Nick v Nigel: the polls call it for Farage. Disappointing, but don’t panic! Here’s 3 reasons why you shouldn’t…

Farage cleggLast week we had one post-debate poll. It showed Farage won overall, but the split was more interesting: Labour and Lib Dem voters went for Nick, Tory and Ukippers for Nigel. As you’d probably expect.

This week we had two post-debate polls, and their results are remarkably similar. ICM says Clegg was reckoned to have won by 31% of viewers, Farage by 69%. YouGov says 27% preferred Clegg, 68% Farage.

ICM has released the breakdown of its poll. This week, Labour voters split (narrowly) in Farage’s favour, by 57% to 43%, which means only Lib Dem voters reckoned Clegg won (by 58% to 42%).

It’s fair to say, the polls have called it for Farage. And, as I blogged earlier, I’d broadly agree.

But, and it’s a big but, does that mean Nick Clegg’s gamble of laying down the gauntlet to Nigel Farage has failed? I don’t think so. Here’s three reasons why…

Nick Clegg has galvanised Lib Dem supporters.

That matters for two reasons. First, in a low-turnout election, as the 22 May Euro elections will be, getting your base to turn out matters. And secondly, that base is also far more motivated now to get out the vote – in that sense, Ukip is a useful enemy for the Lib Dems. As anyone who was at the York spring conference will testify, it was easily the most cheerful party event since 2010 – and the decision to fight a focused pro-European campaign and to take on Ukip is a big reason why.

A boost for Ukip hurts the Tories and Labour more than the Lib Dems.

There’s no denying that Nigel Farage and Ukip have emerged well from these debates, especially tonight’s. Their populist, insurgent message – that all the nation’s ills are the fault of foreigners, Westminster and big business – clearly resonates. But it will resonate least well with Lib Dem voters, and best with Tory and Labour voters. A polling spike for Ukip will probably be at their expense, not ours. Though that’s a slightly depressing thought – I’d rather people voted Labour or Tory than for Farage’s isolationism – it’s far less of an electoral worry for the Lib Dems.

Pro-Europeanism appeals to moderate, centrist voters.

Recent polls show the British public pretty split on whether the UK should remain within the EU, but tilting towards staying in. The Lib Dems’ internal polling suggests that, among the one-quarter of the public who’ll consider voting for the party, pro-Europeanism plays pretty well. My main frustration of tonight’s debate was that Nick Clegg failed to advance the pro-reform case for staying within the EU as well as he’s done in the past – but there will be many more times and places for him to make that point in the next seven weeks. Overall, clear defining the party as being pro-European is more likely to win the Lib Dems the votes the party needs to win, both in 2014 as well as 2015.

* 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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56 Comments

  • Farage will always do well in debates because he just makes things up whereas Nick is bound by the truth.

  • Richard Harris 2nd Apr '14 - 10:55pm

    @Lucas Amos – but clearly the vast majority of people watching tonight believe exactly the opposite. I was one of the idiots that believed Clegg on tuition fees at the GE, so who do you think I believed tonight? Trying hard to think of a single positive thing Clegg said tonight – why would an average UK resident get passionate about an argument so poor….the best he could come up with was the abolition of mobile roaming charges.

  • Philip Rolle 2nd Apr '14 - 10:59pm

    Nick Clegg is one of the most polished media performers in British politics. Yet he has been beaten soundly twice in debates with “the man down the pub”. You need to start considering why this is.

    I believe that it is because a majority of the public reject Clegg’s basic premise that the UK must stay in Europe no matter what. “The party of in” as a slogan is badly misjudged and I suggest that the Lib Dems must now accept that it is out of step with public opinion and reconsider policy.

  • Richard Dean 2nd Apr '14 - 11:08pm

    If this barrel gets scraped much more, it’ll have a big hole in the bottom.

  • Your second point is a bit depressing but true, most of our seats will be fought against the conservatives if UKIP stays strong there is a chance they can take away some of their votes in places that matter to us.

    Of course that by next year, the Tories might be able to convince them that a vote for UKIP is a vote for Labour/LibDem but if UKIP manages to maintain this kind of support, it will be a much more difficult job for the Tories.

  • Philip Rolle 2nd Apr '14 - 11:48pm

    How about a change of policy to being in favour of an EU referendum? And a change of language so that you stop calling those who disagree with you racist foreigner-bashers.

