At times they slung some mud hoping it would stick. Clegg tried repeatedly to portray Farage as the ‘admiring’ best mate of Vladimir Putin, and Farage that Clegg was ‘lying’ to the British public about the amount of legislation coming from the EU. But at the end of a lively debate the highest poll showed a 69% win for Nigel Farage. So why was this and does it mean that people want out of the EU?
‘ We need to take back control of our country and embrace the global world’ - Nigel Farage
‘ We are richer, stronger and safer working together’ - Nick Clegg
Are the polls affected by personality politics?
This is the great unknown. How many people are blinded by their dislike of the personalities regardless of the argument? If you looked back at the footage both men barely looked at each other but stopped short of not shaking hands, which is a huge no-no in British politics.
It’s clear, both men are ‘marmite’ figures – you either love them or loathe them. The belief that Clegg sold-out (particularly on tuition fees) and now props up the Conservative Party may cloud judgment before the first question has been fired, just as much as the view that UKIP as a party is inherently racist.
The issue of Britain’s membership of the EU is not going away. There is no doubt that this will give real momentum to Nigel Farage and the UKIP cause ahead of the European elections next month. They continue to take ground from traditional ‘euro-sceptic’ conservative party voters. It has also in the absence of Labour taking part, given the Liberal Democrats the label of the pro-European party to vote for.
The real winner is the British public who in their millions watched, listened or read about the debates. The subject, including the often politically toxic impact of immigration, was taken on in a sensible, formal way. The real losers are perhaps those party leaders who decided they didn’t want to take a stage with the third and fourth largest political parties in Britain and didn’t show up.