LBC Nigel Farage versus Nick Clegg EU debate 26 3 2014

Chaired by Nick Ferrari

(The full debate can be viewed here http://www.lbc.co.uk/watch-lbc-leaders-debate-live—26th-march-87667)

Robert Henderson

Farage walked the debate with a YouGov poll of 1003 people giving this result:

57% Farage

36% Clegg

7% undecided

Even that figure probably understates the size of the victory because YouGov weighted the data to in practice favour Clegg by assuming UKIP supporters would be disproportionately likely to watch or listen to the debate:

1,003 completed this survey between 8.00 and 8.10. We weighted the raw data to (a) the voting intentions in our latest regular daily poll for the Sun (Lab 37%, Con 35%. UKIP 11%, Lib Dem 9%) and (b) to our most recent data on whether the UK should remain in the European Union.

An alternative approach would have been NOT to have corrected the political skew among our original 3,000 sample. The argument for doing this is that any assessment of audience reaction should take the audience as it is – in this case, accepting that UKIP supporters were much more likely to watch or listen to the debate than supporters of other parties. Had we done this, I estimate that the verdict of the audience would have been Farage 65%, Clegg 28%. Those who prefer to cite this figure, rather than to adjust for the UKIP-rich nature of the audience, are of course free to do so. ( http://yougov.co.uk/news/2014/03/27/farage-wins-debate-clegg/)

It was also telling that many of those who were not UKIP supporters thought Farage had won, viz:

Not surprisingly, almost all UKIP supporters preferred Farage. But he was also considered the winner by: 

  • 69% of Conservative supporters
  • 42% of Labour supporters
  • 20% of Liberal Democrats
  • 30% of those who said before the debate they would vote to keep the UK in the EU  (Ibid)

 

It is rare in a two man debate on any subject for a win to be so crushing and that is doubly so when politicians with  such polarised views are put up for the judgement of the public.

Why was the result so emphatic? Well, negative messages are always a very  hard sell. Clegg’s   position was one of fear and mistrust of Britain and Farage’s one of confidence in his country.  Clegg was selling the message “Britain isn’t up to looking after itself”, Farage the message  “ Britain could and should be independent and sovereign”.    While Farage was saying things such as “Surely the benefit system is for the citizens of this country” , The Anglo-Saxon rule of law”  and “The best people to govern Britain are the British”, Clegg  was tedious ly  intoning  “We get more power rather than less by being part of an economic superpower “ and  talking about the ill effects of “pulling up the drawbridge “ to exclude immigrants. (Clegg spent a great deal of time worrying about  drawbridges being pulled up).

Farage also displayed much more energy in his delivery than Clegg,   who as ever sounded like a prefect ineptly playing the role of a weary adult before  a school debating society. He was  deeply irritating for that reason alone, but his whole persona seemed manufactured, from  the deeply wooden arm gestures he makes  to the studied use of questioners’ names.    Farage  was perhaps  too shouty at times and  weak in his responses to some important questions, such as failing to explain how UKIP’s claim that  75% of British laws are being made in Brussels was calculated. But he  had one massive advantage over Clegg: he was able to tell the truth all the time or at the least not tell deliberate lies.  Farage at least seemed like a real human being, with unmanufactured  body language,  and if he allowed his ill-temper to intrude, judged by  polls such as the YouGov one,  it must have seemed like justified irritation with the British political class as represented by Clegg  to the majority of those watching and listening.

Clegg’s wilful dishonesty is perhaps best exemplified when the subject of immigration from the EU came up. Clegg referred to a recent UKIP pamphlet which claimed that Farage had claimed that “29 million Romanians and Bulgarians” were coming to Britain. This was untrue said Clegg because “They’re aren’t even 29 million Romanians and Bulgarians in Romania and Bulgaria”.  Apart from  not being what UKIP had said  – the party had simply pointed out that 29 million would have the right to come to Britain –  as of 2012 Bulgaria had a population of 21.33 million and Bulgaria 7.305 million, 29 million bar a few hundred thousand.( https://www.google.co.uk/#q=population+of+roumania). Not that it would have mattered in they were a million or two short of 29 million. The point at issue was the existence of millions of people from countries with living standards a fraction of those in Britain who were now entitled to come here.

Unlike Clegg , even when he was making a bit of a mess of things Farage  attempted to answer questions directly even when they raised real difficulties for him.  For example,  a question from the audience raised the subject of  the trustworthiness of politicians and  cited the LibDems’  broken promise over tuition fees and Farage’s employment of his wife as a paid helper as examples of things which destroyed trust.  Clegg failed to explain why the Lib Dems had broken their promise and just waffled about the importance of  trust,  while Farage answered the question directly  by saying the responsibilities of leading the party meant that he  needed someone on tap at home to help him. He also denied that he had ever said publicly that he would not employ his wife.   On another occasion the subject of UKIP’s opposition to gay marriage came up and Farage again dealt with a  potentially very tricky question by simply saying that UKIP would review the situation if the threat of European judges imposing  gay marriage on religions was removed.

