Nick v Nigel: My first thoughts

nickvnigelThis was Mr Angry v Mr Reasonable.

Nick Clegg started with one advantage – he’s a veteran of leaders’ debates – and one big disadvantage – his pro-Europeanism is unfashionable. Tonight, though, the Clegg of 2010 was back on show. He looked directly down the camera lens at the viewer, hand nonchalently in pocket, first-named the questioners.

It was (and yes, I would say this wouldn’t I but it doesn’t make it any less true) a class act from Nick. His crisp opening statement framed the key point we wanted to make: staying in Europe is about jobs, jobs, jobs. His final soundbite – “I want us to be Great Britain, not little England” – captured his optimistic outward-looking vision of the UK leading Europe.

Nigel Farage had his moments – his populism was passionate – but his inexperience showed. At times, especially when challenged over dubious Ukip statistics, he was rattled. He grew redder and redder as the debate wore on. Applause for his clap-lines was muted. Yet this was a victory of sorts: he shared a stage with the Deputy Prime Minister. Ukip has arrived for sure.

I kept reading (I may also have written it myself) that this debate wouldn’t have shifted people’s views. I’m not so sure. It’s rare now for the pro-European case to be advanced with as much vigour and clarity as Nick Clegg did. It’s rare for the anti-European arguments to be challenged as they forcibly were tonight.

These debates on their own won’t transform views. But they will make the vast majority of the public – who sit somewhere between Lib Dem pro-Europeanism and Ukip isolationism – far more aware of the arguments for staying in the EU. And they will galvanise pro-Europeans across all parties to defend their ground.

It was a good night’s work from Mr Reasonable.

* Stephen was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from 2007 to 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall.

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64 Comments

  • Eddie Sammon 26th Mar '14 - 8:23pm

    I think Nick edged it, but I still think the whole party of IN campaign and these debates is a mistake.

  • I agree with Stephen. There were also a couple of points (rather indirectly related to Europe) in which Mr Farage showed just how far his views, and those of his party, are from the mainstream.

  • I thought this was a very poor performance by Farage. He looked rather red-faced and seemed to think he had to shout to be heard. He was very hazy on facts and lacked composure throughout. Nck was a very self-assured performer. so I am absolutely astonished to see YouGov declaring Farage the winner! Really? How?

  • The debate was useful, but the Euro-elections in May are NOT ABOUT in vs out. They’re about who makes important decisions on our behalf.

  • @Phyllis I heard the debate on the radio and it seemed more even. Farage’s nudge, nudge style which comes over well audibly (at least to those predisposed to it), but looks shifty on the box. The Kennedy / Nixon syndrome?

  • David Sea, yesI agree he probably came across better on radio. And coming across as a ‘polished performer’ may work against Nick, given the trust issues. And reference to ‘read the small print’ was very unfortunate.

  • paul barker 26th Mar '14 - 8:54pm

    I am not surprised the Poll made Farage the winner, this was a radio debate & most of the listeners would have gone in with strong views. If you only ask people who feel strongly about Europe then antis will be the majority. The TV debate should have a larger, more representative audience.
    We ought to put the Great Britain line on leaflets.

  • Robert Wootton 26th Mar '14 - 8:59pm

    UKIP; the Miss Haversham policy party.

  • Farage had the advantage, as he always will have, in that he appeals to the gut and Nick to the head, but the gut will always win.

    That said, it was job done in terms of the objectve which was to get the message to Europhiles in the wider population to vote Lib Dem to stop Farage.

  • Farage was a disgrace on Ukraine, an apologist for an expansionist Russia. So much for UKIP representing democracy and freedom from a Brussels super state when they support the re-birth of a Russian super state.

  • david thorpe 26th Mar '14 - 9:38pm

    the whole party of in stuff is lies and stupid-nick was seen by sky news viewers as having lost the debate-but i will continue to march towaerds the sound of gun fire anyway..

