Clegg v Farage: Report and Analysis
BBC 2 Farage versus Clegg debate 2 April 2014
Chairman David Dimbleby
The full debate on IPlayer can be found at http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0401ht2/The_European_Union_In_or_Out/ It will only be up until 10th April so catch it while you can. If I can find a permanent recording of it on YouTube or suchlike I will post the url here.
The re-match between Farage and Clegg resulted in an even more humiliating hour for Clegg than the first debate. YouGov and ICM polls taken shortly after the debate had Clegg and Farage scoring as follows:
The YouGov poll gave Farage 68%, Clegg 27% Undecided 5%
As last week, this YouGov survey for The Sun questioned just over 1,000 people who viewed the debate. We weighted the data to ensure that it was representative of Great Britain as a whole by voting intention and attitudes to the European Union, but did not weight demographically; it therefore reflected the actual audience by age (older than average), gender (more male) and social class (more middle class). It was a fresh sample: we did NOT re-interview people we questioned after last week’s debate.
It is clear that Farage gained ground most among the very people LEAST likely to support his party or his cause:
The proportion of Labour supporters saying Farage performed better rose from 42% after the first debate to 57% after the second
Among Liberal Democrats, Farage’s figures are: first debate 20%, second debate 33%
Among people who told us ahead of the debate that they supported British membership of the EU, his figures are: first debate 30%, second debate 45% (http://yougov.co.uk/news/2014/04/03/farage-wins-round-two/)
An ICM Poll had Farage at 69% and Clegg on 31%
These polls compare with a 57% Farage, 36% Clegg 7% undecided YouGov poll result after the first debate.
This was a tremendous result under any circumstances, for, as I wrote after the first debate, it is rare indeed for such a crushing advantage to exist in a two-horse debating race. In the context of Clegg’s many advantages over Farage – the profile of being deputy PM, endless appearances before the TV cameras, widespread mainstream media contempt for Farage and UKIP , leading a party with sixty odd seats in the Commons and, compared to UKIP, considerable financial and organisational resources plus the experience of a public leaders’ debate behind him – the results of the two debates are nothing short of astonishing. It was nothing short of an humiliation.
Why did Clegg do even worse in this debate than the first one? Many of the media commentators are putting this down to a more aggressive attitude by him and certainly his adolescent gibes at Farage will not have helped his cause. Here are few samples:
“He’s [Farage] one of those people who see conspiracy theories everywhere. I wouldn’t be surprised if he tells us next that there wasn’t a Moon landing, Obama isn’t American, and Elvis isn’t dead!”
“If I’m the leader of ‘the party of in’, he’s [Farage] the leader of the party of Putin!”
The general problem with Clegg’s aggression is that it looked, as with everything about his public persona, manufactured. The hand and arm gestures were wooden and studied to the point of being ridiculous, the voice insincere and tremulous by parts. He was a very bad advert for whoever provided his media training and an even worse one from those who advised him on how to approach this debate.
Worse of all Clegg did what Europhiles have long done, simply chant pro-EU mantras without giving any thought to justifying them or of rebutting opposing arguments with anything more than a bald assertion that they are wrong. This was unsurprising because Europhiles are almost invariably intellectually lazy. Instead of doing the hard graft of mastering the facts they simply take on board dubious assertions such as “three million British jobs are dependent on the EU” and “the EU has prevented war in Europe” which they present not as the highly questionable opinion they are but as objective fact.
While the Europhile ideology dominates and controls public life generally and in particular the mainstream media, they can get away with reciting slogans which are not only debatable but often palpably untrue. I dare say that Clegg has gone through his entire life until these debates without ever having to defend in public the subject of the EU in circumstances where he had to either produce arguments in favour of the EU which stood up to real scrutiny or find replies to the ideas of an opponent who was radically opposed to the EU. There was nowhere for Clegg to escape to. Being unused to having to think on his feet or provide reasons other than the well-worn Europhile clichés, Clegg simply fell back on those clichés with adolescent abuse mixed in. Often he simply repeated, almost verbatim, what he had said in the first debate, the most blatant and extended example occurring when the subject of an In/Out referendum arose, viz: ‘I [Clegg] believe that when the rules change, when there’s a new treaty, when powers which rightfully belong to you are being given up to the EU, it shouldn’t be for the Government to decide – it should be for you to decide…
In contrast, Farage was vastly more impressive in his energy, verbal delivery and body language. What nervousness there was in the first debate had vanished. There was nothing coached about his manner. He looked and sounded like someone voicing simple truths.
