Coffee House

Nick Clegg stands to beat Nigel Farage in tonight’s Europe debate. Here’s why.

26 March 2014

3:51 PM

26 March 2014

3:51 PM

Tonight is the first round of the Clegg/Farage debate on Britain’s EU membership. It is perfectly possible that both of the leaders could benefit from it. They could emerge as champions of their causes and gain plaudits for having the courage to debate the issue.

But I suspect that this won’t happen. They both believe too passionately in their positions on Europe to play it safe, thought they might be cautious tonight knowing that there’s another debate coming in a week’s time. One other thing that has raised the stakes is the barrage against Farage. If Farage has a poor night tonight, there’ll be a lot of talk about how Ukip has lost the momentum that it had at the end of last year.

My instinct is that the format slightly favours Clegg. It allows him to cross-examine Farage and given that detail isn’t one of the Ukip leader’s strengths that could work to Clegg’s advantage.​

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Show comments
  • James Allen

    Oh dear James….. wrong again!!

  • In2minds

    Instinct, never trust it!

  • Fergus Pickering

    Wrong again, you daft bugger!

  • ButcombeMan

    Clegg plainly lost it, too woolly

  • Lady Magdalene

    YouGov post-debate poll had Nigel winning with 57% of the vote.
    Wrong again James.

  • Machina22

    Made a bit of a fool of yourself there, James. Farage is destroying Clegg right now.

  • Radford_NG

    To listern outside London go to

  • Wessex Man

    Stop Press it’s all going to be on Sky New, is actually on now, no excuses boys and girls!

  • Andy

    Of course Clegg’s big Achilles heel is if he is so sure of his case why wont he let us, the little people, actually have a say ? Like so many of the political class they think we don’t have a right to have a say on how our country is governed and by whom. No one voted for mass immigration: no one voted to allow the EU to dictate what the law should be. Return the EU to what it was originally – an association of independent countries who co-operate to mutual benefit, not an embryonic Fascist State.

    • Conway

      Return the EU to what it was originally – an association of independent countries who co-operate to mutual benefit,” Exactly the point that Farage made. Of course, Clegg thinks that would “isolate” us.

      • Andy

        Yes but Clegg is looking after his EU Pension and is an idiot to boot.

  • BarkingAtTreehuggers

    By excluding any of the smaller parties from a political showdown that would be a shared TV debate, the two large parties will claim they represented a vast majority of the electorate. Of course this could only be true in a FPTP system which is deeply undemocratic.

  • London Calling

    Hello James…………..

    Clegg lives,eats and breathes European membership and I do not doubt his knowledge will have an advantage over Farage, however Farage is just as passionate and therefore it should be a good debate…………….:)

  • HookesLaw

    Mr Forsyth clearly has a bet on that he can break the world record for the number of comments on Coffee House blog.

  • fubarroso

    Ah Shepherd Neame’s Master Brew. Gets my vote any day! The best bitter in the South by far!

  • fubarroso

    How much detail do you need to decide between national sovereignty and subservience to a dictatorial foreign power?

    • HookesLaw

      Since your question is baseless and facile it has no answer.

      • Wessex Man

        oh dear, where’s Call me Dave?

      • fubarroso

        Oh dear, and there was me thinking that it was purely rhetorical!

  • Mike Barnes

    “It allows him to cross-examine Farage and given that detail isn’t one of the Ukip leader’s strengths that could work to Clegg’s advantage.​”



    UKIP is clear, it wants out of the EU.

    The ConDems maybe will let us have a referendum in 2017, but only after they’ve renegotiated something (nobody knows what they want) and reformed the Union (nobody knows how they’ll get 27 other countries to agree).

    Sorry, but which party is being light on details here?

    • HookesLaw

      The point is you will get a referendum. You can judge if the terms are ok or not and vote.

      Farage spins a big lie since leaving the EU and joining the EEA, and staying in the single market and paying into regional funds like Norway, will be virtually no different to now.
      We do very nicely thank you on EU inward investment and I do not see voters voting to turn it down. Indeed the latest YouGov poll shows clear support for staying in the EU and the trend has been significantly to IN rather than OUT.

      • the baracus

        “We do very nicely thank you on EU inward investment….”

        Do you realise that we are a net contributor to the EU? How can we do nicely on inward investment – as we give more money then we receive? Or is it just the case that the EU do nicer things with our money then we do?

      • Robert_Eve

        Trust me – the terms will not be OK.

      • Wessex Man

        oh dear where’s Call me Dave, is he feeling a little silly?

        • Lady Magdalene

          Playing Angry Birds I expect.
          The EU’s governing the country, so he has plenty of spare time to waste on games.

      • saffrin

        What evidence do you have that we will have a referendum if Cameron wins the next election given the fact Cameron is a proven liar.

  • Ricky Strong

    Well I’m quite happy that LBC will have a fact checker running throughout the debate. I also think much of what Farage is arguing cannot be said with a statistic or with precise details. It’s about personal beliefs as much as facts and details.

    • Conway

      It’s about a simple question – who governs Britain?

  • Fergus Pickering

    How do you ‘win’ this thing? Is it an audience vote. Who are they? Who picks them?