  • The trouble is that while Farage’s views are mostly wrong-headed and sometimes abhorrent, he does come across as sincere and straightforward, whereas you have to be careful to read the small print of what Clegg comes out with – quite literally in this case.

    But the exception tonight, as far as Farage was concerned, was his extraordinary dodge on same-sex marriage. UKIP is against it, but only because of what the European Court of Human Rights might make of it.

  • “Quite – so we should be telling people a UKIP vote in the euro-election is a trebly wasted vote as it won’t get a referendum, we won’t leave the eu however many ukip meps are elected and the UK will have less influence and achieve less for every ukip mep eleceted.”

    All that may be true, but it’s absolutely no reason for anyone to vote Lib Dem, rather than for another party (other than UKIP).

    I just don’t see large numbers of people abandoning the party of their choice because Nick Clegg tells them to. Indeed, I can imagine that would strengthen some people’s resolve to go out and vote for another party …

  • I’m afraid I don’t understand at all this point about the number of Romanians and Bulgarians. UKIP claimed 29 Romanians and Bulgarians would have the right to settle in the UK. I don’t see how the truth of that statement is affected by the fact that some Romanians and Bulgarians are no longer resident in their home countries.

    Isn’t it better to make the positive case for migrant workers, rather than indulging in this kind of legalistic quibbling over the exact numbers involved?

  • Denis Mollison 26th Mar '14 - 10:29pm

    Good, but he mustn’t let Farage get away with remarks about laws made in Brussels as though these are simply imposed on us by an outside agency.

    We must get across that there is a substantial democratic element to the EU – we join with other countries to make rules for mutual benefit. And the most democratic element of that is the EU Parliament, which is what we vote for on 22 May. And in that Parliament Lib Dems play a full constructive part, while UKIP members do very little except take expenses.

  • David Wright 26th Mar '14 - 11:01pm

    I agree with Nick … Robinson. As he says, both Nick and Nigel won.

    We won’t win over UKIP voters, nor will they win over Lib Dem ones – but the debate will firm up the views of other voters one way or the other. For us, far more people support Britain staying in the EU than support the Lib Dems (40% vs 10% according to some polls), so if the “Party of IN” message appeals to pro-EU voters, it will help us over the threshold for re-electing our MEPs and perhaps even some more. The debate should make our position clear to many who had been ignoring us.

    Similarly, the debate makes Nigel look a more serious politician to those who are anti-EU but previously voted Con or Labour.

    The losers of this debate were Cameron and Milliband, who were left out of the picture – and will find it hard to make their own positions on the EU clear either way without losing some of their existing voters (and MPs too in Cameron’s case).

    BTW did people note Nigel’s statement that polling showed UKIP takes more votes from working class Labour voters than from middle class Con ones? Both groups dislike change, are disturbed by modern Britain, and tend to read newspapers which are anti-EU and fear foreigners. On other matters their views are very different though; this could cause problems to UKIP later.

  • Jack McKenna 26th Mar '14 - 11:17pm

    Personally i think Nick edged it, but of course I would say that wouldn’t I! Farage was helped by the order of the questions, the first three were on the premise that the EU was bad putting Nick on the defensive. However at the halfway stage things turned on there head and by the end Farage had slipped into loon mode. So for me Nick was the winner. Just some of the points i’ll take away from the night:
    1. No matter what we’ll never win the immigration debate. The rhetoric of foreighners coming in stealing our jobs is so ingrained in our national fabric that even Cillit Bang couldn’t remove it.
    2. Farage is anti-European. Sounds obvious doesn’t it? But I was generally shocked by the extent of his anti-European mindset. The fact he won’t vote for any laws giving Brussels more power even when there are obvious benefits for Brits is quite shocking.
    3. Farage’s last statement that the EU has blood on it’s hands over Ukraine is scandalous and he should be pulled up on it. I know because it was at the very death of the debate Ferrari couldn’t pull him up. But someone needs to hold him to account. My guess is that it was a tired statement at the very end of a heated debate and he’ll do his best to distance himself from it.
    4. We need to corner UKIP on same-sex marriage. The question of same-sex marriage caused the highest spike on twitter and was Farages most uncomfortable moment by far.
    5. Nick needs to back away from his 7% figure, it may well be true. But it’s so far below peoples expectations that it’s unbelievable to many.
    6. Did anyone see Tim Farron on the TV? He was far from forthcoming on his praise for Nick and his first sentence was “the electorate was the winner”. You can’t read too much into a sentence but the rest of the interview anymore praise filled. Could our President be well and truly on maneuvers?

  • Stephen Donnelly 26th Mar '14 - 11:30pm

    From UK Polling Report “First up, remember that the vast majority of people didn’t watch it – to get 1000 people for our poll of people who were watching it we had to ask tens of thousands of people. Of course, that will be multiplied by people who didn’t watch the debate seeing the subsequent media reporting… but remember, most people didn’t see it.”

    The most important thing to remember is that most people did not see it, the secondary publicity is probably more important in party political terms. My hope is that it is the beginning of a debate on Europe based on at least some rational arguments.

    The 3 million jobs figure is weak, time we came up with a better argument.

  • I also agree with Nick Robinson – both leaders had something to gain just by doing the debate, provided they didn’t drop any clabbers they one they would both benefit. I think the “party of in” strategy is definitely the right one. Nick generally came across well but Farage was more populist which is always going to be easier for Mr Angry than for Mr Reasonable.

    Both had some dire moments though. Farage was ridiculous on Ukraine and looked rattled over gay marriage (so he bloody should!), and Nick was ridiculous using Jeremy Forrest as a reason in favour of the EUAW.

  • *clangers not clabbers – no idea why iPhone autocorrected that!

  • Eddie Sammon 27th Mar '14 - 12:38am

    Nick can win the second debate if he bangs on about reforming the EU, rather than the status quo.

  • Maybe because Nick is leader of my party I expect better. Where was the liberal argument for the pooling of sovereignty and making the link to Scotland? As others have said Nick didn’t really talk about the European Parliament being made up of representatives from the whole of Europe making rules for the whole of Europe. I would have liked for Nick to say something that I could cheer, but instead I thought he was condescending and often didn’t answer the question but just gave his prepared answers. At one point he looked like he was going to say what the limitations there are to free movement of people but didn’t. He often said that Nigel was wrong but didn’t have a killer fact to drive the point home. Nick did manage to point out that we export to EU a larger share of our exports than the share of EU exports they export to us. He didn’t really answer the point that the EU assists companies to move from one EU country to another. When Nigel Farage said that EU citizens from day one can claim child benefit and housing benefit if they are in work Nick didn’t state he was incorrect. He didn’t deal with the legal cases Nigel Farage mentioned when discussing Human Rights law. A neutral listener can only conclude that Nigel Farage must been correct. Therefore I think Nigel Farage won because Nick didn’t demolish all the points Nigel made against the EU. Also Nick failed to make the case for the EU. However Nigel Farage did look unhappier than Nick during the debate.

  • Paul In Twickenham 27th Mar '14 - 7:11am

    It was mostly “statto” Clegg versus “golf club bore” Farage.

    Clegg’s weakest line? “It’s in the small print”, or perhaps “3 million jobs”.

    Clegg’s best line? His positive upbeat message on equal marriage.

    I think that overall Clegg was OK, but no more than that. Farage was exactly himself – bombastic, opinionated and appealing to strand of petty, miserable nationalism. Both of them have stronger messages than they delivered last night.

    Mr. Clegg should look to the way the audience reacted so positively to his evident pleasure on equal marriage. Less statistics (at least of the dodgy variety) and more passion about Liberal values being put into practice might just let him edge the second debate.

  • @Paul In Twickenham – “Less statistics and more passion”
    This. 100%.

  • Quite apart from issues to do with Europe, I wonder if another positive outcome from these two debates with Mr Farage might be a degree of rehabilitation for Nick. Surely this will force (or at least encourage) disillusioned university-age voters to re-assess Nick and our party in more rounded terms – and not just as a big cheat following the university fee debacle. With Cameron and Miliband running scared of a popular media event, Nick enjoys the limelight and gets an opportunity to shift the public’s views of himself and our party beyond the narrow confines of fees. In purely marketing terms this is a classic case of an agenda setting strategy and clarifying one’s market position with some help from the opponent Mr Farage. He obviously gets his benefit out of this, but the value of the event may be even greater to us.

  • Clegg performed like the well-informed rational human being he is. Farage is anything but. The really worrying aspect was the universal complaint about the reference to statistics. This reluctance to confront numeracy threatens rational debate. There were examples where Farage made exaggerated claims -cost of EU membership, Laws made in Brussels which, when refuted with the facts should have resulted in game set & match. But ignorant bluster seemed acceptable to the 57% who thought Farage won.
    I think that numeracy is rather important and the seeming lack of it amongst some of the media commentators “too many facts are boring” is damaging.

  • I thought it was a draw between the two of them. I would have liked to see Nick Clegg engage Farage more directly and give some answers on the following points:

    1) Children in other countries receiving benefits from the UK;
    2) The effects of immigration on certain parts of the UK jobs market;
    3) The ratchet effect of the EU’s gradual accretion of powers, particularly on our justice system;
    4) The argument that we are being absorbed into an EU state and no longer govern ourselves;
    5) The point about the net trade imbalance between us and the rest of the EU meaning we would have the whip hand in any negotiations.

    In not answering these questions directly, Nick Clegg came across as evasive. Also repeating this mantra about three million jobs came across as rather a stuck record. He made some positive and quite effective points about the advantages of being in the EU, but did not answer people’s very valid concerns, which is one reason why some people feel he lost.

    He also missed some open goals, particularly Farage’s rather foamy-mouthed, barely-concealed hatred of southern and eastern Europeans, his support for Putin over Ukraine and his banging on about “red tape”. I was just waiting to Nick Clegg to ask him why he thought we should shred workplace protections, environmental laws etc.

    However, overall, as I say, it was a draw and I hope that Nick Clegg gets more engaged with the questions and less repetitive in the next debate.

  • A large part of the problem is that Nick Clegg has had such a pasting and scapegoating from the media for the past four years that many people had decided he had lost the debate even before he had opened his mouth.

  • I agree with Stephen !
    After a wobbly start Clegg performed well, and stayed calm while Farage resorted to eye rolling and face pulling.

    As Stephen says we saw more of the pre-coalition Clegg and I was reminded of why I briefly displayed a Vote Lib Dem poster in my window in April 2010.

    What was striking is that when Clegg is defending something he believes in he can argue well, come across well.
    The cause of the grumpiness and what can come across [to the viewer] as shiftiness in his post 2010 performances is obviously when he is trying to defend much of the Tory/Lib Dem coalition’s actions, which in his heart I suspect he knows are indefensible.

    When Clegg is fighting for what he truly believes in, he may still have a chance politically.
    Must say I warmed to him a little again. But enough to vote Lib Dem in May, or 2015 ? No.
    But appreciated his defence of our position in Europe, and going head to head with Farage.

    So well done.

  • Jackass “Nick. Surely this will force (or at least encourage) disillusioned university-age voters to re-assess Nick and our party in more rounded terms – and not just as a big cheat following the university fee debacle”

    All the time he was talking I was having flashbacks to a very earnest Clegg saying “no more broken promises” so I think part if the reason Nick gets low ratings in pretty well everything is because people have long memories.

  • Clegg has a second disadvantage, in that he’s Nick Clegg and will forever be associated with broken pledges on tuition fees. In that light, getting 36% of the poll can be seen as a victory — he’s rarely been so popular since coming into government! Clegg is simply toxic to large amounts of the electorate.

