Coffee House

Nick v Nigel: what Cameron should worry about as he watches today’s fight

26 March 2014

9:02 AM

26 March 2014

9:02 AM

Even though it’s not unreasonable to predict that both Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage can emerge from tonight’s LBC debate feeling they’ve won (they’re preaching to quite different choirs), it’s still worth remembering that the one who lands a killer blow or smart put down will get the best clip on the 10 o’clock news.

David Cameron says he won’t be watching the debate, implying he’s not bothered by this sideshow. Few believe this. But as he does furtively follow the exchanges while pretending to watch one of his favourite box sets, the Prime Minister will see both Farage and Clegg rubbish his renegotiation strategy. The former thinks it is hopeless and that the UK should just leave the EU. The latter likes to remind everyone that he too is in favour of reform, just not conducted with a gun held to fellow leaders’ heads.

The running commentary from UKIP and the Lib Dems on this shouldn’t worry the PM. But what should is that the two groups of MPs closest to his European vision, the Fresh Start Project and European Mainstream, both contain many MPs agitating for signs of a bit more action. Fresh Start MPs are more likely to favour the appointment of a negotiator who can devote the next few years to convincing other EU member states of the case for reform in a way the busy Prime Minister cannot. European Mainstream Tories are keen for ministers to make the most of the opportunities they already have to do this (although other eurosceptics remain a little grumpy that Ken Clarke is one of the ministers with these opportunities). But there is anxiety amongst those MPs who are less optimistic about how easy reform will be that the PM isn’t going to make the most of the opportunities in good time. Which is something for him to mull as he chomps on popcorn and watches Nick v Nigel tonight.

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Show comments
  • Denis_Cooper

    Well, Cameron has gone into print laying out his seven targets for renegotiation:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/eureferendum/10700644/David-Cameron-the-EU-is-not-working-and-we-will-change-it.html

    Best to take a copy of that for future reference in case he does actually get a chance to try to do what he says he wants to do, and then it will be possible to check out his actual achievements against his stated aspirations; the Sun article in which he gave his “cast-iron guarantee” is no longer on the Sun website, and this article on the Telegraph website may well disappear before 2017.

    Open Europe points out that only one of his stated objectives would definitely require treaty change, and that is his promise on the present treaty commitment to “ever closer union” which drives everything else:

    “And dealing properly with the concept of “ever closer union”, enshrined in
    the treaty, to which every EU country now has to sign up. It may appeal to some
    countries. But it is not right for Britain, and we must ensure we are no longer
    subject to it.”

    Everything else that he has promised could be fudged in one way or another to dupe the public, as of course he has always intended, but as that fundamental change would not be possible without treaty change he might as well start off on the basis of wanting treaty changes for all the other items as well rather than being satisfied with fudges.

  • Full Name

    Not entirely sure why The Spectator has chosen to lead with an article with Prime Minister David Cameron as the subject. He is supposed to be the leader and has washed his hands of the biggest question in British politics today and has been inconsistent before about the subject neither mentioning Article 48 TEU Lisbon Treaty nor Article 50 TEU Lisbon Treaty on his stance for change in the EU.
    The rotten core of British politics has been voting for Red or Blue and anything else being a “wasted vote”. Voting for LibLabCon IS THE wasted vote because you’re voting for the Supreme Government in Brussels/Strasbourg.
    Only Article 50 TEU Lisbon Treaty can lead to renegotiation with this Supreme Government, all other motions are snake-oil on the subject.

  • Tony_E

    We who watch politics and current affairs closely tend to take the EU issue very seriously, but it is not as large a factor as this debate might suggest out in the country at large.

    And I can only conclude that this is because people don’t really understand the level of influence on domestic policy that the EU has. Not only that, but also the level of judicial activism which is now being undertaken by the ECJ and ECHR (which we must remain signatories to if were are to remain in the EU, another little known facet of the Lisbon treaty that shifted the goals posts again).

    If this debate actually drives that point home to people – that it’s no longer any good to ignore the EU as irrelevant to most people’s lives – then I will applaud it as a good thing whoever ‘wins’.

