Nigel Farage: I’m immensely looking forward to saying: ‘I don’t agree with Nick Clegg’

Clegg announced that he wanted to challenge me to a debate on EU membership ahead of the vote in May

Share

The general election leaders’ debates of 2010 were dominated by the phrase “I agree with Nick”. Clegg was seen to have performed particularly well against Gordon Brown and David Cameron in the first debate; partly because of his easy manner, and also because he presented himself effectively as the outsider.

The debate has now raged for months as to whether Ukip should or should not be involved in the leaders’ debates in 2015, the most recent contribution being from Boris Johnson, who has, in classic Johnson style, U-turned to say that Ukip should now not be included. I am assuming that is down to internal Conservative Party politics. But I have been insisting until I am blue in the face that the next election is not in 2015, it’s on 22 May 2014! It’s the European elections, the whole country has a vote and it’s only 86 days away.

But I’ve had no response, until suddenly Clegg announced on Nick Ferrari’s LBC breakfast show that he wanted to challenge me to a debate on EU membership ahead of the vote. I nearly choked on my bacon roll with surprise because this is the man who has backtracked on his 2010 manifesto pledge to hold an in/out referendum, and who previously held both Houses to ransom when the Lisbon Treaty was being debated. Now, though, he wants to have a televised, public debate with me. He must be getting desperate.

Before accepting the offer I wanted to make sure that Messrs Cameron and Miliband were invited, too. They have declined the opportunity, with the Prime Minister saying that he’s “too busy running the country”. Well, he’s certainly running from something, but the whole point, Mr Cameron, is to discuss who is  running the country: him or Brussels.

So what motivated Clegg to extend this offer? In my opinion, it’s because his party is languishing at a steady eight per cent in the polls for the European elections. He currently has 12 MEPs, and if he achieves only his current polling he could face total wipe out. In fact, the Lib Dems are actually a fringe party in the context of this year’s campaign.

So Clegg wants publicity. And he wants to present the Lib Dems as the “in” party, appealing to pro-EU voters from Labour and the Tories. So the question for me was, should I be seen to be helping? Do I want to help raise Clegg’s profile and potentially cost us MEPs by helping the Lib Dems nudge above the threshold for clinging onto a few seats?

My decision to say yes was based on a bigger concept than that of short-term, party-political advantage. I have been waiting for 20 years to have a national debate on the great EU membership question. And so I felt that I had no choice but to accept, given that my motivation for leaving business and coming into politics was to win back the independence, self-government and self-respect of this nation.

I am now very excited that this debate will make sure that the European elections are contested on proper, EU-related issues. That doesn’t mean obscure clauses of treaties that virtually nobody has ever read. It means money; open door immigration; our inhibition of global trading opportunities; and how impotent our Westminster Parliament has become in governing UK matters. And I can tell you, I very much look forward to saying I don’t agree with Nick.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Nicola Sturgeon could have considerable influence over David Cameron in a hung parliament  

General Election 2015: What if Cameron were to end up in hock to the SNP?

Steve Richards
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before