    I loathe Farage and am strongly pro-EU, but one has to face the facts: Clegg may end up doing more damage to the pro-EU argument than good simply because of his baggage. Unfortunately I concede there is no other champion willing to take the stage at this time.

  • Richard Robinson 27th Mar '14 - 9:19am

    As these debates are about shoring up our votes in the Euro election, Nick Clegg’s evidence based arguments should have worked well. He has still to come up with a stronger (and positive) response to Farage’s immigration points (‘485m can come to the UK’). He was also weak on the point about tuition fees – which is essentially about trust.

    However, we still have to build an emotional argument for the EU to engage with the wider electorate. ‘Great Britain not Little England’ is a good start – and also helps with the Scottish referendum where the same thing applies.

  • ” Nick enjoys the limelight and gets an opportunity to shift the public’s views of himself and our party beyond the narrow confines of fees”

    This is an interesting point : how can Nick Clegg regain the trust if the British public? I don’t think greater exposure either through these debates or via Call Clegg is going to be enough. And it might just serve to remind people of why they don’t trust him in the first place – the ‘anti-Midas toutch’ to quote someone on another thread. No, whatClegg needs is a ‘killer policy’ , something which is so pure and altruistic and right in every sense that you have to admire him for it. I’ll give you an example : Gordon Brown was a hopelessly flawed character and a disaster as PM. However in our family the overriding thing we remember about him is that he fought hard to persuade other nation states to wipe out third world debt when he was Chancellor. Clegg has no big ‘singular achievement’ like this, yet.

  • Helen Dudden 27th Mar '14 - 9:30am

    The problems with housing is just one point, the attitude, that has been built up towards those from the EU.

    The Polish drive our buses, and will do any job nothing is too menial even, though they have often a degree and are well educated.

    I blame those in power for the problems we have with those in Government. It is not up to simply Farage or Clegg how we proceed in the future, we all have that right, to make a choice.

  • Tony Rowan-Wicks 27th Mar '14 - 9:46am

    @Phyllis et al
    I agree with you – Ukip supporters were out in great numbers on YouGov. On the YouGov connection – I have often noted that YouGov seems to have a higher participation from Ukip supporters – we can check that against polls from other organisations. For the record, I’m a YouGov panelist and clearly a Lib Dem – often not asked for my opinion. How are the panelists selected in these polls I wonder?

    @Paul Barker
    This must have been because the radio audience was probably the more elderly listeners. I watched on the tv link provided by Lib Dems and NF was not good there. If we consider how the voting will most likely play out in May – it will be largely be dominated by the older voters, and the English shires at that. Nigel Farage gets his support from those vestiges of old-empire and his points really don’t wash with the younger voters – who will probably be silent in May.

    Uphill struggle for NC for sure. But he did quite well and needs to relax more and keep his facts both honest and clear. Attacking NF by hectoring is not a good plan. But 57% v 36% is not what I saw.

  • Bill Le Breton 27th Mar '14 - 9:53am

    I was reminded of an old fashioned Western, with a shoot out between the a guy in White and the baddy in Black. They draw their guns and each fire. The camera focuses on the bad guy and we see him smile and begin to walk away, apparently the victor, we fear the worst for the outcome …. but ten paces on the bad guy collapses.

    I think that this encounter will have left Farage mortally wounded. The Ukraine answer will haunt him for ever. But the greatest damage done to his political ‘body’ is the challenge to him on facts … The vital organ of the politician, is trust. Following the coverage of this contest people will never be quite sure he isn’t twisting the facts. He will forever be in the shade of doubt.

    So here, I slightly disagree with those calling for more passion from our guy in the white hat. I think the decision was made to use this first debate to undermine the reliability of Farage’s stats and that succeeded. Perhaps the intention is, having done that in round 1, round 2 may see a different tactic.

