Clegg's EU debate flop spells election doom for Lib Dems

Whatever happened to the blue-eyed boy of the 2010 debates? Even his own supporters think Farage won

Column LAST UPDATED AT 11:55 ON Thu 3 Apr 2014

FORGET the Farage factor. Last night's televised debate was nothing short of a disaster for Nick Clegg. 

The Lib Dem leader was the darling of the televised leaders' debates at the 2010 general election but bombed on BBC against the Ukip pub-crawler.

The headline news from the overnight ICM poll for The Guardian is that 69 per cent of viewers thought Farage won the debate versus only 31 per cent for Clegg. (A YouGov poll for The Sun virtually matched that with 68 to 27.) 

But more significant is that so many Lib Dem supporters gave Clegg the thumbs-down: 59 per cent who voted Lib Dem at the last election thought Farage was more convincing than their one-time blue–eyed boy.

Only 41 per cent of Lib Dem voters thought Clegg had come out on top and that was in a debate primarily on EU membership - in or out? - which Clegg is making his USP for the May 2015 general election.

The result is worrying for the Lib Dems in many ways. It shows even Lib Dem voters have fallen out of love with their leader because of the many compromises he's been forced to accept as a price for sharing power with the Tories. 

It suggests the Lib Dems will get slaughtered if they campaign on being the only party to fight on an "in" ticket on the EU, whatever the cost to British taxpayers.

Worse still for Clegg it suggests that his party will be humiliated at the European Parliament elections next month. 

Last night's result will worry the Tories, too. Farage is proving himself a formidable debater with a genuine appeal. The Sun poll showed his popularity rose by 12 per cent as a result of the second debate: beforehand, 38 per cent of respondents viewed the Ukip leader positively; by the end, that had risen to 50 per cent.

As The Guardian's Patrick Wintour writes today: "Cameron… will be terrified that the two hour-long TV debates have given Ukip not just massive publicity, but political momentum for the European elections on 22 May."

As The Mole argued after his first-round victory, Farage is making a strong case for being allowed to join any party leader debates in a year's time.

Wintour wonders whether Farage's success will convince Cameron "that TV debates in a general election would be highly unpredictable and combustible, and therefore worth avoiding." · 

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It will be very sad these TV shoot-outs are taken seriously. They lower the debate to chav TV nonsense. The "winners" are those who target a particular demographic and peddle what they want to hear.

Thinking people would rather read a (summarised?) manifesto and a sensible discussion. Kipper types will prefer the bar(rack) room argument, that deals with all issues on a superficial level (corse it is, s'obvious, innit?)

What will be interesting is hearing the excuses they come up with for their impending rout. 'We did it for the country' 'We limited the Tory excesses'... And whilst they carry on believing in their own self delusion they will get nowhere, and they will not be trusted again. The truth is, they are either part of the problem or just massively incompetent, either way there is just no point voting for them again. And I speak as an ex supporter of them.

Clegg is all power & no policy

Clegg came across as spiteful, dishonest, obsessive, limited and evasive. He manifestly refused to answer a very straightforward question from a lady in the audience - "why bother to vote in a UK General Election any more, with a dearth of democracy and no real say in our own affairs?"

Clegg blithely ignored that question (and Dimbleby let him get away with it!) - instead he answered another question entirely (which no one had asked him in the first place but, no doubt, a question that he WISHED someone had asked him) - his stock answer was repetitive - "jobs at risk, fantasy land, Putin - lover" etc - all aimed at Nigel Farage.

Farage was deliberately and cynically misquoted by Clegg, re his statement on Putin - indeed, Putin HAS outmanoeuvred our boy blunders at Westminster and yes, indeed, encouraged by that undemocratic entity, the EU, the Ukrainian pro-Western elements DID overthrow a democratically elected leader - elected by a fair and transparent process, which election had been monitored by independent observers and which had been given a clean bill of health.

Clegg seemed to hold Farage almost entirely responsible for the continuing bloodshed in Syria!!! A ludicrous leap of logic from a man who presumes the authority to speak for this country and who sits at the Cabinet table, entrusted with the authority to declare war on other nations!!!

Clegg wilfully denied that there were any plans or intentions afoot to create a EU air force, a EU army or indeed any other EU - wide defence capability - then he denied that there were plans afoot to formulate an EU foreign policy - what the hell does he think Baroness Ashton is supposed to be doing???!!!

For Farage, last night's debate was a walkover in so many ways - in Clegg he was up against a vindictive, petty and spiteful lightweight with no real policies other than to "stay in Europe at all costs", a man who has no thought, respect or consideration for democracy or for the clear and unequivocal cries of this electorate for a long-overdue referendum on this vexed subject.

Unfortunately Nick Clegg did not really defend the EU policies, such as EU Foreign Policy, in which he believes. Nor mention NATO which is crucial to the defence of Europe - it is already a prototype EU Army/Air Force.

The article states that "Lib Dem voters have fallen out of love with their leader because of the
many compromises he's been forced to accept as a price for sharing power
with the Tories." This is a very naive view of Coalition - we should all be grateful for the increase of the tax free band to £10,000 which is a Lib Dem policy implemented, as well as grateful for the limits put on Cameron's power - difficult to give examples as these were done mostly behind closed doors.

UKIP may do very well in the May European elections - but they will win very few Parliamentary seats and not have any power at Westminster.

So the choice is Cameron or Milliband in control or another coalition with the Lib Dems. We will see what the democratic will of the voters is in May 2015. It would be nice if no-one complains about the result. But probably very few will like it.

Incidentally most majority governments have had a minority of public votes, although more MPs.Perhaps the current government is the first.

Farage and ukip are far more relevant today than clegg and the loony party,and Putin has run rings around the EU and USA

...do you mean to say "all wind and piss"?

Klegg certainly lives up to his name - a rural/dialect word for a blood sucking insect.

There is a clear escalation of the importance that journalists and pollsters attach to these debates which is of no consequence whatsoever to the outcome of the next general election.