    • Makroon

      Ha-ha, if that happens, Farage will have won big-time, as no doubt you realise …..

      • Tony_E

        I’m not so sure that will be the case. In the end, if people decide it’s time to make a choice, I suspect they will see either Lab or Cons as the next government and vote for one accordingly – Cons for a referendum (and the best chance of out) or Labour as a chance to let the whole issue drop.

        Some people do really believe that we are better governed from Brussels than Westminster.

        • saffrin

          And just how many people in the UK do you think believe Cameron will keep his word to hold a straight in/out referendum if he wins the next election?
          Let’s face it, Cameron has been banging on about changing the EU yet, after FOUR years in office has done bu55er all about it but waffle.
          He’s made it perfectly clear he wants to stay in, the man is just playing for time, dragging it out while in the meantime we have another million immigrants flooding into the country that benefit no-one but the buy to let landlord. The only thing those LibLabCon artists can claim as benefit is the taxes these migrants are expected to pay yet not one of them pays enough tax to pay the unemployment and associated benefits claimed by those they displace.

          • Tony_E

            You have to remember that Cameron didn’t win the last election. There was no prospect of anything while the Lib Dems were in office.

            People might or might not believe that, but they are more likely to give Cameron a bloody nose in the Euros and then vote Tory in the GE to keep Labour from a large majority, and to keep open the slight possibility of a referendum in 2017.

  • Alexandrovich

    “… the one who lands a killer blow or smart put down will get the best clip on the 10 o’clock news.”
    Unless, of course, you watch it on the BBC.

    • Makroon

      Corrrrect !

  • Dan Grover

    I think next week’s will be more likely to make headlines, being as it is on the radio tonight – they tend not to play audio clips on the news unless they really can’t help it.

    • HookesLaw

      All the debate does is give publicity to Saint Nigel and the more he is exposed for an idiot the more the cultists defend him.
      Clegg must be hoping that exposure to Farages will hurt the tories and publicity for his version fo St Greorge fighting thre UKIP dragon will boost is LD party credentials.

      • Makroon

        This “debate” is just a desperate stunt by Clegg.
        Apparently, the “compere” will be a “shock jock”, which should tell you that this will be played for ratings. Expect lots of knock-about and interruptions.
        Farage is the expert of the smart put-down and trite one-liner, so, no doubt he will skewer Clegg.
        I doubt it will change any minds, but it might attract some “shock-jock fans” to UKIP, and, just as with George Galloway, it could pave the way for Farage’s new career in “reality TV”.
        A sort of Max Miller update – the cheeky chappie.

      • Wessex Man

        er, if Nige is going to wrap himself in any flag, I expect it will be the Union Flag, go and have lie down Hooky, this is all getting far too much for you.

    • fubarroso

      The event is also being covered by Sky News. Coverage from 6pm – 9pm.

    • saffrin
  • CharlietheChump

    Go Nige! What sport.

  • http://batman-news.com The Commentator

    I don’t know why Farage has agreed to these debates with Clegg. It just provides free publicity for a nasty, extremist party with virtually no support.

  • WatTylersGhost

    We can conclude that Cameron is a coward – too scared to enter the debate.

  • Frank

    I do love the fact that the last poll said that over 70% of British respondents didn’t think Dave had a chance of re-negotiating the EU status quo and yet there are Tory MPs who think that they know better?
    I am happy to accept that there is a chance that these MPs may be right, but perhaps they can show some concrete evidence to support their belief? This could be a letter from the lovely people at the EU Commission agreeing to re-assess the relationship with Britain, or some other written evidence…? It would also help if Dave had not given an interview in which he said that he would ignore any vote to leave the EU (not an ideal starting point for the “negotiations”).
    In the absence of anything concrete, one is forced to conclude that all these Tory MPs are either delusional, thick, or self-interested in some way. Given the poll, it doesn’t look as though they are likely to do that well at the next general election if they are still maintaining this EU re-negotiation fantasy.

