UK Independence Party Leader Nigel Farage won the second of the two debates on Britain’s membership of the European Union last night. The one-hour debate, televised live on both the BBC and Sky News. was organised ahead of the European Parliamentary elections in May.
A YouGov survey had 68 percent saying the UKIP Leader had come out on top, compared to 27 percent who favoured the Deputy Prime Minister. A Guardian/ICM poll was slightly better for Farage at 69 percent to 31 percent.
In a role reversal from the previous week, the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, was much more willing to trade insults with Farage.
In a series of ill-tempered exchanges, Clegg accused Farage of peddling “dangerous fantasies” whilst Farage returned fire by accusing the Liberal Democrat Leader of “wilfully lying” to the British people about how many of Britain’s laws are made in Brussels.
Farage also claimed that unskilled EU immigration, which Britain is powerless to prohibit, hit the “White working class” and “young Afro-Caribbeans” particularly hard. He claimed the latter had a 50 percent unemployment rate.
Mr Clegg opened the debate, accusing his counterpart of a “dangerous con”. He claimed that predictions of improvements to British public services after an EU departure were unfounded: “If it sounds too good to be true, it is”. He went on to state that Farage dreamed of a ‘Billy-no-mates Britain”.
As had been predicted in advance, an early flashpoint was Mr Farage’s views on Vladimir Putin, whom he said he admired but did not like. The UKIP leader defended himself saying that the political class had been hell bent on a war with Syria, and Putin’s actions had saved us from it.
Clegg then accused Farage of living in a fantasy world in which “the moon landing never happened, Barack Obama is not American and Elvis is not dead”. But Farage seemed unfazed, remarking that the British “had enough of getting involved in foreign wars”.
UKIP’s leader said he did not want to be part of an “expansionist” foreign policy, and claimed we risked having an EU Army involving itself abroad. Once again Clegg denied that the EU planned a military, though evidence provided immediately after the debate proved otherwise. Clegg said it was a “dangerous fantasy that is simply not true”.
As with the week before, Clegg challenged Farage on his claim that 70 percent of UK laws are made in Brussels, citing instead a 7 percent figure and saying UKIP were “making things up to make a point”.
Also like last week they showed examples of each others’ literature. Clegg was mocked for promising a referendum then reneging, but hit back with a UKIP leaflet featuring a picture of a Native American. The leaflet suggested that if the British people ignore immigration, they will “end up on a reservation”.
“What are you going to say next, that you are Crazy Horse or Sitting Bull?,” Clegg quipped.
The public believed Farage had won both debates, though mainstream pundits last week called it for Clegg until polling revealed otherwise. The Liberal Democrats claimed a small victory in having had persuaded 30 percent of people to back them despite being at just 10 percent in national polls.
The debate has also all but guaranteed the two main party leaders will not invite Farage to their televised General Election debate. Clegg had been deemed to have convincingly won them in 2010, but this time he was trampled by Farage, whose spin doctor claimed he was “breathing fire.”