Nick Clegg had been given the night off babysitting; but, after the poll verdict on tonight’s EU debate with Nigel Farage, he may wish he’d stayed at home with the kids. As the dust settled, the Deputy Prime Minister was bundled into a car and fled the field of battle. Meanwhile, Nigel Farage headed for a victory lap at the Reform Club, where his party donors had been watching.
Backstage, Westminster’s hack-pack was necking cheap vino and Pret sandwiches after carrying out a spectacular volte face. Initially ‘the spin room’ had called the duel for Clegg, on both style and substance. But, as news of the Sun/YouGov poll filtered through to the scribblers, headlines were rewritten and awkward tweets deleted. Soon, only the BBC was left flying the Clegg flag, with the help of Danny Alexander and Tim Farron.
The scrum was packed with Lib Dem Spads, Ukip spinners and seasoned Labour bruisers. But, bizarrely, there was not a Tory PR guru in sight. A few rogue backbench frothers turned up in the hope of some airtime; but it seemed that Dave and Co were determined to pretend that this debate was not happening.
And then in walked Andrew Mitchell, the former Chief Whip. Sources suggest that he wasn’t approved to spin. He said it was a no score draw and a very exciting conversation. One wonders, could this hurt his chances of his much-wanted EU commissioner job?