  • paul barker 2nd Apr '14 - 11:49pm

    Those breakdowns in the Guardian Polls were pretty astonishing, among 18-24 year olds the split was 50/50, among the over 60s it was 4 to 1 for Farage. Thats bad news in the short run because us oldies vote & young people mostly dont. How bizzare to have a Party entirely based on a yearning for a half-imagined past.

  • Paul Pettinger 3rd Apr '14 - 12:40am

    The more the public see Nick Clegg, the *fewer* people want to vote Liberal Democrat. From http://www.theguardian.com/politics/blog/2014/apr/02/farage-v-clegg-the-debate-for-europe-politics-live-blog#block-533c6c6de4b040af4c4db528

    “Has what you’ve heard in the debate made you more or less likely to vote Lib Dem in the European elections?

    More likely – 7%

    Less likely – 43%

    No difference – 44%”

  • Last week I thought Clegg did better and was amazed at the polls. This week I think Clegg was on particularly bad form. At one point he even allowed Farage to accuse him of not supporting Britain. The camera angle was such that you could see a furious Farage turn to Clegg and bellow that he was doing Britain down. Then he accused Nick of telling lies and said ‘the trouble is Nick, people just don’t believe you’ and both these statements won applause from the audience.

    I agree with those who say that Clegg cannot win with the public. He really is a toxic brand because a lot of people think he tells porkies and then he comes out with statements such as the ‘only 7%’ line which just rings false, so it re-I forces that he cannot be trusted.

    I pity the Lib Dems because this is such a great Party but sadly whatever the leader touches now leads to failure. If Clegg is the face if ‘IN’ then does anyone doubt that the electorate will vote to get ‘OUT’?

  • Steve Comer 3rd Apr '14 - 2:43am

    Watching Nick tonight was like watching my football team (which is languishing at the wrong end of League 2). Plenty of passion and good endeavour, some good build up play, generally solid defending, OK in midfield, but poor in the final third and not very good at getting the ball in the net (especially away from home!)

    This showed particularly at the end when Clegg had the classic job interview type question – ‘how do you see the EU in 10 years time?’ It was like being awarded a penalty in the last minute, but Nick completely fluffed it – he not only missed the goal completely, but he kicked the ball over the stand and out of the ground!
    He waffled on about the EU being ‘much as it is now,’ and showed no vision and little commitment to European unity, or how the EU might help build peace, tackle climate change, help the third world or anything. He also gave Farage carte blanche to paint his alternative dream about good old Britain leaving the EU inspiring those on the Iberian peninsula to help break up the rest of the EU in our wake!

    I feel this is really significant because it showed one of two things, either:
    a) Nick has no vision about the future of the EU, apart from ‘carry on with a few amendments here and there .’ or
    b) Nick does have a vision of Europe, but didn’t want to articulate it because he is doing what the pro-Europe side has done in the UK for years, and adopting a ‘don’t frighten the horses’ approach to ever closer union.

    This latter approach explains why UKIP and the Tory right have gained traction with their big lie about the 1975 referendum being “about trade” – it wasn’t it was about staying in an organisation defined by the Treaty of Rome.
    Tonight Nick was playing defensively banging on about Britain and not attempting to make a case for why we’re in the EU, and why it offers a better future than being outside. Even in the heated discussions about war and conflicts, not once did Nick make the obvious point that the EU was forged out of the wreckage of WW2, and a determination by its founders that we would not see ‘civil wars’ again between European neighbours. The avoidance of these conflicts that dominated the previous centuries has been the EUs greatest success, yet Nick didn’t mention it. Nick showed some passion tonight, but passion for his view of Britain as against Farage’s, NOT in his views about Europe. The trouble is we know you can never ‘out nationalist’ an avowedly nationalist politician, and Nick was foolish to try.

    I felt really let down by Nick Clegg tonight, he was right to challenge Farage to a debate, right to show a bit more aggression in debate, but he failed to get key messages across. There is a clear Liberal case for the future of Europe which has been articulated clearly by our party leader in the European Parliament Guy Verhofstadt. Guy has shown great vision in looking into areas that are outside the comfort zones of many politicians, but he is at least attempting to lead a debate, not just argue for the status quo. It s about time we really looked to the future, and articulated a progressive forward looking Liberal vision for Europe instead of letting the anti-Europeans narrow the debate onto their territory.

  • David wilkinson 3rd Apr '14 - 4:29am

    The point that Stephen has made: Nick Clegg has galvanised Lib Dem supporters. pure fantasy

  • Peter Chegwyn 3rd Apr '14 - 4:50am

    Indeed David. And where’s the evidence to back up Stephen’s assertion that :
    ‘A boost for Ukip hurts the Tories and Labour more than the Lib Dems?’