    But it is not all blue skies and our good guy heading west into the evening sun …

    If Farage is mortally wounded, the greatest beneficiary will be the Tories. Not the sole beneficiary, but the major beneficiary. The second beneficiary may indeed be Labour and their old Labour zenophobes coming back to the fold in 2015. So our guy may just have made a supreme sacrifice in knocking over the baddy to the advantage of our other competitors.

    Also, in the use of ‘facts’ to undermine Farage out guy cannot avoid be mud splattered himself (my third metaphor, I know). Already we see the general reaction is not ‘I don’t believe in Farage, but I do in Clegg’ …. It is more likely to be ‘I don,t believe in any of them’.

    Of course that outcome was more likely because of the form the guy in the white hat took into the ‘fight’.

  • Here is the text of a post I have just put on the Guardian blog –

    “I have no idea whether the following point has already been made in this lengthy thread but surely the conclusion from the snap poll that “Farage won” or that Farage had the better of the arguments is ill-based to say the least. It stands to reason that more of the anti-EU people will say “Farage won” and more of the pro-EU people will say “Clegg won” – not all, because some will genuinely try to judge performance on the night, but many more. Given the state of public opinion on the EU at present this makes the 36% for Clegg quite an achievement. The question now is – how much of this will translate into Lib Dem support in the European Parliamentary election? Those who worry about the UK sleepwalking towards the EU exit should try to maximise the Lib Dem vote in that election even if their loyalty goes elsewhere in Westminster contests. ”

    In Round 2 I think Clegg needs to up the visionary approach – with some of the sincerity and warmth he displayed last night on gay marriage . He should also spell out that any negotiations to agree trade with EU countries after EU exit would inevitably mean rules virtually identical to the status quo being applied without UK having any influence whatsoever in setting or altering those rules.

  • “I agree with you – Ukip supporters were out in great numbers on YouGov. On the YouGov connection – I have often noted that YouGov seems to have a higher participation from Ukip supporters – we can check that against polls from other organisations.”

    The YouGov sample was weighted to be representative both of party support and of attitudes to Europe. The most recent YouGov polls place UKIP support at just 11% and in/out at 37%/43%.

    Trying to blame the result of that poll on bias towards UKIP in the sample – or bias towards Eurosceptics in general – isn’t going to work.

  • I don’t like UKIP, but there is no denying that Farage comes across well in the media. Why Nick Clegg – who has struggled with the media since the tuition fees mess – decided to take him on I don’t know. Whatever the posters here think the media think Farage was the clear winner and that will only help UKIP. He needs to be much better in the next one or he will have handed the euro elections on a plate to UKIP. Below is a quick summary of what the papers think:

    The Times said the margin of the UKIP leader’s victory was “convincing”

    “Instant poll says Feisty Farage beat cool Clegg,” said the Guardian, but accused the UKIP leader of trading in “polemic and distorted facts”.

    The Telegraph said both men will be satisfied with the event, which has “whetted the appetite for similar televised clashes in the general election campaign next year”.

    But Mark Wallace, , writing on Conservative Home, said it could establish a precedent for “Second Division” political debates, adding “might Cameron and Miliband be able to do a head to head First Division debate next year?”

    The Daily Mail declared “First blood to Farage”

    The Sun said: “Nigel fries Clegg for breakfast – he wins TV debate.”

  • “The Sun said: “Nigel fries Clegg for breakfast – he wins TV debate.””

    And of course, these are the kind of headlines that will further damage the perception of Clegg, whether or this tactic succeeds in raising the party’s vote in the Euro elections by a few percent.

  • @Malc – surely the broad consensus following the debate, that the big winners on the night were UKIP & the LD’s and the big losers Labour and Conservatives should answer your question?
    Incidentally The Times political editor,interviewed on Newsnight, was much more supportive of Nick ,than your quote suggests.Whilst it’s true the paper declares Farage the winner the word convincing is used in reference to the Poll as in, ” a snap poll showed NF to be a convincing winner”.The fallibility of any such Poll has already been discussed and it shouldn’t be used as a basis for attacking the decision to set the debate up.A decision which has ,in my view been entirely vindicated.

