Today’s results for UKIP have re-opened the question of whether Nigel Farage should join the three political leaders in the live TV election debates in 2015. David Cameron’s allies are clear they don’t want that, and Nick Clegg was very dismissive when asked about this on the BBC. He said:
‘I’m not going to start making up the minds of the broadcasters. I think the next general election will be all about who are the parties who can actually govern this country in Westminster. We’ve been here before where UKIP has done well and then not done well in subsequent general elections.’
If Clegg doesn’t fancy being savaged live on TV by Farage, then his ever-helpful friend Peter Bone has a solution. He is pleased the Prime Minister has moved away from calling Farage’s party ‘fruitcakes’ and ‘closet racists’, and tells Coffee House:
‘You do not insult a party the members of a party, when they are clearly gaining votes, that is just crass stupidity. I don’t insult the Labour opponents, I don’t insult Nick Clegg, well, not awfully much. And you just don’t do that. They are now the third force in British politics, the question we’ve got to ask now, when it comes to the leaders’ debates next time, clearly it must be the three main parties: so it’ll be David Cameron, Ed Miliband, and Nigel Farage.’
Of course, Farage doesn’t have any MPs, while Clegg’s party is 57-strong. But even if you based participation in the TV debates on another measure, such as current poll rating, which in 2015 might mean Farage would have a better claim than Clegg, the other party leaders have already learnt what happens when you let the anti-politics candidate take the stand in a TV debate. Last time round it was Nick Clegg, and he had a far milder brand of exasperated ‘new politics’ than Farage.
He would wreak damage on all three men fighting him. But it’s funny that Bone thinks this is a good idea, given Cameron would arguably suffer the most.
Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.