    UKIP are now winning the anti-establishment protest vote that used to be ours.

    Farage can even accuse Clegg of not only being part of the establishment but also pro-war (Libya, Syria).

    The instant polls suggest Farage beat Clegg by more than two-to-one in the public vote, partly, I suspect, because Nick Clegg is such a toxic brand these days that he’s likely to lose whatever he says or does.

    Dr Tim Stanley’s piece in The Telegraph sums it up pretty well in my view:
    http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/timstanley/100266038/farage-v-clegg-farage-won-easily-on-europe-his-argument-is-now-the-one-to-beat/

    Oh, and Nick’s line that ‘We’re the party of ‘IN’ and UKIP are the party of PutIN’… cringeworthy!

  • Richard Harris 3rd Apr '14 - 6:51am

    @Peter Chegwyn
    ‘We’re the party of ‘IN’ and UKIP are the party of PutIN’
    Dear, oh dear – he did actually say that did he? I thought I’d heard that but dismissed it at the time. It doesn’t even make any sense. You are dealing with a leader that can’t even deliver jokes, let alone a decent show in an election.

  • Martin Lowe 3rd Apr '14 - 7:13am

    @jedibeeftrix

    Of course Farage makes stuff up. He made up the ‘fact’ that 75% of our laws come from Brussels. He quite clearly made up a load of bull about how the EU is to blame for the situation in Ukraine. He makes up ‘facts’ about the findings from the Court of Auditors. I could go on for hours, but simply don’t have time to tell you stuff that you should already be aware of.

  • Charles Rothwell 3rd Apr '14 - 7:41am

    One of the most depressing parts of the evening was the pre-debate interview with David Dimbleby in which the latter said how he remembered chairing a debate between Roy Jenkins and Tony Benn for the 1975 referendum and how ‘exactly the same points were being made then’. It makes me despair that we just do not seem able to ‘grow up’ in this country and accept our role in Europe which any number of key organisations/individuals (CBI (why is not more reference made to their recent Report?), Richard Branson etc.) will say is essential. I had hoped these two debates would (at last) allow the pro-European voice to be heard loud and clear. I think Clegg did a reasonable job (and the first half of yesterday evening’s performance was very good, but he then surprisingly seemed to run out of stamina in the second half and made silly mistakes (NO-ONE at all wants to hear the EU ‘will be the same’ in ten years’ time!) and allowed Farage to take over/make the running. It was not, however, the clear, positive, ringing endorsement for staying IN I had hoped for. Still, the debates have probably achieved their major aim of convincing some people (like me) that, even after the debacle of tuition fees (which will undoubtedly be for Clegg what Munich was for Chamberlain for as long as he continues to operate in public life), the LIberal Democrats really are the only true home there is (as watching Labour dithering around and refusing to say a thing until numerous focus group findings have first come in is well and truly pathetic and is PRECISELY the kind of thing ‘Mr/Mrs Ordinary’ loathe about ‘the Political Class’ and are prepared to support apparent ‘outsiders’ (led by an ex-stock broker who deliberately dresses and does everything (fags, booze) to suggest ‘back to the future’. I look forward to doing my (very minor) bit to stop them and follow the vision which Clegg outlined in the debates and at the York Spring Conference.

  • lynne featherstone 3rd Apr '14 - 7:48am

    Well I am proud that we are the party standing up for what we believe in. And I watched the debate – and fear that between some parts of the media and the Farage brand of scaremongering – we are being dragged towards a country of hate rather than a country of progress. And those who stay silent – Cameron and Miliband – aid and abet the rise of a Farage.

  • Peter Watson 3rd Apr '14 - 8:04am

    @Paul Pettinger
    “Has what you’ve heard in the debate made you more or less likely to vote Lib Dem in the European elections?
    More likely – 7%
    Less likely – 43%
    No difference – 44%”
    I think that this is one of those polling questions that is impossible to interpret (or rather is possible to interpret in too many contradictory ways). It’s not really as bad as it sounds since more than 90% weren’t going to vote Lib Dem anyway. Someone might try to spin that 7% of 90% is bigger than 43% of 10% so it’s a nett gain, but the numbers don’t mean that either.
    It probably just reflects a 7% Lib Dem voting intention, a significant anti Lib Dem vote from supporters of UKIP and some Lab/Con, and a large group of indifferent voters.

