Stephen Tall has given his view on last night’s Debate over at Liberal Democrat Voice
I broadly agree with Stephen.
Let me get two things that annoy the hell out of me off my chest first, though.
Nigel Farage was confronted by Nick with a repulsively racist leaflet issued by UKIP. Nigel just shrugged it off like it didn’t matter. And he got away with it. Nobody in the press is seriously criticising him or UKIP for producing something so deeply offensive.
The second was the sight of David Cameron all smug on BBC Breakfast trying to pretend that he is the voice of reason on Europe. Let’s not forget that if we do end up with a Referendum in 2017, what we have now is not an option. Cameron wants to go to Europe and get rid of things like our employment rights or health and safety laws, things that would help his mates in big business and would make all our lives worse.
I would never say that anyone who put forward such xenophobic, borderline racist il-informed nonsense as Nigel Farage did tonight could be the winner. What he said was so offensive to every liberal cell in my body. Nick had all the arguments and he presented them well.
Nick was always going to win it for me. I was always consciously biased in his favour as much as I was biased against his opponent. Why did he not win over more of the people voting in the poll?
Last week, when he was brilliant, clear, passionate with the right balance of detail and persuasive talk, he only got 36%. That was a totally bizarre result, but it was probably in the ball park of where we were aiming. I suspect that Nick was over-prepared for Round 2. He was told to be more passionate and put less detail in, to look less like the polished figure he was last week, to be a bit more rough and ready. His team even briefed the Guardian that he would be emotional. That’s never going to work.
Well, I don’t like shouty stuff in political debate or anywhere else. I think his more relaxed style last week worked and should not have been interfered with. He wasn’t comfortable with the way he was framing the message and some of the jokes just didn’t work. He didn’t get the Party of In/Putin line right which suggests it was a bit unnatural for him. The answer to that is to just let Nick be Nick in true West Wing style. There was no need to change him.
He over baked the laws question by some margin. Who gives a fig about primary legislation and the like? Actually, what he could have said, if a less boring way could be found, was that things like health and safety law apply across the whole of Europe, but other countries seem to implement them with a lot less bureaucracy than we do.
It would have been good if he could have quoted the report, highlighted by Giles Goodall earlier today, that showed that Lib Dem MEPs are much more effective than any of the others. It was possibly a bit too fresh to get in there.
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the need to speak out against hate speech targeted at specific groups of people or individuals, because if you didn’t, you allowed the bile spouted by people to become established fact. This country has been running scared of a positive debate on Europe for pretty much quarter of a century, since the days of the Major government. In that time, the sort of myths that Farage peddles have gained a lot of traction unnecessarily. They need dislodging. Nick has started to do that. Nobody else has bothered their backside to attempt it. But you aren’t going to turn that oil tanker around overnight.
Nick wasn’t as good tonight as he was last week. That’s not to say he was bad, but he was certainly less comfortable and precise. Having said that I’d take Clegg at his worst over Farage at his best any day of the week. He speaks for me. I agree with Nick.