    • Dan Grover

      I think it’s a tricky one though, right? Because the EU commission doesn’t want to change the relationship, so they *aren’t* going to come out and say they’ll happilly look at it. That doesn’t mean they won’t. Like most negotiations, it’s a fairly complicated power struggle between who needs the other more, and the reality is that right now, no one does know what the outcome will be, no matter how much they hope for one outcome or the other. I do believe, however, that MP’s and politicos generally are more likely to be in a position where they understand the nuances and the people involved than average Joe public (not because average Joe public is stupid, but because the vast majority have better things to be doing than going out of their way to understand said nuance and people). That 70% of the British public think x doesn’t hold a great deal of water with me.

      • HookesLaw

        Furthermore – if it is impossible to renegotiate our relationship from within the EU, then what chance do we have of negotiating something out of it?
        Kippers say they will be falling over themselves to negotiate wonderful favourable terms if we leave but will negotiate nothing on the threat of leaving.

        • James Allen

          Leaving will give us the favourable terms we seek. Do keep up.

          • Dan Grover

            Really? Even the most ardent euro-sceptics I know acknowledge we still need *some* relationship with Europe, they’d just rather it were in the likeness of Switzerland’s rather than our current one within the EU. Leaving full stop will not give us more favourable terms than we have now – does anyone truly believe that?

            • James Allen

              Sorry… you’re struggling to get this, aren’t you? We ended a free-trade agreement with the Commonwealth to join the EU. UKIP proposes we leave the EU and agree bilateral treaties with a host of countries around the world – including the EU. They would want a free trade agreement with us because they sell us more than we sell them. We’d simply keep selling into the common market. It’s really not that complicated; it’s a simple choice – do you want to cede political power to Brussels (the EU is not required for the functioning of a free trade area) – as per Labour and the Lib Dems – or take it back??? Make up your mind.

              • Dan Grover

                And Hooke’s point is that if we’re incapable of negotiating a better position within the EU, what hope do we have when we’re no longer in the EU? They sell us a lot of stuff, yes – and they already do. So why would we be more successful when out of the EU? At that point, they actually have less incentive to do a deal with us than they do now.

                • James Allen

                  What???????????????????

                • James Allen

                  So you think they’re willing going to cut their exports because we don’t want to keep paying money to Brussels? Get a grip!!! Germany’s biggest export market is the UK. Of course they want to trade with us. So we simply agree a free trade deal. It’s not complicated… really, it isn’t

                • Gazcon

                  The point is that we are “incapable of negotiating a better position within the EU” precisely because we are in the EU. They have lined up in recent months to confirm that no negotiation will be allowed. Once outside of the EU we no longer have to play by EU rules, and can hammer out a deal that is in Britain’s best interests. And as others have said, we hold a pretty strong hand.

                • Alexsandr

                  and of course BMW, AUDI, Siemens, Bosch, the French wine industry et al will be telling their governments to do a deal with the UK because they will be scared of the UK putting tariffs against EU goods.

                  And of course world trade agreements will apply so the EU wont have that much room to manoeuvre
                  .

                • telemachus

                  Exactly

                • Alexsandr

                  didn’t know leaving the EU was Labour policy. nice refreshing change if it is. Does that mean Millipede will back a referendum now so the people can decide?

        • Wessex Man

          We in Kippers as you call us will not be negotiate very much at all, just like Call me Dave really, we will merely be taking this UK or whats left of it out of the EU, do keep up Hooky baby.

      • James Allen

        Oh dear, relying on “nuance”…. that old classic. There is no nuance, only fact. UK voted against 55 motions since 1996 and every single one was enforced – against our express opposition. We have 1 commissioner out of 28; 9.5% of the parliamentarians. We’ve lost our veto over huge areas of policy, now controlled by QMV. Do you think your feckless Tory MPs have a clue about any of this, or are more interested in their own careers?

        Wake up!!!

