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


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

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

Recruitment Genius: 3rd Line Virtualisation, Windows & Server Engineer

£40000 - £47000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 3rd Line Virtualisation / Sto...

Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service Engineer

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A successful national service f...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Fixed Term Contract

£17500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently require an experie...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Army reservist Corporal James Dunsby  

Whether it’s in the City, the Army or at school, this ritual sadism has to stop

Chris Blackhurst
Caitlyn Jenner, the transgender Olympic champion formerly known as Bruce, unveiled her new name on Monday  

'I'm the happiest I've been for a long time and I finally know where I fit': Here's why role models matter for trans kids

Susie Green
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific