Nick Clegg ‘lost’ last week’s LBC debate with Nigel Farage, not for want of trying to sound reasonable or appear at ease and polished, but because there are simply fewer voters who are prepared to give someone from the establishment a hearing, or agree with him on Europe. The Lib Dem leader does plan to use fewer stat attacks and more emotion tonight when the two men meet again. But he also has a bit of help from Farage himself, who is either revealing a strong conviction about Vladimir Putin that he had hitherto kept buried or is stubbornly digging himself a hole over his comments about the EU and Ukraine.
How Farage deals with an inevitable attack from Clegg on his comments about Putin will tell us a fair bit about what the Ukip leader is really like. In today’s Telegraph, Sir Malcolm Rifkind thinks Farage risks looking like a ‘buffoon’ already. But if he loses his cool tonight over the comments, then he could, as Rifkind warns, lose his attraction to some of the reasonable voters who are interested in Ukip as a party rather than a protest. He could, though, still win quite easily even if the Putin row does blow up.