  • I agree, Lynne, but unfortunately you were not on the podium, or one of your colleagues. As Steve Comer has said, there should have been a wider vision of what the EU is about than just business or just jobs. It is appalling how Farage is being allowed to get away with what should be clear Lib Dem arguments on peace and security, on climate change, on the need for regulation generally, and the creation of a more level playing field generally.

    The vision should include how a wider common approach does NOT destroy individual cultures, how important it is to retain national and regional cultures. And crucially, the fact that there has always been an attempt to create a supranational democracy. We know it’s big, but many issues which need democratic input are wider than nation states – it is not sufficient to say that those democratically elected at national level will get into cosy clusters and decide for you!

    Nick in both his debates has stuck too closely to the standard media generated debate, and not aired the wider issues. The Lib Dems were supposed to be “the new politics” not according to me, but according to Nick Clegg in 2010. The reality has shown severe limits on that vision, and Nick and colleagues have lost a lot of support who would try to back up such a new politics. It is very sad.

  • Bill le Breton 3rd Apr '14 - 8:43am

    Lynne you write, “Well I am proud that we are the party standing up for what we believe in. And I watched the debate – and fear that between some parts of the media and the Farage brand of scaremongering – we are being dragged towards a country of hate rather than a country of progress. And those who stay silent – Cameron and Miliband – aid and abet the rise of a Farage.”

    As it turned out someone else was also aiding and abetting Mr Farage.

    I do hope you and the Parliamentary Party think very seriously post the Euros about what is in the best interests of the Country and Liberalism – a Party with a Leader in whom most of the country do not trust and one which has a leader capable of carrying more and more people towards Liberalism through Liberal Democracy.

  • Well, it certainly galvanised anti-Clegg Lib Dems!

  • Clegg will have to go if the Euro election shows a dramatic loss of seats, this whole debate has been another failed gamble for the party, I just wish people would keep trying to find one drop of gloss when the wall and ceiling are covered in failure.
    The only hope for 2015 is a new leader not tainted with the Tuition Fee debacle. Since then the party has been stuck at 9 -11% facing a monstrous loss of MPs, we just have to face this and move on, Nick Clegg is the establishment now, we need a different image and strategy .

  • David Evans 3rd Apr '14 - 9:56am

    Sadly another resounding failure for Nick. His time is well gone. The only question is who has the courage to tell Nick to go?

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd Apr '14 - 10:18am

    Phyllis

    I agree with those who say that Clegg cannot win with the public. He really is a toxic brand because a lot of people think he tells porkies and then he comes out with statements such as the ‘only 7%’ line which just rings false, so it re-I forces that he cannot be trusted.

    No, it doesn’t ring false. If our laws really were so dominated by laws made by the EU as Farage claims, wouldn’t we all know about it? Wouldn’t we all be able to cite various EU laws that affect our lives? Wouldn’t these EU laws be the big topics of political conversation? But they aren’t, are they? When we talk about politics we talk about what Cameron and Clegg and their government is doing because that is ACTUALLY where most of our rules ands regulations are coming from. As a test, go out and ask anyone who is anti-EU because “it is taking over our lives blah de blah de blah de blah” to cite some ACTUAL EU legislation that is affecting them. Not twisted half-baked stories coming from the right-wing press, which almost always turn out to have almost no truth in them, real actual legislation that is affecting our lives.

    And, now, here is the killer line that Clegg COULD have used to respond to Farage on this issue: “OK, if the EU and its legislation is now so influential in our lives, what are YOU and your MEPs doing to monitor it, to put the UK’s point of view on it, to criticise it and expose its shortcomings? If the EU is now our real government, don’t the MEPs have a vital role they should be performing on our behalf? So how come the UKIP MEPs have just about the poorest rates of attendance of any party? How come they are neglecting the jobs they were elected to do, though not rejecting the pay they get for them?”

    Instead we get these clever-clever manufactured soundbites, which just served to make Clegg look inhuman, fake, superficial, a plastic performer, someone for whom politics is just a silly game, someone who is just so remote from ordinary people, just another piece of ad-man’s nonsense, a tool of the big and powerful, a pretty face uttering empty words.

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd Apr '14 - 10:33am

    Tim13

    Nick in both his debates has stuck too closely to the standard media generated debate, and not aired the wider issues. The Lib Dems were supposed to be “the new politics” not according to me, but according to Nick Clegg in 2010.

