#NickvNigel: We have 2 dates – any more for the Tour?

So, not only is the BBC running a Nick vs Nigel televised debate on 2 April at 7pm on BBC2, but LBC have announced that they are running one the week before on their now national radio station. From their website:

On Wednesday 26th March at 7pm, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg, will go head-to-head with UKIP leader Nigel Farage in a live hour-long programme.

The LBC Leaders’ Debate will be hosted by Nick Ferrari in front of a live studio audience in London.

The debate is taking place after the Deputy Prime Minister challenged the leader of the UK Independence Party live on his LBC phone-in Call Clegg.

And there’s a quote from Nick:

 I challenged Nigel Farage to a debate because I wanted the British people to see that there is a very real choice at the upcoming European elections: between the Liberal Democrats as the party of IN and UKIP as the party of OUT.

I am delighted that it has been confirmed that this debate will now definitely happen. I’m relishing the prospect of talking about how the Liberal Democrats are fighting to keep Britain IN Europe to protect British jobs while UKIP want to yank us OUT and threaten our recovery. I hope the voters will enjoy what I am sure will be a lively contest.

26th March is an auspicious day in the history of this party for it was on that date in 1981 that the SDP was formed.

It’s to be hoped that both debates avoid the pitfalls of the STV Scottish referendum debates, although LBC’s with a studio audience format is unlikely to do so. We really don’t want the sort of sterile shouting matches that have characterised the debate north of the border.

Nick will need to have a very good answer to the “Why won’t you agree to a referendum?” question because I suspect Nigel will goad him with that. He will need to have a pithy, punchy response that makes sense to people. No doubt he will be prepped till his tongue bleeds, but the most important thing he can do is to just be himself.

This is all very good news for popcorn sales. I wonder if it would be a good idea to have #NickvNigel parties with a selection of EU fare available. There are infinite possibilities to make a Big Thing out of these events.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • Antony Hook 5th Mar '14 - 12:41pm

    We have a very good answer to “why want you agree to a referendum?”

    We do agree and it should take place when there is next a treaty change (as we said in our manifesto) probably in 2017. It should be at the right time for the country. A referendum will cause uncertainty for business and having one now while we are still coming out of recession would be bad for jobs and had working families.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 5th Mar '14 - 1:04pm

    The thought of another three years of referendum shenanigans after what we’ve been through in Scotland makes me want to cry.

  • Antony Hook 5th Mar '14 - 1:26pm

    Perhaps there is irony in our commitment to a referendum being passed by conference last autumn in… Glasgow.

  • The trouble is, even if Nick Clegg wins the debates in any reasonable sense i.e. having the better arguments, then the “result” will be fixed anyway.

    Someone will hold an opinion poll along the lines of “You don’t seriously think that awful Nick Clegg actually won the debate compared to the lovely Mr Farage, do you?” and then the results of that poll will be taken as the final verdict.

    The mountain to climb is not so much in presenting the winning arguments as in breaking through the barrage of negative spin and scapegoating that Nick Clegg faces every day and actually getting people to assess what he is saying fairly.

    Neither right nor left in this country can tolerate Clegg because he threatens their duopoly of power and as such is a very dangerous person, to be stamped on at every possible opportunity.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 5th Mar '14 - 1:54pm

    RC, so he has a choice. He can either lie down in the corner and drink tea and eat cucumber sandwiches or he can come out fighting. Those of us who support him should help him as much as we can. And, of course all the things you say will happen – especially if we stand by and let it. There will be You Tube, quotes, gifs and opportunities to tell the true story. The internet makes that easier. So we just need to get on with it.

    So, why not have a #NickvNigel party in your house and invite some people who might be persuaded?

  • Paul Pettinger 5th Mar '14 - 4:45pm

    Not sure how Nick Clegg can be spun as a victim of entrenched power when hasn’t invited the Leader of Green Party to take part – a Party that, unlike UKIP, has representation in the Commons.

  • I feel a sense of guilt and foreboding, and a responsibility for this. I want to put before you my ‘mea culpa’ and hope for your forgiveness.

    My initial idea which I aired on the LDV Withenshawe article comment section is copied below. I posted it on the 16th Feb, and just four days later Nick made his challenge.

    Unfortunately it was a terribly stupid suggestion I have come to realise. Farage engages with the audience, he is full of anecdotes and examples which the audience will latch on to, and so too will the journalists and commentators. However well Nick can present his logical arguments, Nigel Farage will counter with charm. He is the one who will win hearts as well as minds. Nick can argue the logic of our EU membership, but where is the passion? It is blunted by cynicism. There is really no equivalent or history of patriotism for the EU. Although it may seem old fashioned, people do still sing ‘Rule Britannia’ and ‘Land of Hope and Glory’. Farage will win the hearts. We cannot compete, we need to acknowledge that, and somehow (I have no idea how) to divert or deflect the passion for patriotism.

    This pair of debates represent an existential threat to Nick Clegg as leader. It risks all on effectively the flip of a coin, an existential threat even to our party.

    I am so, so sorry for causing this trouble. What else can I say?

    Joe King 16th Feb ’14 – 9:48pm
    ‘If Nick Clegg really can tackle Farage, it would go a long way to turning around his own standing, improve our fortunes as a party, and stop the anti-EU rhetoric once and for all. Nick does need to be well briefed before such an encounter. How about a televised debate, just the two of them, ahead of the European election? Cameron wants to ignore Farage, so trying to organise a foursome with Ed Miliband too may not be possible. A televised debate ‘in’ vs ‘out’ would be interesting to watch. It would boost our morale too if Nick lands a few punches.’

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 5th Mar '14 - 5:49pm

    Paul, it was a clear challenge from Nick to Farage, party of IN vs party of OUT. It makes sense to have a head to head on that basis.

  • Nick Clegg just has to do his research, anticipate possible questions and responses from Farage, study Farage’s oratorical style and come up with ways to counter it, practice hard, get plenty of sleep, and come prepared. I dare say Farage will simply repeat his usual slogans. I just hope Nick can find enough time in his packed DPM schedule to give this the effort it deserves.

  • “Why won’t you agree to a referendum?”

    I am a bit worried about this too. By stating categorically that we are the “party of in”, and then refusing to give our voters a choice, Nick is turning the EU into a key general election issue. Many LibDem voters would like to vote for us for many other reasons but are unconvinced about the EU. I do think they might feel troubled about voting for us in the general election when we repeatedly told them that we do not trust them to make the “right” decision on Europe. I am sorry but I think we are putting our own general election prospects in peril by being so dogmatic about a referendum. I just have doubts that we are doing ourselves any favours.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 5th Mar '14 - 7:51pm

    Theresa, if people want to leave the EU, they can vote UKIP. It really is that simple.

  • Caron Lindsay 5th Mar ’14 – 7:51pm
    ‘Theresa, if people want to leave the EU, they can vote UKIP. It really is that simple.’

    Caron, are you suggesting that Stephen Tall should join UKIP? He has just admitted to being Eurosceptic. See his article just now regarding the Clegg – Farage debate.

  • @CaronLindsay “Theresa, if people want to leave the EU, they can vote UKIP. It really is that simple”.

    I’m amazed by this comment. That is a bit like the Tories saying if you want to join a Trade Union vote Labour. Surely we need to retain our core voters? Convince me I’m wrong.

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