Whoops!!! Iain Dale for the naughty step….
He pours scorn on the temper tantrum being thrown by the Vote Leave camp because ITV have invited UKIP leader Nigel Farage to oppose David Cameron in their set piece EU Referendum debate. He also has the audacity to suggest Farage would do better than Boris or Gove…
It’s not as if Nigel Farage isn’t a good media performer or doesn’t know the arguments. In fact, I’d say he’s a far better performer in debates than either Boris Johnson or Michael Gove would necessarily be.
Naturally this goes against the grain of the currently accepted narrative that Marmite Nige turns off as many people as he turns on. How could he possibly cope against the smooth as silk double glazing salesman that is Dave?
But hark back to 2010. Dave’s failure to achieve an overall majority and his need to swallow the bitter pill of a coalition with the Lib Dems is often put down to his failure to outsmart Nick Clegg in a TV debate. Clegg became the SuperDebateMan and the bruised Dave steered clear of repeating the format in 2015.
Yet who was it who crushed SuperDebateMan Clegg in two widely broadcast debates on the EU just two years ago?
That’s right – Marmite Nige…
Nigel Farage triumphed in the second television debate on Europe by a clear-cut 69% to 31%, an instant poll showed, suggesting that a more emotional but often overscripted Nick Clegg failed to convince viewers that Ukip is selling the British people a “dangerous con” and a “fantasy”.
The Guardian/ICM findings after the BBC2 debate were almost exactly matched by a separate YouGov poll for the Sun, showing that in a sometimes brutal debate, with both men accusing the other of lying, it was the Ukip leader who came out ahead by an even bigger margin than a week earlier.
Yet a year later in a TV match up with SNP, PC and Greens he didn’t do well at all. He scored a pathetic own goal by linking health tourism with Aids and became very bad tempered with the audience. This was not the confident operator of the Clegg Debates or a score of BBCQT appearances where he had overcome hostile audiences with a good grasp of facts and a sense of humour.
Some blamed campaign exhaustion. Others sensed ill health. But many squarely placed the blame on Nigel’s campaign guru and right hand man at the time, BreitbartUK editor Raheem Kassam who, it has been claimed, advised Farage to go “shock and awe”. With Kassam’s guidance Farage not only was marginalised in the 2015 TV debate but he also failed to win a constituency that had earlier appeared to be “in the bag” for UKIP.
So, yes, Iain Dale, Farage is a good media performer. There’s no reason why he couldn’t do a Clegg on Cameron as well – but only if the loose cannon that is Raheem Kassam is locked firmly in a box for the duration.