EU debate shows clear contrast between Clegg and Farage

Thumb_tom-bradby

There are three things one can say with reasonable confidence about the LBC Clegg/Farage debate on Europe tonight:

1) The vast majority of people who actually bothered to watch and listen will have strong views one way or the other on the issue.

2) Not a single one of them will have changed his or her mind.

3) None of the above will care what I think.

But, for what it is worth, I don't believe Nigel Farage had an especially great night.

He has a rather attractive public persona in general and comes across to floating voters as the kind of guy who might not bore you overly in the pub.

In this, he falls firmly into the same category as Boris. But Nigel was quite aggressive tonight and rather didactic and altogether less attractive than normal.

And he was very shaky on some of the claims he and his party tend to spew out on the malign influence of Europe in every aspect of our lives.

Nigel Farage arrives at the LBC-hosted debate. Credit: Press Association.

Nick Clegg, by contrast, reminded me of why he did so well in those debates in 2010.

He was relaxed, confident and very solidly briefed. By the end, his experience was clearly starting to show - though he was shaky as his opponent when it came to his party's previous referendum promise.

But even if I am right, one might argue that is not the point. Because the truth is that no one seriously thinks Nigel Farage is going to be the next Prime Minister, or even - probably - Deputy Prime Minister.

But if he can turn a significant proportion of his current poll rating into real votes on general election day, he can cause havoc.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg. Credit: Press Association.

His current supporters - let's call them 2014 UKIPers - were more likely to be watching tonight and the very fact that Nigel turned out and performed reasonably competently (I am certainly not saying it was a car crash) may stiffen their resolve and persuade them that a vote for UKIP in 2015 is not wasted.

On this basis, we might mark him down as a winner. But not, I fear, in the debate itself.