        • Dan Grover

          Well that’s the nature of a union, isn’t it? You don’t always get what you want. But then, the people of Liverpool don’t always get what they want, if the people of Manchester, London and Birmingham vote another way. The question shouldn’t be “how many times didn’t we get our way”, it should be “Do the benefits outweigh the negatives” which seems to be a question you didn’t even attempt to answer. Your points aren’t really the issue.

          • James Allen

            So you would prefer to live under a competent dictator than an incompetent democrat? That’s what you’re saying.

            • Dan Grover

              No. I’m saying that the EU is simply another layer of government wherein people are told what to do. If a person is forced to do something they don’t want to do, why should a person care if that was a rule passed down by their local council, their national government or a supranational one?

              • James Allen

                Because of a teensy-weensy thing called democratic accountability. If you’re pissed off about something in your local area, who do you think can best help; your local council or the EU? If you want to replace an official, do you have more chance of convincing people to deselect a candidate who wins with 1,000 votes, or someone who wins with 350,000 votes???? God, I’m giving up, I’m arguing with an idiot here.

              • James Allen

                You misunderstand a fundamental difference between the UK and European democracy. In the UK, MPs are elected to represent their constituents, to settle grievances, to arbitrate in disputes etc. In France / Italy / Spain etc. MPs are elected to rule, to pass laws, to tell people what they can and can’t do and how they should live. It’s a cultural difference. One of the dangers of being part of the EU is that we’re becoming more European in that respect; losing our democratically accountable executive and instead being governed by bureaucrats and unelected politicians. It’s an insidious and un-British phenomenon that will end in disaster…… we need to leave to regain national sovereignty, supremacy of common law, individual rights over group rights, small government, liberty and freedom from diktat etc etc. Read some Milton or Burke or Hobbes….

              • livnletliv

                We never gave the EU the right to pass any rule. No foreign power have any right to rule over the British people without our permission.

          • James Allen

            And as for the question of benefits vs negatives, the answer is obvious. We pay an enormous price for access to the (shrinking) common market. We could negotiate a better deal via bilateral treaties. We would have to leave to get that better deal. Therefore I support exit. QED.

            • Dan Grover

              You need to actually demonstrate something in order for you to use “QED” – simply stating a position isn’t a demonstration of anything but your own desires.

              I really don’t think we pay “an enormous price” – what price is this? And why are you so convinced we’d be able to negotiate a deal like what Switzerland has? The EU has proven time and time again that it’s willing to put its economic goals behind its political ones, and the UK leaving would be a huge political blow for it. What has the EU done in the past that makes you think it’d want to then turn around and offer us a great deal with none of the drawbacks we currently face? That’s wishful thinking.

              • James Allen

                £9bn net a year for a start, and rising….

              • James Allen

                Yes, the UK’s negotiating position is terrible compared to Switzerland…. er…. not……

              • James Allen

                Because we’re Germany’s biggest single export market. And if we left the EU, the EU’s biggest export market…. it’s blindingly obvious. They want to keep selling us goods and making themselves rich. We will keep a free trade area.

              • James Allen

                Oh sorry, just read the last bit:

                “The EU has proven time and time again that it’s willing to put its economic goals behind its political ones,”

                So you think we should stay inside and try to ‘negotiate’ with these guys, who will cut off their nose to spite their face???? Lunacy….. sheer lunacy. You’re wedded to the notion of EU membership because you’re young and liberal and everyone agrees Europe’s a good thing and you like the idea of cooperation and all of that jazz. The problem is the EU represents none of this – it’s a political deal, stitched up in back-rooms by men (and the odd woman) in grey suits who are interested in one thing and one thing only: their own advancement.

                If only young people today weren’t so misled by the media. It’s a crying shame….

              • fubarroso

                Under Article 50 the trade deal would be struck before we left the EU – not afterwards!

              • livnletliv

                Then you must welcome a referendum, because unless the British people consent to membership the EU will never have any legal mandate, no matter what anyone says.

          • fubarroso

            There is no economic benefit that can compare with the nation’s freedom to make it’s own laws.

