member of the public repeatedly accuse two campaigners handing out leaflets of lying to people.

It is clear how high the stakes are - most importantly for the country but also for political careers - in what both campaigns see as a generation-defining political decision.

The challenge for their leaderships is to try to prevent the debate overheating - whilst turning up the power on the floodlights over the arguments.

More on this story