    But this has been Nick Clegg right from the start, it is why I took against him as soon as he emerged and was pushed by the press as “obviously the next leader”, and urged again and again in the leadership contest for Liberal Democrats not to vote for him. He is a man who seems incapable of original thought, incapable of in-depth analysis, incapable of anything except uttering predictable slogans, the sort of truisms that are common currency amongst well-educated wealthy social elite types who got to the top because of that wealth and education more than intelligence and wisdom.

    I have never once heard Nick Clegg come out with something that makes me think. I have never once heard him say something that surprises, that offers me a new insight. I have never once heard him come out with a clever response which requires a bit of thinking-on-the-feet. As I’ve said several times before, he comes across as like someone in a public school where they’re having a mock election, and he has been asked to play the part of “leader of the Liberal Democrats”. Oh, sure, he’s mugged up on it, and wouldn’t have been asked to do it if he didn’t have some sympathy for the party’s principles, but there’s no depth to him, he lacks the real sense of conviction that would come from long-term engagement with the party from the bottom up and all that experience would provide, he’s too anxious to do what he supposes people think he should do in that role and unable to offer something a bit different, and most of all because of his privileged background he means well but there’s just so much he just doesn’t get.

  • Matthew yes I agree with everything you say and the only thing I would add is that Nick has the ability to come across as very sincere and earnest in these TV debates. However since the election and the tuition fees debacle among many many other things, we have come to realise that this apparent sincerity is a complete sham. Very few will believe him even when he is telling the truth – ‘fool me once shame on you, fool me twice…”

    A lot of good laws have come from the EU, much equality and workplace safety stuff which protect us all Really wish Nick had brought that out.

  • Unfortunately, as DPM, he will not go before 2015, even if we are wiped out at the Euros. But if he is not gone by the end of 2015, I will leave, I’m afraid.

    The more I see of Clegg, the more I become convinced that his sole aim in politics was to ensure the Liberal Democrats become a narrow pro-Euro, pro-civil rights (and maybe pro-green) party, with no dangerous mass appeal. There is nothing wrong with any of those policy positions, and I support them. But they are not enough to defeat the two-party system. So why has he done it?

    I can think of only one reason: because he wished to protect his own (extended family’s) economic position from the increasingly popular social liberalism of the 1990s and early 2000s, which might have affected the very wealthy in favour of the hard-working middle classes (who were in fact. mostly rather poor compared to him). Why else would he bargain so weakly on economic issues after the last election, when we abandoned our own economic policy wholesale in favour of Tory austerity? Why else would he fight so weakly on Reform of our democracy? Why else would he abandon the popular appeals to fairness across the board (remember 1p in the £ for education?) in favour of safer appeals to charity for the poorest?

    I tell you: Nicholas Peter William Clegg is a conservative! And in the truest sense of the word: one who wants to preserve the economic position of the few over those of the many.

    Perhaps (though he now denies it) he really did join the Conservative Party at University, as some have claimed? Perhaps that is why he chose to work for a Conservative EU Commissioner? Perhaps he challenged Farage not to galvanise us, but to pigeonhole us? Perhaps he is a fifth columnist who has taken over our party in order to sabotage it from within?

  • Matthew Huntbach —
    He is a man who seems incapable of original thought, incapable of in-depth analysis, incapable of anything except uttering predictable slogans, the sort of truisms that are common currency amongst well-educated wealthy social elite types who got to the top because of that wealth and education more than intelligence and wisdom.

    Steve Comer —
    ….at the end when Clegg had the classic job interview type question – ‘how do you see the EU in 10 years time?’ It was like being awarded a penalty in the last minute, but Nick completely fluffed it – he not only missed the goal completely, but he kicked the ball over the stand and out of the ground!

    Peter Chegwyn —
    The instant polls suggest Farage beat Clegg by more than two-to-one in the public vote, partly, I suspect, because Nick Clegg is such a toxic brand these days that he’s likely to lose whatever he says or does.

    David Evans —
    Sadly another resounding failure for Nick. His time is well gone. The only question is who has the courage to tell Nick to go?

  • Alex Wilcock suggests :
    “……it’s about bloody time someone stood up against the sickening storm of racist foreigner-bashing that’s been the country’s sole discourse on Europe and immigration for all my adult life.”
    Were you asleep during the debate?
    Under a (Ukip) work permit system, if we as a country were crucially short on C+ software programmers, then a Nigerian or Romanian C+ programmer would be welcomed with open arms. Indeed I would go further and suggest that their flight costs, and a 4 week settlement package ought to be considered as an inducement.
    Is there anything little England and mouth foamingly racist in that last paragraph?

