Nigel Farage v Nick Clegg Europe debate: Their shocking statements, terrible jokes and the facts they got wrong


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Indy Politics

The second face-off between Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage was pitched as a battle of personalities over policy.

The skirmish between the Lib Dem leader and Ukip's chieftain saw clenched fists, revolutionary frothing and ferocious accusations. Statistics about Europe caromed between the leaders like political bullets, and amid the insults, air-gobbling, and indignation some astounding allegations were made. 

Nick Clegg may be positioning himself as the moral authority on Europe, a leader of ‘in’, but it turns out his history on supporting the EU is flaky and his stats are out of date.

Meanwhile, Nigel Farage’s rhetoric became eye-bogglingly polarised.  In case you missed it, here are the most memorable lines from the debate and the whole ding-dong debunked.

1) Clegg’s clueless claims: ’Farage wants a ‘Billy No Mates and Billy No Jobs Britain.. three to four million jobs depend on Europe’ said Clegg. 

Aside from the awful 'Billy' extension, that figure is out of date, according to Full Fact. It's also not necessarily the number of jobs that would be lost if we left the EU, because we would still continue to export goods anyway.

2) Rootin’ for Putin: Farage was called out by host David Dimbleby for denying he admired the Russian President.

The Ukip leader told the debate: “I don't admire Putin. What I said was he had out-witted and outclassed you all over Syria.” Actually Farage did say he admired Putin. The Ukip leader has also raised eyebrows with a controversial claim that the Syrian rebels used chemical weapons against civilians, rather than Assad. All expert opinion points to the contrary.

3) From Putin to Kim Jong-un: Farage rallied the audience with relish, crying:  “Let's free ourselves up!” he said “I know the people are behind this. Come and join the People's Army. Let's topple the establishment that led us into this mess.”

The People’s Army is name of the military force of North Korea. Kim Jong-un is the supreme commander.

He's not really a nice man to associate yourself with.


4) Clegg’s preoccupation with fantasies: The Lib Dem leader tried to take on Ukip’s populist oration by accusing Farage of being dangerous fantasist. 

“I wouldn’t be surprised if he tells us next that there wasn’t a Moon landing, Obama isn’t American, and Elvis isn’t dead!” he cried.

Unfortunately for Clegg, the Elvis bus pass party actually beat the Lib Dems at a by-election in Clifton North in March, so maybe Elvis isn’t dead. However the dangerous line was one worth pushing, with 38 per cent of people in a Comres poll prior to the debate agreeing that Farage was a ‘danger to Britain.’

5) Racism and bigotry? Farage said EU immigration “has left the white working class, effectively, as an underclass and that, I think, is a disaster'. The phrase ‘white underclass’ smacked to many of the politics of racial division. Some also took the statement to infer that it is fine to have an underclass as long as it is not a white one. On Twitter, many pointed out that being a British citizen didn’t necessarily mean you were white and that class doesn’t have a colour.

6) Did Clegg make a funny joke? Maybe. As Nigel repeatedly insisted the EU had an ‘open door immigration policy’ and that “485 million EU citizens could move to Britain whenever they wanted” the Lib Dem leader responded manfully, insisting his claims were “as silly as me saying that five million people living in Scotland might all move to Orpington next Tuesday. It is not going to happen.” Orpington began trending on Twitter (possibly for the first and last time) as the threat of millions of angry Scots marching on the suburb tickled imaginations. 

7) Another joke? Clegg raised a few titters after waving a Ukip leaflet with a Native American on the front of it that suggested if British people ignore immigration they will end up on a reservation. “What are you going to say next, that you are Crazy Horse or Sitting Bull?” On Twitter, some said it was more likely to be sitting bull****.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Ukip leader Nigel Farage during their second televised debate

8) Confused Clegg : 'If we are the party of in, Farage is the party of Putin”

The Lib Dems haven’t always been quite so ‘in’ as Clegg would like to make out. Clegg wrote in favour of a of a referendum in a Guardian article in February 2008. The Lib Dems' 2010 general election manifesto promised an in/out referendum the next time there was a change in the relationship between UK and  EU.  His obviously rehearsed jibe about Putin was delivered without conviction.  Yet he was onto something. There was a huge spike in negative tweets about Farage when he talked about Putin and the situation in the Ukraine.

9) Farage’s flustered facts: He tried to claim that the EU has a £55m membership fee.  Actually if you subtract the benefits, that goes down to £24m a day. So he exaggerated the costs by more than 100%. Farage also said that UK trade is managed by an elected Dutch bureaucrat. Conversely, the European Commissioner is Belgian and is elected  in by ministers every five years.

So who won? Well the polls said Farage. But maybe it was anyone who switched off.