  • Nick Collins 27th Mar '14 - 12:51pm

    @ Tabman: “Europhiles … to vote LibDem to stop Farage”!!! You cannot be serious!!!

    UKIP are on course to top the poll in May’s Euro elections and, thanks to Clegg, they’ve just received a boost of rocket fuel. The only way to stop them , now, is for Europhiles to vote Labour in May

  • This was a warm up. Only the BBC2 debate matters.

  • I wish we wouldn’t keep mixing ‘immigration’ and ‘migration’ in the same argument. Most migrants go home at some point.

  • Nick Collins 27th Mar '14 - 6:05pm

    @ RC ” A large part of the problem is that … many people had decided that (Clegg) had lost the debate before he had opened his mouth”. In other words, he is now a toxic brand: a point which I made on another thread and which provoked an angry response from you.

  • jedibeeftrix 27th Mar '14 - 7:46pm

    “I wish we wouldn’t keep mixing ‘immigration’ and ‘migration’ in the same argument. Most migrants go home at some point.”

    good point.

    but no easy distinction:

    i married a migrant, and in effect the good lady has become an immigrant.

  • Charles Knight 27th Mar '14 - 7:52pm

    I thought Nick Clegg was really impressive and made some really good points and talking to people at work today who followed the debate they agreed. Problem is, even with that, Clegg is absolutely poison, as an academic I could never bring myself to support a party led by him, not under any circumstances.

  • I think Nick should just confront every single ‘fear’ that UKIP has encouraged, acknowledge that these are real concerns that ordinary people sincerely have and then go on to show a more positive ‘vision’ of what EU membership means. Yes, we have freedom of movement of goods and people. This is something to be proud if as it means that a whole Continentcan live and work where they want. Look at the skills we are attracting and also the opportunity that our workforce has to move around in Europe. Our youth could learn a few things from Polish plumbers etc. Yes many of our laws are seen to be passed in Brussels – but we are at the table with our European colleagues deciding on laws which are good for all of us – who wants to be exempt from laws which ensure the safety if our workers? He could show that UKIP would have us going back to a time when people were mangled by machinery because there was no workplace legislation. He could paint a picture of a Europe of nation states all working collaboratively for the good of all our citizens because people are people the world over. Is the EU perfect? No, but we Brits have a vision of how to make it better and we need to do that. Yes there is an issue about sovereignty (he has to acknowledge this as most people’s biggest gripe) but here is what we intend to do about it. Yes there is the perception of a gravy train for beaurocrats and this is what we are going to do about that. Etc etc. only by being honest and upfront can Nick hope to engage those people who have been fed a diet if anti-EU propaganda by the right-wing media. He does, however, need to drop the dodgy stats. If the number if laws passed in Brussels is 50% maximum then he should use thatfugure and explain why it is not a threat to British citizens. He can on,y hope to convince the undecided by casting a bright light onto all the shadowy fears that UKIP is preying on.

  • I hope that this debate will have started something that has been missing for too long; that more prominent people will put forward the arguments and facts for staying in Europe and challenge the misleading rhetoric of UKIP that we are dominated by the EU, have little say in things that matter to us and could somehow become big players on the world stage without partnership with other Europeans.
    It cannot be left to Nick Clegg, since, like so many politicians, he is not trusted by enough people. He needs support in this EU debate.

  • Malc wrote:

    “He needs to be much better in the next one or he will have handed the euro elections on a plate to UKIP.”

    Perhaps that’s the intention. If it works, it’s terrible news for the Tories. So maybe it’s not the intention after all.

    Personally, I couldn’t give a monkey’s what the chip wrappings say.