  • I have one small piece of positive news after the debates, I spoke with someone who is supportive of our ( Lib Dem) position, BUT not an activist. They had seen the first debate, impressed with what we had to say, then asked me “so is it worth me voting in the Euro elections? ” I explained that every vote does matter in Euro polls, and they said that they would definitely vote.
    I can only hope that is being repeated across the land, it could make a huge difference on the day 🙂

  • “Also I noticed that Nick didn’t really make the case as the Liberal Democrat leader but kept referring to the Government – is this wise? Surely we need to distance ourselves from the Tories?”

    I hadn’t noticed that. That is a very good point.

  • Too much hyperbole this morning.

    Nick had a good week last week, less good this week. He’ll know watching things back where the tone or message wasn’t right, and neither his leadership nor the case for Europe is destroyed this morning – the Lib Dems frankly had little to lose from these debates so our worst case scenario is a missed opportunity.

    The case for Europe is being tested with fire – and we know where it needs sharpening.

  • Peter Kemp, more clutching at straws, we must stop doing this and face the reality head-on. Time is short. A new leader, a new image, hopefully either Scottish or northern, free of the Tuition Fee debacle, a woman, one who sounds and acts as if they understand public opinion.

  • >>The case for Europe is being tested with fire – and we know where it needs sharpening.

    Nick Clegg is (at best) a conservative on Europe, too. A true Lib Dem would be pushing hard for democratic Reform!

  • Matthew Huntbach writes :
    “If our laws really were so dominated by laws made by the EU as Farage claims, wouldn’t we all know about it? Wouldn’t we all be able to cite various EU laws that affect our lives?”
    My understanding is that the spoil from river dredging was re-classified a few years ago by EU regulations as ‘toxic waste’, and as such now has to go to very expensive land fill. This EU regulation, is thus partly responsible for the reduction in river dredging due to costs, and a factor in last winter’s flooding?
    Maybe someone else can identify if that particular EU regulation is part of Clegg’s 7% ?

  • paul barker 3rd Apr '14 - 12:31pm

    Theres an article on Labour Uncut which makes the interesting point that most people will only have seen clips on a News bulletin, not the debate itself. Is there anyone out there who saw the News but didnt watch any of the Debate itself ? Labour Uncut think Clegg won on the News clips, I cant say because I watched the Debate.
    Perhaps for the Debates next year The Party should have a special Team who arent allowed to watch them, only The News reports ?

  • And the winner is… David Cameron. It pains me to say it but I thought Cameron was very effective on BBC Breakfast this morning, dismissing both Farage and Clegg as extremists. He could probably have walked the debate had he been there, but figured it would be more fun to just watch.

    “all the nation’s ills are the fault of foreigners”
    “Farage’s isolationism”

    I don’t think this kind of rhetoric will impress anybody who actually saw either of the debates. I feel the same way about Farage as Farage feels about Putin – I don’t like or agree with him but I do think he’s very skilful – and I thought he did a good job of conveying the message that he is not isolationist at all; he wants good relationships and trade with other countries, he just doesn’t want to be governed by them.

    Far be it for me to help Nick Clegg but somebody wants to give him the following bits of advice if he ever has another opportunity to take part in such a debate :-

    1) Don’t shake your head and hands about and talk like a Play School presenter when doing the straight-to-camera bits. It comes across badly.
    2) Don’t overdo the calling audience members by their first name bit – viewers find it smarmy and false.
    3) Don’t interrupt.
    4) If you’re going to call your opponent a liar, at least offer some facts to back that opinion up.

    For those reasons and others I thought Clegg’s performance was excruciatingly bad.

  • Fadel Galal 3rd Apr '14 - 12:55pm

    Overall I believe it’s about representing the argument rather than the argument in itself. However passionate Nick Clegg maybe about this issue in my view he did not represent it well in the debate; partly because some are stronger than others in debates and partly because there needs to be a rethink about strategy in making the case. The over reliance on the idea of British clout may well have backfired. I also believe that Nigel was not challenged enough on detail when it comes to real policy/roadmap beyond punch-line statements. I would have thought that after debate 1 lessons would have been learnt but apparently not. This is not being critical to Nick Clegg himself but I do hope that his team (backed by the whole party) is now in re-evaluation mode to take on UKIP more vigorously particularly that this is a core policy issue for the party.

