According to opinion polls following both the radio and television debates between Nigel Farage and Nick Clegg on the UK’s future in Europe, the UKIP man won fairly handsomely.
This should surprise nobody who knows a little bit about how the media works, and how much easier it is for a non – politician who talks in populist sound bites to impress over a much discredited Deputy Prime Minister who has forgotten that his advantage as a fresh faced alternative, back in the day of the first televised party leader skirmishes in 2010, has long disappeared.
The Farage bluff and bluster bears no scrutiny and, as UKIP probably counted on, it got none from his Liberal Democrat opponent who offered two performances that aspired to bland.
As a pro European my heart sank the moment I heard Clegg would be ‘batting’ for my side. No credibility, no substance, no chance sums up ‘I don’t agree with Nick’ nowadays.
In truth we learnt little about the real issues facing Europe or the UK’s membership of the European Union from these two debates. Insults were traded and outrageous claims made, but no real analysis of a UK isolated from Europe was undertaken. That type of serious discussion wouldn’t have suited either Farage or the media channels who acted as the event hosts.
The poll results, for what they are worth, demonstrate that pro EU politicians do need to start to articulate the positive benefits of European membership rather than simply saying we will ‘reform from within’.
Outside of Europe we would lose jobs, investment and influence, which is why the Prime Minister and the Leader of the opposition both support our continued involvement in the EU. They need to start to explain to us why they support EU membership in much clearer terms between now and next year’s General Election. The minor players have had their moment in the sun, a spat of little consequence in my view. It’s time the grown up’s got involved in a debate that, worryingly, currently fails to register as a key issue of interest among the vast majority of the British electorate.