  • The LibDems are the perfect political party to argue the case for the EU and point out all the benefits the british people get from our membership. It’s something they truely believe in and the party is united about. How sad that their spokesman and party leader – no matter how good his arguments – is just about the most distrusted politician in the land. Unfortunately, while he is the spokesman for the pro european case UKIP will have a field day in the european elections.

  • For all that Nick did a good job, for me he was not crisp enough and did not nail a couple of key points. First the absolute diifference between the EU and the ECHR. The European Convention on Human Rights derives from the Treaty on London 1949. The EU derives from the Treaty of Rome 1958. The EU has its own Court of Justice in Brussels. Leave the EU and we still have the ECHR, withdraw from the ECHR and we still have the EU! Withdraw from both and what else do we leave? NATO and take back full control of our armed forces? The UN and give up our seat and veto in the Security Council? World Bank? IMF? G8? G20? WTO?
    Second on immigration, EU citizens can move around freely, yes theretically 485m or however many could come and live in the UK – admit it openly, but in return 64m Brits can go annd live anywhere in the EU. So why don’t our2m+ unemployed go and live in Belgium or Germany where they can claim higher unemployed benefits? The reality is that oonly 10,000 Brits claim unemployment benefits in Germany. This is simply scaremongering and totally ignores the benefits. Since Poland’s accession British starwberry production has more than doubled from 30% share of consumption to over 70% – stop EU temporary agricultural workers coming to the UK and eat Spanish srawberries!! What a great idea Nigel. The EU migrant stays for 4 years – the average migrant from beyond the EU stays 28 years and twice as many of them come every year. Mobility of labour is NOT the same as permanent immigration from outside the EU – which is actually a common problem across the EU and needs more effective borders for the EU, especially in the Meditetrranean.

  • The Europositive campaign is producing movement. This is apparent in the pro-Labour comment from Nick Collins (above). For all his protestation that Labour is the pro EU party, Labour have only begun to slightly emerge from their timorous funk and that as a response to the Lib Dem stand.

    However those of us who have heard the likes of Chukka Unama milking the anti EU migrant non-existent benefits issue know that on Europe, Labour are severely lacking.

  • Nick Collins 29th Mar '14 - 1:01pm

    @ Martin : What pro-Labour comment?. My vote for Labour in May will be a purely tactical (or strategic) one. The Labour Party is the only party with a chance of preventing UKIP from topping the poll. I do not want to hand UKIP that fillip, therefore I shall vote Labour.

    Clegg, is now so poorly regarded that he does harm to the pro-Euro case every time he opens his mouth. His “debates” with Farage may do his own party a little good by persuading a few pro-EU electors to vote LibDem, but they are doing UKIP even more good by making Farage look like a “winner”. For that reason, I deplore them.

  • Nick Collins 29th Mar '14 - 1:17pm

    “Pro Euro”, what was I thinking of -that’s so last century isn’t it? I meant to say “pro-EU”

  • Nick Collins:
    Yes, your “pro-Labour” comment was the one advocating a vote for Labour. Although the electoral system is not a very good example of proportional representation, it is nonetheless PR, so you can vote positively for who and what you want. If you feel that Labour best represent you in the European Parliament, then that is what you should do. I feel best represented by Lib Dems and feel that Graham Watson has done a good job and has been a responsive MEP, so I am keen to see him re-elected.

    So far as Labour is concerned, they do seem to continue with very mixed messages. Do you not think there might have been more point to voting for Labour had they been backing Martin Schultz?

  • Nick Collins 29th Mar '14 - 2:31pm

    @ Martin. I’ve already told you why I’m voting Labour; how many times do you want me to repeat it?

  • “If you feel that Labour best represent you in the European Parliament, then that is what you should do. I feel best represented by Lib Dems and feel that Graham Watson has done a good job and has been a responsive MEP, so I am keen to see him re-elected.”

    The electorate really need to hear a lot more about the actual work that individual MEPs do and what we gain from it.

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