      • Denis_Cooper

        It’s not down to the EU Commission to decide whether the governments of the member states shall or shall not consider proposed amendments to the EU treaties.

        See Article 48 TEU here:

        http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/HTML/?uri=OJ:C:2010:083:FULL&from=EN#C_2010083EN.01001301

        “If the European Council, after consulting the European Parliament and the Commission, adopts by a simple majority a decision in favour of examining the proposed amendments … ”

        So if it ever happened that Cameron put forward proposals for treaty changes to repatriate powers to member states they could not be blocked by the Commission, but instead they would almost certainly be blocked by the governments of other member states led by Germany.

        • telemachus

          Which is why we need to keep Merkel sweet
          *
          I see common cause between Cameron and Merkel at present which must not be sabotaged by fruitcakes like Farage

          • Denis_Cooper

            There is common cause between Cameron and Merkel, but it is not the one that Cameron tells the British public.

            • Wessex Man

              agreed, I can’t believe though you replied but never mentioned the fruitcakes currently pretending to be HM Government and Oppostion!

      • the viceroy’s gin

        Yes well, for you socialists, it never really does matter what the People think, as we know historically.

  • Colin56

    Calamity Clegg, the poor sad fool, will be toast. Like the others in this ‘Coalition’ ship of fools, he has no idea of what direction he is facing, what he thinks about anything, and why no-body wants to give him a hug (which he probably feels he badly needs). In fact, everybody loathes and despises him because he got the Lib Dems into a position where no-one will ever believe a word they say again, they are inextricably linked to the most undemocratic government in recent memory (no-one actually voted for a coalition, did they?) and he is permanent underdog to the posh boys in Nos 10 and 11. Good job, Cleggers.
    Farage, on the other hand, can say what he likes in the expectation that it will gain him popularity and votes – but not enough to get him to the point where he has to actually do what he says. Dream position for a politician whose worst nightmare is actually getting into power.
    Btw, Cameron must be more of a fool that we previously realised: the debate is on LBC, a radio station (get the clue there?), so there’s no possibility of him ‘watching’ it. Back to Game of Thrones Dave – it’s the closest you’ll get to reality today.

  • Kitty MLB

    The best of Luck to Nigel Farage, its about time we heard
    his opinion, although not possible in the southwest unfortunately.
    He needs to watchout for trickery from Cleggie.

    • ButcombeMan

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      • Kitty MLB

        Thank you, very much appreciated.
        I shall listen at the same time as watching Andy
        Murray playing Tennis in the US.

  • swatnan

    I predict that Nige wil be hammered. You never get a straight answer from people like Farage and Boris. At least Clegg tries to give an answer which usually sits on both sides of the fence and on the fence.

    • Colonel Mustard

      That’s tripe. I can think of few politicians who prevaricate less than Farage. When asked if he had visited lap dancing clubs by a journalist who thought she was being very clever his one word answer was “Yes”. You don’t get a much straighter answer than that.

      You lefties are keen on making predictions in your own favour but not so keen to admit it when events prove you wrong.

      • telemachus

        This is not left right
        It is a Buffoon versus a has been

        • Colonel Mustard

          Not true. I’m the right wing has been and you are the left wing Buffoon.

      • HookesLaw

        Yes he did not prevarcate about lobbying on behalf of a major donor. He is no more principles than Blair.

        • Colonel Mustard

          They all do that.

          • Wessex Man

            and most especially throaty warbbling Call me Dave Colonel.

    • telemachus

      Truth is it mattereth not
      A buffoon versus a fool

      • Colonel Mustard

        Since Frankie Howerd is no longer with us only a buffoon or fool would write “it mattereth not” in 2014.

        Oooh, missus. Titter ye not, etc.

      • Kitty MLB

        What a pity the man who the electorate consider
        the most weird political leader in modern times
        will not be there.Also this morning It was
        said on the news that 69% think him
        not PM material -OH dear !

      • Wessex Man

        talking about glasshouses and stones, good grief, would we be able to understand anything warbling Ed Miliband would say if he were brave enough to join a debate?

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