Farage was generally  very forthright  and nowhere was this shown to better effect than when he attacked the  EU’s interference in the Ukraine’s dispute with Russia.  This naturally caused  a tempest of  politically correct huffing and puffing after the debate and clearly appalled Clegg. Such forthrightness will  have appealed to most of the general public who are sick of politicians presenting weasel words to them.

Clegg  shamelessly trotted  out the tired old discredited Europhile mantras because any Europhile true believer really has nowhere else to go. These included

–          3 million  British jobs are at risk if Britain leaves the EU  (After Ferrari had intervened to say there are  questions marks over the research on which the claim was based,  Clegg tempered his bald statement by saying  it would not be three million but it might be  two million, one million, 500,000 and so on ).

–          Immigrants are a boon to Britain and pay more in taxes than they receive in benefits (Farage pointed out that Migration Watch recently demolished this argument http://www.migrationwatchuk.co.uk/press-release/380)

–          Britain needed to be in the EU to get the best trade deals (Farage pointed out the Iceland had recently negotiated a lucrative trade deal with China)

–          The European arrest warrant is allowing Britain to  extradite murderers, terrorists and paedophiles  (Farage pointed out that it was a grotesque breach in the protections for the individual provided by  British law )

–          One and a half million Britons live and work in other EU countries and if Britain does not have freedom of movement within the EU then those one and half million  Briton  will be put in jeopardy.  (Farage missed a trick here. Apart from the fact that forced expulsion of EU foreigners  from Britain or Britons from other EU countries is wildly improbable, he should have pointed out that the British  living in other EU countries are  likely to either be someone doing a skilled job or be retired with money, while the EU foreigner  in Britain is likely to be doing a low skilled or unskilled job. Hence, if it did come to a forced exchange of Britons abroad for EU foreigners in Britain,   Britain would be the material  gainers. )

The Lib Dem leader also had a new statistic to play with, namely, that only 7% of British laws come from Brussels (patently  absurd because the massive range of supranational competence the EU now has).  Clegg said the source was the Commons Library and did not qualify in any way his claim by, for example, by saying it was difficult to quantify and only a broad range could be offered.   The 7% turns out to be false.  This position is much more complicated. Here  is what the 2010 HoC research paper entitled How much legislation comes from  Europe says:

“EU regulations, unlike directives, are not usually transposed into legislation at national level, but rather into quasi-legislative measures, administrative rules, regulations or procedures etc which do not pass through a national parliamentary process. How, then, can one be worked out as a proportion of the other? The term ‘national obligation’ might be more appropriate, but is it possible to identify the sum of national obligations arising from EU laws? Increasing use of regulations, particularly Commission regulations, “decouples national transposition procedures” (Christensen), thereby increasing the unquantifiable element of EU activity. All measurements have their problems. To exclude EU regulations from the calculation is likely to be an under-estimation of the proportion of EU-based national laws, while to include all EU regulations in the calculation is probably an over-estimation. The answer in numerical terms lies somewhere in between the two approaches, and it is possible to justify any measure between 15% and 50% or thereabouts. Other EU ‘soft law’ measures under the Open Method of Coordination are difficult to quantify as they often take the form of objectives and common targets. Analyses rarely look into EU soft law, the role of EU standard setting or self-regulatory measures.”

And

“In the UK data suggest that from 1997 to 2009 6.8% of primary legislation (Statutes) and  14.1% of secondary legislation (Statutory Instruments) had a role in implementing EU  obligations, although the degree of involvement varied from passing reference to explicit  implementation. Estimates of the proportion of national laws based on EU laws in other  EU Member States vary widely, ranging from around 6% to 84%. (file:///C:/Users/robnefrt/Downloads/RP10-62%20(2).pdf)

You can take your choice between Clegg shamelessly  lying or Clegg being stitched up by researchers who supplied him with false information.

In this context, it is very  important to understand what  Statutory  Instruments  (SIs) are. They provide the mechanism by which primary legislation is implemented. Frequently, SIs will expand the remit of primary legislation  beyond what is envisaged by those drafting the primary legislation and the politicians who vote for it. The “gold plating “ of EU directives is largely accomplished through SIs. Consequently, to concentrate on primary legislation stemming from Brussels is grossly misleading. The fact that SIs relating to EU derived primary legislation are not routinely   scrutinised by Parliament makes the opportunity for greatly expanding the powers of the primary legislation. It is worth describing  the Treaty obligations which place horrendous limitations on British sovereignty:

1 Types of EU legislative acts

There are three types of EU legislative acts. Under Article 288 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU):

A regulation shall have general application. It shall be binding in its entirety and directly applicable in all Member States.

