#NickvNigel: What the commentators say

MicrophoneStephen Tall gave his first thoughts about last night’s debate between Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage. What’s the rest of the commentariat saying?

At the New Statesman, Rafael Behr reckons both men will go home satisfied and he got the point of Nick Clegg’s closing statement:

It is worth noting that in his closing statement, the Lib Dem leader quite explicitly asked pro-Europeans to lend him their votes in May’s European parliamentary election. This, ultimately, is the point of the exercise. His message: you may not like me or the Lib Dems but in this particular race we are the only way to express support for Britain’s EU membership.

George Eaton at the same site is much more pro-Clegg:

Clegg’s greater experience showed as he wore down a tired Farage. Forget losing three million jobs, he said (accepting the fallibility of that age-old stat), EU withdrawal wasn’t worth a single job. At a time of economic insecurity, it was a smart appeal to voters’ basic instincts. His strongest moment came when a questioner raised the European arrest warrant. Citing case after case (from Jeremy Forrest to terrorist bombers), he declared that the EU helps us to lock away “murderers, rapists and paedophiles”. It was another appeal to the head, rather than the heart, and it worked.

At the BBC, Eleanor Garnier says there was no clear winner:

Well, it might be disappointing but both men certainly remain standing after tonight’s event. Neither was knocked to the ground and both sides will be pleased with how their leaders performed.

Nick Clegg, a seasoned pro after the TV debates before the 2010 general election, remained calm and relaxed certainly playing the cool card.

Quentin Letts is exactly as you’d expect at the Daily Mail, suggesting that cyanide is necessary as both men are still alive to fight another day. I could swear I heard him being not horrible about Nick Clegg for a millisecond in the immediate aftermath of the debate last night, though.

At the I, the “both men won” narrative continues:

Both Nigel Farage and Nick Clegg won last night, in the first of their televised clashes on Britain and Europe. Mr Farage because of the oxygen to his cause, Mr Clegg because he gets to remind the public that he stands for something other than pulling the Conservative right’s choke chain.

Credit to both men for appearing. As weeknight television goes, it’s not box office, but if our political leaders lived less fearfully these skirmishes would be routine on a variety of topics – and our democracy would be healthier.

At the Independent, Donal Macintyre says Clegg won on points:

But Farage, it became clear, has performed a welcome service to politics. He has obliged Nick Clegg to rediscover his inner liberal – especially on immigration.

Farage looked a little sweatier, but this was no 1960 Nixon against Kennedy. He is still a contender, but it was probably Clegg’s night on points. Rematch next week.

And Andrew Grice looks at the wider political context:

Lib Dem and Ukip officials believe both parties believe both could emerge as winners, as they both have the capacity to prise some voters away from Labour and the Tories. Although the Lib Dems and Ukip were never going to agree on who won, they did agree that the Tories and Labour were the losers.

On the same page, Felicity Morse looks at the social media and suggests Liberal Democrats need to up their game next time:

Overall in the debate, however, it was an even draw, with lots of people backing Clegg over gay marriage and there was a spike in social activity around that time.

It will be interesting to see how the parties max out their social media policies next time…This time the Lib Dems definitely came off worse!

The Mirror highlights Nigel’s nastier moments:

Nigel Farage let the mask slip last night with a slur on British manufacturing and a nasty tirade against migrants.

In a heated debate with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg , the UKIP leader questioned the quality of cars made in Britain, saying models built in Germany were “much higher quality.”

Dripping with sweat, Mr Farage then hit out at the “quality” of migrants from the European Union and said it was a tragedy Southern Europeans had joined the trading bloc.

At the Telegraph, Mary Riddell is clear that Clegg won:

Mr Farage didn’t collapse. He made his points. But he looked like a soapbox demagogue, whereas Mr Clegg occasionally looked almost as he did in the days when everyone agreed with him. Which was bad news for Labour, seeking Lib Dem defectors, and good news for Tories, running scared from Ukip.

An interesting conclusion on the Tories, given that 69% of their voters thought that Farage was the winner.

And Dan Hodges said we saw the best of Clegg and the worst of Farage:

Clegg, after a shaky first question, was relaxed, confident and well briefed. He also used his props to good effect, pointing out Ukip had issued a leaflet claiming 29 million Bulgarians and Romanians could potentially emigrate here, when there weren’t even that many in Romania and Bulgaria.

Farage, in contrast, showed he is one-paced. His confident style , became hectoring. When pressed he became, tetchy, then shouty, then sweaty. And finally just aggressive and rude.

Finally, Nick does quite well out of the LBC Fact Check.

 

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24 Comments

  • “He also used his props to good effect, pointing out Ukip had issued a leaflet claiming 29 million Bulgarians and Romanians could potentially emigrate here, when there weren’t even that many in Romania and Bulgaria.”

    Sorry – still don’t understand that. The leaflet didn’t say they were actually in Romanian and Bulgarian, just that they would acquire the right to come to the UK. That’s true, isn’t it? And Farage’s riposte seemed to go down pretty well with the studio audience.