On both immigration and an In/OUT referendum Clegg refused to meaningfully engage with the questions. Farage produced the LibDem poster from 2008 which Nick Ferrari had introduced into the first debate. This had Clegg promising a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. During the first debate Clegg had claimed the poster promised the same position he occupies now, namely, that the LibDems would support a referendum on any further Treaty which removed further substantial powers from Britain. Farage pointed out that the poster had no such qualification of its general promise of a referendum. Clegg waffled so blatantly at this point that Dimbleby asked him the important unasked question I highlighted in my account of the first debate, namely, why not have a referendum on all that has already been passed without a referendum:, viz: “ We last had a referendum 40 years ago. You have described everything that has happened since, the Lisbon Treaty and all those things. Why can’t there be a referendum on all the things that have happened ? Why wait for even more change before you agree to a referendum, why not have one now? (Go into debate at 50 min 30 sec). All this produced was reiterated Clegg waffle about waiting for a new treaty. On the face of it this is really very stupid of Clegg because he could quite easily commit the LibDems to an In/Out referendum knowing full well he would never be in a position to deliver it because his party will never command a Commons majority. Clegg does not do so because he is trapped by his Party’s mainlining addiction to the EU.
On immigration Farage told the simple truth ….
‘We have no idea how many people are coming here from the European Union next year, the year after or the year after that, because unconditionally we have an open door to 485million people.
“Immigration on this scale has changed fundamentally the communities, not just of London, but actually of every city and every market town in this country. But worst of all what it’s done socially, it has left a white working class effectively as an underclass. And that I think is a disaster for our society.
“[Large scale immigration] is good for the rich because it is cheaper nannies and cheaper chauffeurs and cheaper gardeners.
“But it is bad news for ordinary Britons. We need to have a control on immigration, on the numbers who come here and over the quality who come here.”
….while Clegg lied and dissimulated:
“He [Farage] claimed that 485million people were going to vacate the whole of the rest of the European continent and turn up in Britain.(This was a direct lie because Farage had already made his position quite clear in the first debate when he said correctly that 485 million had the right to come to the UK).
“Let me just show you, this is a leaflet from UKIP. It’s a picture of a very unhappy-looking native American.
It says, “He used to ignore immigration, now he lives on a reservation.” We are not – by staying in the EU – going to be cooped up on a native American reservation. What are you going to say next? That you’re Crazy Horse or Sitting Bull?” (Farage said that he had no knowledge of where the leaflet had come from and disowned the message).
Clegg’s dishonesty on immigration was shown vividly after Farage quoted a Migration Watch report that immigration to the UK over the next four to five years would mean , even at its current rate, the building of a city the size of Manchester which has a population of 500,000. Clegg said this was nonsense because the Greater Manchester area had 2.7 million. Clegg must have known that Greater Manchester is not Manchester and consequently deliberately tried to mislead. Clegg also repeated the falsehood from the first debate that UKIP’s claim of 29 million Bulgars and Romanians who could come to Britain was absurd because there are not 29 million Bulgars and Romanians. The 2012 census figures for both countries show they have is a combined population of more than 28 million. Why Farage did not thrust the census figures at Clegg is a mystery.
When Dimbleby pressed Clegg (Go into the recording at 22 min 46 sec) on the effect of massive immigration on infrastructure such as schools and hospitals Clegg responded hesitantly and incoherently with “There are always problems when you have people”. Dimbleby was palpably surprised and he asked Clegg what he meant. Clegg waffled on about how there would be such problems whether or not Britain was in the EU.
Clegg was positively shameless when Farage raised the matter of Clegg’s claim in the first debate that only 7% of legislation going through Parliament was inspired by the EU. Farage produced a copy of the House of Commons Library note which Clegg had relied on and read out the passage which showed that that the HoC paper note was much more nuanced and undogmatic and gave estimates of its own of between 15% and 50% percent of UK law from all sources . (http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/research/briefing-papers/RP10-62/how-much-legislation-comes-from-europe) .
Clegg tried to wriggle out of being caught in what to any normal human being would count as a straight forward lie by referring to the 6.8% primary legislation figure quoted by the HoC note. However, as Clegg must have been well aware there is a great deal of EU inspired law which consists of statutory instruments (the secondary legislation which provides the mechanics to implement primary legislation). Farage called a spade a spade, viz: “You are lying willingly to the British people about the extent we have given away democray”.