A directive shall be binding, as to the result to be achieved, upon each Member State to which it is addressed, but shall leave to the national authorities the choice of form  and methods.

A decision shall be binding in its entirety. A decision which specifies those to whom it is addressed shall be binding only on them.

Opinions and Recommendations have no binding force.

EU Legislation  Standard  Note SN/IA/5419   http://www.parliament.uk/briefing-papers/SN05419.pdf

On the question of a referendum on the EU, Clegg squirmed as he tried to represent the LibDems as  having a consistent position from the time when he promised a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty  in 2008 until now.  There was an element of farce about the way the discussion began when Clegg answered  a question  (go into recording at 8 minutes 33 secs) from Ferrari about a Lib Dem poster  of 2008 which seemingly promised an unqualified  referendum by saying that people could not read the small print. Clegg actually meant that they literally could not read the small print of the poster Ferrari was holding up to the audience and cameras,  only the headline.  There was a ghastly serendipity about this,  because whatever Clegg meant  he then made very  clear there was indeed small print surrounding any LibDem promise of a referendum.  Clegg said  that in 2008 his position was exactly the same as it is now,  namely, a referendum should be held if there were substantial powers taken away by further treaties.

Farage picked Clegg up on this very strongly, pointing out that if only powers taken away by Treaty would trigger a referendum, this might well be a dead letter because  there was a strong possibility that new treaties would not be forthcoming  (this could well be the case because so much is decided by Qualified Majority Voting now) and that in any case there is a constant drip drip drip of new EU legislation which whittles away sovereignty, some of it substantial such the expansion of the EU’s foreign policy and the EU’s attempt to control the City of London. Clegg had no real answer to this.

Frarage should have asked Clegg to  explain why the British people could not be asked (in an IN/Out referendum) about all the powers which had been taken away without any referendum over the past forty years. Sadly the question went unasked.

It has to be admitted that Farage was weak in answering some  questions on statistical detail. The two worst instances were the proportion of British laws which originate from Brussels – when asked where the 75% UKIP figure came from Farage feebly said it was their own calculation with out explaining how they had reached it – and  on the cost of the EU to Britain and.  Ferrari asked Farage to justify the £55 million a day cost in a UKIP pamphlet.  Farage fumbled his reply by failing to make clear immediately that it was the gross amount  paid and taking too long to explain that even though it was the gross amount what money Britain received back had to be spent as the EU determined . However, I would doubt whether such statistical lacunae would register significantly with the general public, who will have largely switched of their minds when politicians start hurling stats at them.

After the debate the  politically correct media and politicians flapped around after the thumping poll win for  Farage claiming variously  the result was unimportant  (absurd), it was score draw, (http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/coffeehouse/2014/03/the-room-spun/) or that in reality Clegg had won (utterly fantastic).   This might have been expected from the likes of the Guardian and Mirror, but the supposedly Eurosceptic   Daily Telegraph also had a full hand of regular commentators – Mary Riddell,  Dan Hodges, Tim Stanley,  Toby Young – who all , with varying degrees of enthusiasm, stated that Clegg had come out ahead  (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/10725571/Verdict-who-won-in-the-Clegg-v-Farage-debate.html). The widespread  dismissal of  the YouGov poll by the mainstream media and politicians encapsulated the inherently anti-democratic mentality of those with power and influence in Britain.

The debate  was not deeply penetrating nor did it address all the important EU  issues adequately, for example,  the loss of democracy resulting from the UK’s EU membership  was barely touched upon.  Nor was it clear why the subject of gay marriage was raised within a debate on the EU unless it was simply to try to embarrass Farage and UKIP.  No matter. The value of the debate lay in giving the British public an opportunity to express their feelings through polls such as the YouGov one cited above  and  its naked demonstration, in the form of  Clegg,  of the chasm between the l public and the British elite.  Most of the British public display the natural human instinct of wanting their own national interests to be protected by their own people; the British elite wish to either submerge Britain into a united states of Europe or labour under the pathetic  delusion that the imperial tendencies of the  EU can be restrained from within.  Faced with a choice between Farage and Clegg it was no contest; they plumped for someone who shared their natural instincts.

 

 

 

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Comments

  • Joe Williams  On March 30, 2014 at 12:08 pm

    Good analysis. Thank you!

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