  • What ‘commentaters’ think is quite meaningless. Take the Mary Riddell (Telegraph), column for example? She is convinced that Clegg won hands down, but a voting poll right under her column suggests that 81% of todays online voters think Farage won. So what Mary thinks is not what the public thinks.
    We’ll know for sure what the public really thinks in May.

  • Nick Collins 27th Mar '14 - 12:24pm

    Clegg has done his country, and those of us who support the UK’s continued presence within the EU, a huge disservice by gifting Farage a massive wave of extra media coverage.

    What LibDems need to recognise and address is that Clegg is now, and has been since before the AV referendum campaign, a toxic brand whose presence does harm to any campaign with which he is associated. My advice to LibDems would be: get rid of him as soon as possible, and certainly well before any referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU. And please keep him well away from Scotland until after their “independence” referendum.

  • Paul in Twickenham 27th Mar '14 - 12:30pm

    @Chris – yes, that’s exactly the sort of dodgy statistics that I found grating during the show. Clegg says “29 million people don’t even live in those countries”. Farage replies “that’s because 2 million of them are in Spain and Italy”.

    So Clegg’s claim about Farage’s leaflet is based on careful sentence construction to create a false suggestion that UKIP have overstated the absolute total number of people who come from those countries. For reference, the CIA world factbook gives the combined population as 28.6 million.

    And I suspect that the 7% of laws claim and the 90% of new jobs claim don’t stand up to parsing either and certainly fail the test of actually feeling true.

  • You think that pointing out the true numbers is dodgy, and yet you find nothing dodgy about the implication that the *entire* population of a country is ready to move to the UK?

  • David-1 27th Mar ’14 – 12:55pm
    “You think that pointing out the true numbers is dodgy, and yet you find nothing dodgy about the implication that the *entire* population of a country is ready to move to the UK?”

    The thing is, Nick actually accuses Farage of using dodgy stats and claims that he wants to put the record straight. So he does need to be really straight with the public. Giving the impression that his stats are as dodgy as Farage’s is not great, especially as he already has form!

  • @ Nick Collins

    “a toxic brand whose presence does harm to any campaign with which he is associated”

    The only toxicity around Clegg is the knee-jerk tribal hatred that some people here seem to express whenever his name is posted. This fake “toxic” argument is only based on Labour’s inability to accept a Lib Dem party that doesn’t come to heel whenever it whistles.

  • You think that pointing out the true numbers is dodgy, and yet you find nothing dodgy about the implication that the *entire* population of a country is ready to move to the UK?

    But it’s not a question of “pointing out the true numbers”. The number was correct, because what UKIP said was that that 29 million Romanians and Bulgarians would be allowed to come to the UK. That is true, even though not all of them currently reside in Romania and Bulgaria.

    If your objection is that the leaflet gave people the impression that 29 million Romanians and Bulgarians would come to the UK, that’s one thing. But Clegg’s objection, apparently, is that the number should have been 27 million, not 29 million. And Clegg’s objection is spurious, because the number itself is correct.

    Surely what Clegg should be doing is making the positive case for freedom of movement, instead of playing silly semantic games like this, which only make him look dishonest when they come unstuck.

  • “And I suspect that the 7% of laws claim and the 90% of new jobs claim don’t stand up to parsing either and certainly fail the test of actually feeling true.”

    The 7% came up on the Daily Politics : apparently, depending on which laws, it could be anything up to 50% . Ollie Grender struggled to give a response about this and the UKIP bloke said ‘read the small print’!

  • “The only toxicity around Clegg is the knee-jerk tribal hatred that some people here seem to express whenever his name is posted.”

    But you know it’s not just people here. You have only to look at Clegg’s approval ratings to see what people in general think about him.

    Sure it should give even you pause for thought that the YouGov sample, with a broad balance between pro- and anti-Europeans, favoured Farage over Clegg by nearly 20 percentage points? That wasn’t because Clegg screwed up in any obvious way – you yourself saw the debate as a draw. It’s because of what people think of Clegg, for whatever reason. And that is going to be just as much of a problem for him in the party leaders’ debates next year – assuming the key debates aren’t restricted to Cameron and Miliband next time.

  • My impression is that Nick was pointing out that Farage’s dodgy figures are not only insanely claiming that the entire population of Bulgaria and Romania (28.6 million, according to 2012 figures) is only waiting the chance to decamp en masse for Albion, leaving their own countries deserted wastelands, but that Farage goes beyond that to propose a figure even higher than their combined populations.
    Farage’s excuse doesn’t make sense, because he would still only be able to get his numbers by counting all persons resident in Romania and Bulgaria, regardless of their actual nationality, *and* all of the second and third-generation people of Romanian and Bulgarian ancestry in other countries, including those who weren’t born in Romania or Bulgaria and who have no intention of returning — many of whom do not even live in Europe. Now this *is* dodgy.

  • David-1

    No – that’s not it at all. If you listen to the relevant part of the debate you’ll hear what was at issue.

    Clegg wasn’t quibbling about the difference between 28.6 million and 29 million.

