After last week’s clash both Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage will have had an opportunity to reflect on their relative performances, the holes in their arguments and where they hadn’t managed to convey their message properly.
So let’s all hope they have both done their homework and will come to the debate with renewed vigour and armed with some fresh information to pad out their cases. Otherwise it will be a bit of limp deja vu despite Farage wanting a 2-0 clean sweep and Clegg equally as keen in wanting to make the honours even.
The debate tomorrow comes on the back of two bits of news out today: the first that 40 percent of those polled believe that Nigel Farage would be a danger to Britain; the second that UKIP’s membership numbers have just surged through the 35,000 mark.
A lot was made of Farage’s ‘sweaty’ appearance at the last debate, but knowing he has a bad back and, having suffered myself, I realise that standing for an hour may not be a comfortable thing for the UKIP leader to do. Maybe they could be seated for the next one?
One thing that surprises me about debates involving UKIP is that they have always just rolled over when someone charges them with wanting to ‘pull up the drawbridge’ on immigration, apart that is from Roger Helmer in last week’s Question Time.
Either you have uncontrolled immigration (no borders or border guards to check anything, even medical or criminal records) or you have controlled (managed) immigration (where even turning a couple of people away means it is controlled). And all the main parties back some form of control on immigration.
Why for example did Nigel Farage last week not directly challenge Nick Clegg when he used that phrase and say to him that the current government policy was to have an open border with the EU but a tight border with the rest of the world’s population – i.e. controlled immigration that disadvantages over 90% of the global population, so how can that be fair he could have asked? He could have said that UKIP does not want two different drawbridges but a single one with a sentry post on it that treated everyone, wherever they came from, equally.
He might even have asked if it was Lib Dem policy to have an open door policy with the whole world and, if not, why is he worried about UKIP's policy.
So all it comes down to is by how much or by how little you control immigration to the benefit of the UK, not whether immigration is in itself 'good' or 'bad'. There is then no need to constantly harp on about the benefits of immigration versus no immigration, because no-one is advocating stopping immigration forever.
Nigel Farage needs to find a way to put that point across in a simple, understandable manner because many people either do not understand, or do not want to understand, UKIP’s stance on immigration.
I suspect that Nick Clegg will be hoping to use the ‘Gay Marriage’ issue to needle Farage again this week. For this the UKIP leader needs to just point out that the only thing protecting faith groups from being forced to perform these ceremonies is an act of parliament that can be repealed, there is no real triple lock. Once the law suits start there can only be one outcome whilst the UK is in the EU. But Farage will also realise that this is now a lost cause and that, over time with changing demographics, it will come to pass. So a message that the EU will take us to it in too fast a manner to cater for religious feeling might be a good strategy.
On the business, imports, exports and jobs front the UKIP leader will have plenty of ammunition to choose from in William Dartmouth’s latest paper on trade.