You may have heard Nick Clegg throw down the gauntlet to Nigel Farage this morning on LBC radio’s Call Clegg show. Clegg has offered to debate Farage on Europe. And Farage should be jumping for joy.
It was only 10 days ago that Clegg declared on the pages of The Independent, that Liberal Democrat supporters had “100 days to stop UKIP becoming a major force”.
So now he has 90 days. And on the 10 day anniversary of his declaration of non-independence (for Britain), Clegg has challenged Farage to a debate over Europe.
Speaking on LBC, Clegg said:
“I will challenge Farage to a public, open debate about whether we should be in or out of the EU,” he said. “He is the leader of the party of ‘out’, I am the leader of the party of ‘in’. It’s time for a proper public debate so that the public can listen to the arguments and decide for themselves.”
UKIP’s reply was measured, though I can see what they’re getting at. Farage is due on LBC tomorrow and will respond in full, but his tactic is already quite plain to see. He responded:
“Perhaps [Clegg] could also let us know whether he has invited David Cameron and Ed Miliband too in order that the British people can see all their main political leaders argue their positions.”
Farage wants a leader’s debate, with Cameron, Miliband, Clegg and himself. This would truly make UKIP a “major force”, if it isn’t one already (by the way… it is).
So Clegg’s attempt to skewer Farage 10 days into his war on eurosceptics may well backfire when Farage takes to the airwaves tomorrow and demands a debate across parties. Clegg could deliver Cameron if he wanted, though he won’t. And Miliband would have to join or face (further) obscurity.
I bet UKIP press officers are looking like Mr. Burns right now. “Excellent…”