2 Apr 2014

Farage/Clegg II: ‘People’s army’ versus ‘modern realism’

One of the liveliest moments of the second Farage/Clegg debate had a tenuous link with whether Britain should remain in the European Union.

Nigel Farage‘s remark that he admired President Putin as an “operator” was jumped on by Nick Clegg as typical of the Ukip leader’s tendency to see politics as a “game.” Nigel Farage attacked Nick Clegg’s readiness to wage war (in Syria, Libya) where things were too complicated to change. It was an attack on Blairite foreign policy.


Some Labour parliamentary candidates have started reporting in to Labour HQ that Ukip is stealing votes. It’s quite specific to certain seats and regions and it could take a lot more than the “script” they’ve been assured is now ready for delivery to Ukip-leaning voters to tame it.

Immigration again was centre stage. Mr Farage said “a white working class” had been “left an underclass.” Nick Clegg said he loved “modern Britain” its compassion and outward-facing values and didn’t want to “turn the clock back” like Nigel Farage. The Ukip leader said imported EU labour had cut wages not just for white people but for Afro-Caribbean Londoners and others. But his real focus was “working class white” voters… and if you were a Labour strategist you would clock that bid and expect much more of it. Nigel Farage says he’s now focused on Labour votes.

Once again, Nick Clegg avoided eye contact with Nigel Farage as much as possible, turning his body directly towards the camera and staring down the lens.

Nick Clegg came determined to paint Nigel Farage as a “fantastist” who probably thinks Elvis is still alive. Mr Farage portrayed Nick Clegg as part of the self-serving establishment who did well out of the EU with “cheaper nannies” but no good for ordinary folk. Join the “people’s army,” he said.

When Nick Clegg challenged Nigel Farage with a survey of motor manufacturers saying that they wanted Britain to stay in the UK, Nigel Farage said the report actually showed that the company bosses wanted a renegotiation of membership… though that’s not strictly his policy but David Cameron‘s.

Nick Clegg had a sparky first half but seemed a bit weary and bored by some of his own arguments in the second half. Nigel Farage said if the EU didn’t fold up its operations it could all end “very dangerously.” He was prophesying the march of the right in other EU countries. Like some of those parties he has in mind, he has predicted an “earthquake” in the European parliament elections and his outings in these debates may have helped him connect with voters who might just help him with that goal.

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