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Farage bests Clegg in TV debate

What surprised me about the Nigel Farage - Nick Clegg debate was that Clegg made no real attempt to extol the positives of EU membership. His arguments were defensive not of our EU membership but of his own position. They were also negative rather than positive.

What is odd about the outcome is that Clegg's opening statement was good. In my view better than Farage. Clegg was being positive, but then it all changed.

Clegg attacked Nigel Farage, trying to ridicule his opponent instead of countering Farage's arguments. Clegg missed the opportunity to say why the Liberal Party supports membership of the EU. It was a missed opportunity.

Clegg spent several minutes not arguing about the EU but about Syria! It was a side issue. The debate Mr Clegg was about the EU! A wasted opportunity.

It is therefore no surprise that Nigel Farage came out on top. Even the Liberal spin doctors found it difficult to spin a win for their man. In short, Farage wiped the floor with Mr Clegg and got away with calling Mr Clegg a liar. The reason he got away with that is because Mr Clegg also took the decision to attack Mr Farage. He should have dealt with the issues - he didn't and Farage came out on top.

Debating with Farage was always something of a gamble. It was a gamble and Clegg lost. You cannot debate facts with a man who appeals to gut instinct - and you can't do it by underestimating your opponent. Ridiculing Farage is to ridicule many voters who agree with the main thrust of his argument. It is the classic mistake. Mr Clegg for all his skill was simply angry. His undoubted skill in debate deserted him. He floundered. It was not a pretty site.

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