    He was saying that the combined population of Romania and Bulgaria has now dropped below that figure because large numbers have already migrated to other EU countries. But obviously those recent migrants still have the right to come to the UK if they choose, so Clegg’s objection is spurious.

  • “only waiting the chance to decamp en masse for Albion, leaving their own countries deserted wastelands,”

    He is being more subtle than that. He is saying that those people have the RIGHT to come, and that is true, is it not? . It’s the loss of sovereignty argument that appeals to a lot of the electorate. They don’t think people from other countries should have that right whether they all come here or only a fraction do.

  • Nick Collins 27th Mar '14 - 3:10pm

    @RC Why the rant against the Labour Party? OK so I have mentioned in another thread that I believe that the best strategy (in fact the only way) to prevent UKIP topping the poll in may is to vote Labour. But I am not a member of that Party and never have been.

    As a former member of the LibDems, however,I stand by my view that Clegg is a liability to that party (or, if you prefer it, to that “tribe”) and to any campaign with which he is associated. You may think that that is unfair, and perhaps (just perhaps) it is, but that is how he is perceived.

  • @ Nick Collins

    “OK so I have mentioned in another thread that I believe that the best strategy (in fact the only way) to prevent UKIP topping the poll in may is to vote Labour. But I am not a member of that Party and never have been.”

    So you’re a Labour supporter then. Why should we accept your advice from outside the party when you clearly mean it no good whatsoever?

  • Nick Collins 27th Mar '14 - 5:51pm

    @ RC : And you think I’m the one who’s being “tribal”?

    I am not a Labour supporter, as such. Having left the LibDems because they have ceased to be the party which I joined and are no longer one with which I wish to be associated, I am not a supporter of any party. But I am voting Labour in May: simply because they are the only Party , now, with a chance of preventing UKIP from topping the poll.

    By all means , ignore the advice of anyone who is not a LibDem member and continue your decline into an obscurantist sulky little sect. But I repeat,” Clegg has done his country , and those of us who support the UK’s continued membership of the EU, a huge disservice by gifting Farage a massive wave of media coverage”. If you cannot see that I’m sorry for you.

  • @Nick Collins – Many people feel that UKIP have progressed as far as they have precisely because the main Party leaders have refused to engage with them. As a passionate pro European,labour voter, determined to prevent UKIP winning in May,wouldn’t your energy be better employed persuading EM to take on UKIP,instead of attacking the one leader who isn’t prepared to give them a free ride? As an added incentive you could point out to him that that it wasn’t Nick the commentators were calling a loser last night.

  • Graham Evans 27th Mar '14 - 8:17pm

    @Nick Collins What is so wrong with UKIP topping the poll? If the only reason to vote Labour is to prevent that eventuality, it doesn’t say much about your political principles.

  • Peter Watson 27th Mar '14 - 8:32pm

    @Graham Evans “If the only reason to vote Labour is to prevent that eventuality, it doesn’t say much about your political principles.”
    If the only reason to vote Lib Dem is because it’s the party of IN then it doesn’t say much about Lib Dem principles either. We know UKIP presents itself as a single-issue party, but it looks like Clegg is trying desperately to pull Lib Dems in that direction. It’s likely that more pro-europeans will vote for Labour (and probably Conservative) than will vote Lib Dem, but if Clegg has pitched IN as what defines the Lib Dem vote in May then how will a possible share of less than 10% benefit the pro-european cause.

  • Graham Evans 27th Mar '14 - 10:31pm

    @Peter Watson
    The Euro-elections if not about the European Union then what are they for? The fact that Labour prefer to talk about other things just illustrates how split the party is on the future of the EU. Time and time again Miliband tells us that he supports this or that policy, whether it be AV, a benefit cap, the free movement of labour within the EU, etc., etc., but when it comes to vigorously campaigning his heart is not in it.
    As for UKIP, quite rightly the party is concentrating its Euro-election campaign on EU issues, but I am sure they will tell you that they have a whole raft of policies on other issues affecting the UK. Their general mood music is quite clear to a significant section of the electorate who feel left behind by the changes in Britain in recent years.

  • Peter Watson 28th Mar '14 - 1:25am

    @Graham Evans “The Euro-elections if not about the European Union then what are they for?”
    A referendum on EU membership would be the time to debate whether or not we should be in. It seems disingenuous of Clegg to campaign on IN vs. OUT while withholding that choice from voters. Worse, if a Lib Dem vote is portrayed as a surrogate for an IN vote, then a share less than 10% means Clegg could damage the cause for which he is fighting (perhaps not for the first time).
    The campaign should be about what MEPs will actually do for us in the European Parliament. Though the fact that UKIP can have a useless shower of MEPs that are fundamentally opposed to it yet nothing much happens suggests it’s not a particularly useful institution.

  • Nick Collins 28th Mar '14 - 9:43am

    @ Graham Evans and others: sorry, but I will take no lectures on “political principles” from Liberal Democrats. Clegg’s decision to challenge Farage to a debate was a piece of political opportunism which has backfired.

  • Tony Rowan-Wicks 28th Mar '14 - 10:18am

    Anyway, I enjoyed the round-up of what the commentators said – and glossed over most of the comments.

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