  • I didn’t watch, but I heard the Today program 8 O’clock news – it wasn’t one of the headlines, and was several items down in the news. When it WAS mentioned, the line was that the DPM had been beaten by Farage. I heard no clips. The subsequent analysis suggested ‘that it may not be all bad news for Mr Clegg’, or WTTE, and that both men may have gained simply by taking part’, but that was about as good as it got.

  • @Helen Tedcastle “A bit late. The debate was last night. He did not need to use ridiculous soundbites . This was obviously down to the advice he received (twenty-something interns again, no doubt).”

    Agreed but we are where we are.

    @GP Purnell: “Nick Clegg is (at best) a conservative on Europe, too. A true Lib Dem would be pushing hard for democratic Reform!”

    I heard that he was asked what he wanted to change about EU on his radio show this morning (by a mystery caller) and gave a good answer on red tape, cutting Strasbourg trips, and slimmer bureaucracy. It’s more that these points weren’t made last night, and too much time spent defending the status quo.

  • jedibeeftrix 3rd Apr '14 - 1:45pm

    @ gpurnell – “The more I see of Clegg, the more I become convinced that his sole aim in politics was to ensure the Liberal Democrats become a narrow pro-Euro, pro-civil rights (and maybe pro-green) party, with no dangerous mass appeal. There is nothing wrong with any of those policy positions, and I support them. But they are not enough to defeat the two-party system.”

    I recognise the problem, but I am not sure its author is clegg. The party itself seems disinterestestd in actively seeking broad pluralist positions on which to build a platform that can succeed in an adversarial political society.

  • David Allen 3rd Apr '14 - 3:15pm

    Well – A month ago I put a motion at the East Midlands Conference that we should be “The Party of In – The Party for Reform”. I argued that if we didn’t show understanding for the manifest need for change in Europe, we would just lose it with the public, and display ourselves as insincere, unthinking and out of touch.

    The opposition, who voted my motion down (though not overwhelmingly), included those who claimed that they knew how to win elections, and that simple messages are what is needed. I was offering too much nuance, it seemed.

    Well, I think we should now acknowledge that we don’t know a lot about how to win elections. We do have people, granted, who are brilliant with Focus and with motivation and with saturating a local byelection with workers. But none of that matters if we develop a tin ear for what people are thinking about the big national issues – like Europe, like Coalition, and like Clegg.

  • Jayne Mansfield 3rd Apr '14 - 5:22pm

    @ John Dunn,
    Perhaps you would be kind enough to answer your own question. I would really like to know.

    I did not find the debates particularly enlightening. There were lots of allegations but there must be evidence to support one position or another.

  • So, in 10 years’ time Clegg thinks the EU will be “much as it is now”.

    That has long been my sense of the view emanating from Lib Dem Towers so can we please have no more nonsense about the Party being committed to reforming the EU until, that is, it’s true; it’s used as a way of quashing debate and brushing aside objections to the utter vacuity of the current position.

    Do Clegg and his advisors not know that running on an anti-establishment ticket is almost always a sound strategy (assuming, of course, that it’s backed up with at least modest evidence of an intention to carry through)? Hence Thatcher who, like Putin was a very shrewd political operator, habitually ran against the establishment even long after she herself and her party were the establishment.

    One good thing that I hope will come out of all this is a change in party culture so that never again do we see the fawning attitude displayed by some towards the leader for the time being as if he was some sort of messiah. Many, perhaps even most, of those who climb to the top of the slippery pole have – how can I put this nicely? – extreme character traits that may make them great leaders but can also make them very dangerous if not kept on a short rein. The Lib Dems have been lucky so far because the Party was never an obvious route to power but if that were ever to change we could be in a lot of trouble if the fawning mind-set persists.

    David Allen – I entirely agree, especially about winning elections. The things that a local party organisation can do – Focus and the rest – are often done outstandingly. In contrast, the national positioning, messaging and strategy that can only be done centrally are execrable. By common consent government generally (not just this one) has become pretty dysfunctional and that’s one of the big things that voters want to see fixed. I think they’re shrewd enough in a wisdom-of-crowds sort of way to know that a dysfunctional party isn’t going to provide the answers.

  • Leekliberal 3rd Apr '14 - 6:20pm

    Steve Cromer says ‘This latter approach explains why UKIP and the Tory right have gained traction with their big lie about the 1975 referendum being “about trade” – it wasn’t it was about staying in an organisation defined by the Treaty of Rome.’ I don’t know how old you are but I voted Yes then and that was truly the issue then. I’m still for yes but we must get our facts right if we are to win.