Inevitably Farage was taxed with his remarks about admiring Putin as an operator. However, this rather backfired because both Dimbleby and Clegg manifestly misrepresented Farage as being a general admirer of Putin and Farage used the opportunity to not only expose that misrepresentation (which gained him the sympathy of the audience) but to lambast Clegg as one of the cabal of career politicians who had kept Britain interminably at war:
Farage: “I don’t admire Putin, what I said was, he’d outwitted and outclassed you all over Syria. I also said I didn’t like him as a human being and I wouldn’t want to live in Russia.’
“You were absolutely hell bent on getting involved militarily in the war in Syria and I personally am delighted we didn’t go to war in Syria.
“This country has had enough of getting involved in endless foreign wars, there is no evidence that our intervention is making life better. I don’t want to be part of a European foreign policy.”
Farage’s strictures against the British political elite’s warmongering got the loudest applause of the night. (Britain has de facto been continuously at war for nearly a quarter of a century starting with the first Gulf War).
Another strong Farage showing was on energy, viz: “The Chinese and Indians have gone for coal on a scale we can’t fathom, the US has gone for shale and we have gone for wind energy.” He warned that the European Union’s “unilateral” approach to climate change was damaging businesses by pushing up energy bills and driving energy greedy industries such as metal smelting to the wall and concluded that Britain should “Scrap wind energy, scrap the subsidies, get shale”.
Farage also pointed out that many leading politicians who were significant landowners had benefited from the wind industry.
Clegg response was to call for more renewables to prevent e “over reliance on oil and gas from Nigel Farage’s friend Vladimir Putin”.
The final question from the audience was “What will the EU be like in ten years?”
Clegg said that he thought it would be much as it is now, which tells you how far his head is buried in the sand. In ten years three scenarios are more probable than the present status quo, namely, a federal super state, a free trade area or it will have simply disappeared..
Farage foresaw a Britain outside of the EU after a referendum, hoped that other countries in the EU would also leave and warned against the dangers of violence if change in the EU could not be achieved by democratic means, pointing to support for nationalist parties such as Gold Dawn in Greece as evidence of the frustration which was building:
“We see in Madrid, we see in Athens, very large protests, tens of thousands of people, a lot of violence.
“You take away from people their ability through the ballot box to change their futures, then I am afraid they tend to resort to aggressive means.”
Clegg’s thoroughly shoddy performance did not help his case, but the prime reason why he was beaten so comprehensively was the simple fact that he has a thoroughly bad case to argue. It is impossible to make a sound case for being within the EU on any grounds which are acceptable to either the British public now or which accord with what politicians from all the main Westminster Parties have claimed since Britain became part of what is now the EU. For over forty years British mainstream politicians have repeated the sordid, treasonous lie that no real sovereignty has been given away and that Britain is still a fully functioning Parliamentary democracy. The naked lie has been modified over the decades as the loss of sovereignty became ever more apparent to the casuistry of saying Britain has not lost her sovereignty but merely pooled it with other countries. The more adventurous Europhile fantasists or liars (take your pick) say that by joining with 27 other EU states British sovereignty has been amplified.
In addition, the Labour, Tory and LibDem parties still claim that Parliament is sovereign because in principle Parliament can refuse any legislation put before it or simply repeal any legislation relating to the EU up to and including the Act which gave power to the Treaty of Rome, the European Communities Act of 1972. The reality is that even where the national veto on EU law has applied it has very rarely been used – and is now very restricted because most EU decisions are made these days by qualified majority voting – and there has been no instance in over 40 years of Parliament rejecting legislation introduced because of the EU. Practically, British sovereignty has been a dead letter since Britain joined the EEC.
The audience reaction throughout was decidedly interesting, both because of its consistent support for Farage and for the fact that the BBC had not done their usual and packed the audience to reflect Europhile views. This could either be because a strategic decision has been made by the BBC that they will move with the political wind and allow Eurosceptic views on air because to do anything else would be too blatantly biased as public interest in and anger about the EU grows or simply because they could not find enough unquestioning Europhiles applying to be audience members . I suspect it was the latter because not only is Europhilia growing more and more unpopular, even many of those who say they support the EU often have a considerable dislike of certain EU issues such as uncontrolled immigration and the imposition of regulations which interfere minutely both with business and the intimate details of their private lives.
The two debates told us is this:
That the British are deeply dissatisfied with their political class.
That the British want an IN/OUT referendum on the EU
That the British deeply dislike the EU as it is whether they are in favour of leaving or not
That for the British immigration is a prime political issue, probably the prime political issue
That the British detest the perpetual liberal internationalist warmongering
That Clegg is a very empty vessel indeed .
It remains to be seen whether the British political class will respond to what the British people want . On the evidence of the past 40 years don’t hold your breath.