The shock waves from Nigel Farage’s victory in both Europe debates could be felt across British politics. A Liberal Democrat spokesman had ceased to even claim victory, saying “although we are low in the polls, being able to move one or two percent of people might make a big difference to this. It is exposure and it is an important debate.” Another spokesman said “at least we got an hours primetime TV”.
Patrick O’Flynn however, UKIP’s Comms Chief, claimed his boss was “breathing fire.” He was remarkably unsurprised by the victory, although it was only slightly better than the week before’s shock result.
The Prime Minister told the BBC Breakfast that he disagreed with both: “The problem with this debate is both of the people taking part actually have quite extreme views.
“Nick thinks there’s nothing wrong with Europe and we shouldn’t have a referendum; Nigel thinks there’s nothing right with Europe and we should just get out and leave.
“They’re both wrong.”
Alistair Heath, Editor of City AM believes that last night’s debate was part of a wider anti-establishment movement: “Whether or not one agrees with them, voters’ views were there for all to see yesterday.
“They are increasingly anti- the political elite, they support far less immigration, are deeply sceptical of big business, are against taking part in foreign wars and want to reduce Brussels’ powers.”
Elsewhere veteran left-wing journalist Kevin Maguire of the Daily Mirror admitted he was bitterly disappointed with the result. He took to Twitter to say: “Verdict? Nick Clegg beat Nigel Farage in tonight’s European debate. Nick Clegg started stronger before Nigel Farage rallied.”
Norman Smith, the BBC’s chief political correspondent said Mr Clegg was much more fired up than he had been last week, while Mr Farage had been more measured.
Quentin Letts from the Daily Mail said that whilst Farage had been taken by “surprise by the ferocity of Mr Clegg’s attack”, he recovered in the second half on the exchange. In any case Clegg was being “verbose”. Letts also thanked both men for coming up with far fewer dry statistics than last week.
Sky News’ Joey Jones disputed the “it’s time for you to choose” line used by the Deputy Prime Minister. “No it’s not, that’s in May. Will the impact of debates linger? That’s the test for the two leaders.”
Veteran eurosceptic John Redwood MP was in the spin room for the debate. He told the BBC that the Deputy Prime Minister was “too shouty” and relied on “questionable facts and figures”.
James Kirkup, The Telegraph’s Political Editor, questioned how the debate would change Farage’s world: “Like it or not, a politician whose greatest selling point is that he is outside the political system is becoming part of it. That is a real victory for him, but one that will not come without cost.”
Clegg himself shrugged off the defeat saying: “I don’t feel bruised at all. I’m delighted we’ve had this debate. The debate has now finally started.”
But Nigel Farage, who had admitted to drinking before both debates, did not make any comments upon leaving the venue. When his aide was asked if he was heading to a party he joked: “I wouldn’t think he is going to spend the rest of the night socialising with Nick Clegg.”
Either way Farage will have a chance to celebrate tonight, its his 50th birthday party at the legendary Ritz Hotel in central London.