  • As with Leekliberal I voted FOR the EEC in 75. It was ‘sold’ as being about facilitating trade between European countries. How we used to laugh in the early years about butter mountains and wine lakes. Little did we know (and weren’t told), that the sub-plot was a Brussels centred, sovereignty take over.
    I suppose Clegg was right, we should have checked the small print?

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd Apr '14 - 7:10pm

    GF

    Do Clegg and his advisors not know that running on an anti-establishment ticket is almost always a sound strategy (assuming, of course, that it’s backed up with at least modest evidence of an intention to carry through)?

    They’ve taken the opposite approach, and gone out their way to stress that. All this stuff about us being “a party of governance” etc is saying “We’re part of the establishment”. They seem to have believed this is a vote-winning strategy, and from the way they carry on using this sort of line, they still do.

    It’s been a long-term theme in the party. The basic divide as long as I have been a member has always been between those who want the party to be something which offers a different sort of politics from that of the main two parties, and those who think the way to win votes is to look more like conventional establishment politicians because then people would take us seriously and vote for us. It’s what happened with the SDP, when they criticised the Liberals for being too much “beards and sandals” types and told us what we needed was a strong centralised party with image and policies dictated from the the top. It’s what happened when community politics in its original radical form burst on the scene.

    Politics doesn’t have to be like it is. I joined the Liberal Part because I thought it offered a different sort of politics, one which is decentralised and co-operative and run with a human touch rather than through ad-man’s marketing. I’ve lost every internal battle I’ve ever fought in the party – in each case with those who won insisting that their way was needed to win us votes. It hasn’t, has it?

  • Little Jackie Paper 3rd Apr '14 - 10:08pm

    David Allen – ‘A month ago I put a motion at the East Midlands Conference that we should be “The Party of In – The Party for Reform”. I argued that if we didn’t show understanding for the manifest need for change in Europe, we would just lose it with the public, and display ourselves as insincere, unthinking and out of touch.’

    Problem there though is that it is not clear that there can be reform of the sort UK parties seem to want. At the moment 18 of 28 EU members are in the EZ, that will become 19 on January 1st. Of the remaining 9, the UK and Denmark are the only two not obligated to join the EZ by treaty. Sweden and (I understand) Bulgaria have indicated that they do not plan to join the EZ for now. and Scotland is unclear. The point is that in the not-to-distant future, the non-EZ, EU countries will number in the range 2-4 of at least 28 member states. I have no idea what reform there could be that would protect those states’ interests whilst maintaining the EZ.

    Short of expanding the numbers of EU member, non-EZ states I don’t see how reform will work. And that expansion would involve full freedom of movement which would need to be sold to the voters and would assume that all those countries would want to be in the EU in/EZ out category.

    Any reform surely has to accept that the EU/non-EZ category is going to represent at most 10% of the EU population and probably rather less. I am at a loss as to what a fair reform would look like. The other option would be for the UK to join the euro, but that is simply not going to happen.

    Talking about reforming the EU is great, but if the vision is a strong category of EU in/EZ out then I just worry that it will become an exercise in howling at the moon. Any renegotiation that Cameron comes up with will just be overtaken by an expanding EZ. All this of course begs the question of whether it is possible in the long-term to be EU in/EZ out. It is not totally clear to me that it is.

  • “Well, it certainly galvanised anti-Clegg Lib Dems!”

    Terry, you speak the truth! I’m very amused, is it always like this? Hell Hath No Fury Like a Lib Dem Scorned by Clegg.

    I’m certainly not the biggest Clegg fan out there but for different reasons than most and to be perfectly honest sometimes I don’t even care much about the Lib Dems (the ‘left’ side of the party bores me too much) and yet nothing would give more pleasure in the GE that the LDs keeping a fair number of seats and Clegg continuing to be the leader. Would the same people be here complaining and hating on Clegg still? Of course! But I need to be sure, politics is often depressing but it can be unexpected fun as well.

  • LJP – We have become very muted as a Party (I think ever since the days of Gordon Brown as PM, who was anti-Euro – I am convinced it predated what was regarded as the main period of pain for the Euro). If we talk of reform of the EU, we need to show OUR type of reform, and not pretend it equates with Cameron – style (or, even worse, Daily Mail style) reform. The Clegg Farage debates should have been a public springboard for that redefinition, not more of the same. It is the full-hearted European case that the public has not heard yet. Not one you wish aired, jbt, I know! Bring on Guy Verhofstadt, flanked by Andrew Duff! (well maybe that could be OTT)

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