The announcement that the Farage-Clegg debate will now take place on BBC Two on the 2nd of April has stoked up the European Election campaign and fired up Party machinery for all of the respective political parties.For both leaders the mere fact that this is taking place is a positive and will reinforce both their positions. Clegg, I’d suggest, has most to gain if only because he starts at a much lower point. He will be able to regain support that he has lost to Labour and strengthen his own position as party leader, which has been looking shaky.
The whole strategy of the yellows is to portray themselves as the party that is unequivocally committed to staying in the EU, and the fact of the debate with its associated coverage will reinforce that. This is going to be a debate between the most pro-EU and the most anti-EU party leaders.
For Farage this allows him to operate on a wider scale and put a marker down for the GE2015. If he can take part in this event it is going to be much harder excluding him at the General Election. The fury that would commence from the electorate would be far too much of a risk for the other parties, close to a General Election.
Who’ll win? It actually doesn’t matter for both will be declared victory by their respective audiences.
On paper, at least, Clegg should be the most accomplished based on his PMQ and Dave outings. He can think on his feet, is intelligent, somewhat charimatic, and hold his own. He’s also less likely than Farage to get rattled and lose his temper.
My guess is that the Tories will be secretly cheering Clegg on in the hope that he might burst the UKIP bubble. Labour will implicitly be hoping that Clegg does poorly, but also that Farage does not do spectacularly either.