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Friday, 7 March 2014

The European TV debate: it's about losers as much as winners

There's a good article over on The Staggers suggesting that both Nick and Nigel and Farage will win from the European TV debate, almost no matter how it goes on the night. To quote the piece..

"Clegg believes the debate gives him the opportunity to take on the UKIP leader, undermine his arguments and expose him as a man short on ideas and substance. Farage, meanwhile, hopes to continue the momentum his party is building, increasing awareness of his party and trying to cement them in the mind of voters as a credible alternative to the status quo. If he does well in the Clegg debate, and in the European elections a few weeks later, it will put him in a powerful position to claim a place in the 2015 leadership debates"

What puzzles me however, is why cameron and Miliband are happy for this to happen?

A year out from the election, Nick and Farage will be positioned on national TV, setting the agenda for the next 12 months. Sure the 'topic' is Europe - but does anyone seriously doubt that both will fail to introduce other issues into the debate, for that very reason.

Meanwhile, Cameron has handed 'leadership' of the Eurosceptic sector onto Farage - and let's not forget, Cameron does think of himself as a Eurosceptic. Similarly, the Pro European Miliband is giving the stage to Nick, allowing him to own the pro Euro banner - and with 25% or so of the country firmly pro Europe, that's a big chunk of folk to hand over to one of your political rivals. No wonder the New Statesman says Miliband is getting Nick to prop up his own EU policy.

I know there is an argument that says by allowing the 2 to debate, this leaves Miliiband and Cameron free to hold a 'who will be the next PM' debate next year - but i just can't see the Electoral Commission going for that. 

I suspect, come April, this will be a call both Cameron and Miliband regret.



William Barter makes some excellent points here


  1. One final thought (and I thought I would comment here, seeing as you have quoted me, rather than simply replying again on twitter)...

    I got to thinking why Miliband would not try and empty chair Cameron, and the only possible reason I can see is that he thinks he has as much, if not more, to lose:

    1) He legitimises the debate by being there - and elevates Clegg and (particularly) Farage.

    2) Given Labour policy, presumably he would have to sound pro-EU, and this could come across as teaming up with Clegg. Such action could potentially either alienate the 2010 LD switchers to Labour, or legitimise them voting LD again (as he would fairly often agree with Nick).

    3) By sounding pro-EU he also runs the risk of scaring off (or depressing turnout) from anti-EU labour voters.

    I'd venture if Labour were 20 points in front then Miliband would empty chair Cameron and turn up. Instead,he is staying away in order to try and protect the status quo (and his slender poll lead). This is strange - given mid-term Euro elections are seen as a protest vote, such thoughts really should not be an issue: Miliband's position is a lot weaker than most people think.

  2. Yes, I think despite everything Miliband will secure a slightly lower share of the vote in 2015 than the Tories, but with the quirks of the boundaries will end up with more seats. Which will give Nick either a nice problem to solve or a huge political headache.