    • Colonel Mustard

      Of course it’s Westminster Bubble rules. Heads Clegg wins, tails Farage loses.

      • Wessex Man

        brace yourself Colonel!

    • Barakzai

      I expect Sarah or Justin or Evan or Mishal or John or Jim will tell us tomorrow morning on unbiased flagship radio that Clegg ‘won’ it. Then Nick’ll have a piece to tell us again . . .

  • Colonel Mustard

    Clegg’s only strength in the last debate was to characterise himself as the “reasonable” man between two punch drunk pugilists. This is one on one so he can’t do his plaintive, tears of a clown, appeal to the audience routine.

    I hope Farage exposes him for the treasonous Eurocrat he is and crucifies him.

    • telemachus

      Wish granted

  • sarahsmith232

    So agree, so agree. This is Farage’s Achilles heel, he obviously prefers to be down the pub than doing his research homework. He’s useless on the facts behind immigration. In the last leadership debates Nick Clegg was a lying, devious, scheming, underhand little . . . well, he pulled a fast one with his ‘80% of immigration is from the EU’. Er, no, not even close. He knew it, this had been a game the Lib Dems had been getting up to with this statement for a while pre the leadership debates. Cameron didn’t counter it ’cause he wasn’t up on the facts.
    Clegg will be getting up to this exact same kind of game, coming out with bogus ‘facts’, Farage will have no come back ’cause he doesn’t do his homework. So when Clegg comes out with (’cause you know he will) ‘ALL immigrants, every last one, contribute more, ALL immigrants, every last one, work full time, ALL immigrants, every last one, pay their student loans/maintenance loans/tuition fee loans back, ALL immigrants, every last one’ etc etc etc Farage will be left standing there coming back on that with some variety on – ‘yes but we just don’t like them being here though’. He leaves himself wide open because of not being on top of things with the facts. This could easily go badly for him because of that.

    • Colonel Mustard

      I’ve seen Farage state the facts calmly and lucidly many times. The trouble is that often when he is attempting to state them he is being shouted down, interrupted or bullied by some outraged, emoting Labourite, Lib Dem or Tory, all of whom are in cahoots on immigration. There is such a desperation not be tarnished with the accusation of racism that all of them are wilfully blind to the reality, terrified that if they give an inch they will attract the ire of the great mob of shrieking self-haters who really want to see a foreign, non-English speaking PM in No.10 in order to parade their bien-pensant, trendy, metro-urban, pavement cafe coffee drinking, street partying ‘vibrancy’ credentials (yawn).

      Regretting the European reference I hope Farage gives Britain’s equivalent of the Paris mob a long overdue whiff of Napoleon’s grapeshot.

      • Kitty MLB

        I Remember Nigel Farage on QuestionTIme last
        year, in some town up north. It was horrendous,
        the planted audience and some conservative
        Woman pm who has issues with him made
        our he was a racist and that this town did not
        have a immigration problem. They shouted
        him down, it was discusting.

      • sarahsmith232

        I did answer, but it’s disappeared. but agree, agree.

      • Conway

        Clegg is trying to shout Farage down as I type.

    • Kitty MLB

      Excellent post Sarah. I hope Nigel manages to get a word in,
      you mention the pub, the irony is that he comes across
      as the type of chap one would share a few beers with
      at the old Dog&Duck but never Nickie Clegg.

      • sarahsmith232

        I know, I know, can you imagine being stuck in a corner with this Clegg one when out for a night? Def’ a ‘oh I think I must have left the gas on’ job. Tell you what though, how on earth, did he drug her, was she at a low point, feeling vulnerable, what on earth is the story behind him being to pull such a beautiful and seemingly not deranged wife? He doesn’t appear to be rich so that couldn’t have been it. Very odd. Tee Hee, enjoy the debate tonight.

    • starfish

      Apparently Clegg isn’t doing his own homework

      Maybe Farage might ask about that…?

      • sarahsmith232

        Just read the link, oh knew he’d be getting main bullet points summed up for him at taxpayer expense. Farage has best be on his guard.

  • Hello

    Most people are only going to hear about this through the snippets they read in the newspapers and see on the news. Farage’s position is well known — he wants out. Clegg has never really committed to a position. Does he want federalisation? If he does, then does he accept that the UK would have to join the Euro for that to happen? Does he want the erosion of sovereignty?

    He has an awful lot to lose in this debate. He only needs to make one silly passionate statement and it will define his position on Europe. What’s the worst Farage is going to do? Say he doesn’t care about free trade? I don’t think anyone ever thought he did. Is Clegg going to convince people that Farage is reckless? That’s why people like Farage. Is he going to convince us that the LibDems are the only serious opposition to Ukip?

    I think your instinct is wrong. Clegg may be declared victor, but he won’t be.

    • Conway

      Clegg is peddling the lost jobs argument (shot down by the mediator who pointed out about Ford going to Turkey). He’s also claiming that only 7% of our laws are from Brussels (Clegg doesn’t think the Germans know what they’re talking about – or, for that matter, Viviane Reding).

  • sir_graphus

    Presupposes Clegg has the brains to cross examine effectively. He’s more of a bland platitudes man, from my memory.