Strathclyde Telegraph

In Other News: EU Debate – Farage flexes while the Lib Dems are on the ropes

By Marco Antonio Chacon-Clark

Ding-Ding! This month the Gods of politics have blessed us with an old-school EU membership debate. Step forth, the Liberal Democrats, the Europhiles, and the UK Independence Party, the Daily Mail’s bit on the side. In the yellow corner – Nick Clegg. In the purple corner – Nigel Farage.

Round One, the first of two contests was broadcasted on Sky 1. Clegg looked soft from the start. He showed no passion or conviction allowing Farage to make all of the most convincing points, even if some of them were of questionable accuracy. He claimed that EU membership costs the taxpayer £55 million every day and that as members of the EU, Britain has to accept that 485 million Europeans have the freedom to live here. Clegg tried to argue something about trade and foreign investment that was probably important but was met with Farage’s claim that US and Chinese companies would prefer Britain to leave the EU. Ultimately, there was little excitement, but Farage won easily on points. Round Two had to be better.

And it was, with both leaders getting personal, to the extent that the debate became much less about the EU. Clegg attacked the UKIP leader’s admiration of Vladimir Putin. Farage basically avoided any response. Clegg also lashed out with a UKIP poster showing the face of a Native American. The caption read, “He used to ignore immigration – now he lives on a reservation.” Clegg rubbished the slogan, but once again Farage dodged the blow, saying he did “not recognise that poster.” The rest of the evening saw Clegg gradually stumble. He was so naive that he didn’t once properly confront Farage on his unclear economic vision for a ‘free’ Britain. On immigration, I’m sorry to say for the more progressive amongst us, Farage had Clegg on the ropes. The truth is, in essence, exactly as Farage put it – “we have no control” over how many people come in to Britain from Europe. The leader of the Lib Dems had lost again.

Surely Nick Clegg’s ability as, a politician must be questioned. Nigel Farage is a climate-change sceptic, a chain smoker, and a former admirer of Adolf Hitler. Yet the public presently favour him over Clegg. However, it would be unfair to solely blame poor Nick. The Lib Dems generally are moving closer towards political oblivion. In the recent Nottingham by-election, an Elvis impersonator beat the Lib Dem candidate, Tony Marshall.

Although, the debate wasn’t entirely bad news for the Tories’ coalition partners. Obviously this wasn’t really a blessing from the gods; rather a tactical manoeuvre thought up by Lib Dem and UKIP strategists. After betraying their supporters by siding with the big, bad Tories, Clegg’s clowns need to try to gain at least one vote in the 2015 general election. This is a bid to appeal to the British Europhile. UKIP, on the other hand, needs to ensure that the public don’t think that Farage is a tasty-sounding French desert. Many Brits are still very unsure aout what UKIP is all about and since both rounds of the debate achieved high ratings on Sky and the BBC respectively, Farage and Clegg have managed to win the publicity for which they desperately yearned.

What conclusions should we make then? Well, Farage has done himself a lot of favours but is yet to face the heavyweights- Cameron and Miliband. We’ll see what he’s made of in the coming months. Clegg and the Lib Dems were left with bloody noses, but most of the damage was done by themselves well before the debate. My prediction is that in 2015 it could be the public that will knock them out.

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