UK & World News

  • 3 April 2014, 10:09

Clegg And Farage: Polls Give UKIP Leader Win

UKIP leader Nigel Farage stormed to victory in the second Europe debate, according to snap polls.

A YouGov survey had 68% of people backing the UKIP leader, while just 27% thought Nick Clegg won the night. Another poll, in The Guardian, had a similar result with Mr Farage on 69%.

Senior Lib Dems Danny Alexander, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, and Tim Farron, the party president, insisted Mr Clegg had won.

However, Patrick O'Flynn, the communications director for UKIP, told Sky News it was a "massacre".

Peter Kellner, the YouGov president, said the underlying data was bad news for Mr Clegg. He said: "The most interesting change is there has been a shift to Farage among Labour voters since last week and among Lib Dems."

Last week, 51% of Labour voters backed Mr Clegg - a point that Lib Dem strategists focused on, arguing that was what it had all been about. They said Mr Clegg wanted to win pro-Europeans away from Labour and the Conservatives, with 27% of the latter backing Mr Clegg.

But on Wednesday night Mr Kellner said far more Labour voters thought Mr Farage won the debate and even one in three Lib Dem voters felt the UKIP leader stole the night.

It is the second week Mr Farage has emerged the victor.

After last week's impassioned debate, shown live on LBC and Sky News, a YouGov poll of 1,003 people found 57% thought the UKIP leader performed best compared with 36% for Mr Clegg.

Burnishing his credentials as a champion of the working class, Mr Farage used the second debate to repeatedly made digs at the "rich people" and the "political elite".

And he positioned himself as the head of the "people's army" inviting people to join him and "topple the establishment who got us into this mess".

He said immigration had left the "white working class as an underclass", and the country's health service, schools and communities were not able to cope with Britain's "open-door" policy.

And he claimed a new house would need to be built in Britain every seven minutes to cope with the number of immigrants.

He said he would support immigration if it was all about people speaking English and bringing skills - but it was not.

The Liberal Democrat leader said it was "silly" to suggest that 485 million people in Europe were about to come to Britain.

He replied: "It is as silly as me saying that five million people living in Scotland might all move to Orpington next Tuesday. It is not going to happen."

He agreed that areas should be given more resources where they had seen an influx of immigration - and they were being.

He said that the idea that there would be no problem with immigration if Britain was not a member of the European Union was nonsense.

Mr Clegg said that what he wanted was to ensure those who did come to Britain "played by the rules", didn't exploit benefits and that jobs were created to British people.

The two men clashed angrily on EU foreign policy on the conflict in Syria, the crisis in Ukraine and on Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Mr Farage said the EU had brought about the bloodshed in Ukraine by coercing the country into the European Union in an act seen as "deeply provocative" to MrPutin.

He said: "They actually toppled a democratically elected leader. Yes, I know Ukraine's corrupt, I know it wasn't perfect, but they toppled a leader and I do not want to be part of an emerging, expansionist EU foreign policy. I think it will be a danger to peace."

And he accused the Government of being "absolutely hell-bent" on military intervention in Syria, saying: "I think if Putin had not pointed out that the use of Sarin gas had not necessarily come from the Assad regime, if he hadn't done that, I suspect the backbench rebels would not have defeated you Nick in stopping us from going to war.

"You wanted us to go to war again. I'm pleased that your backbenchers stopped you. Putin, I don't like the man, but he contributed to that debate."

As had been widely expected Mr Clegg attacked the UKIP leader over an interview this week in which the UKIP leader said Mr Putin was the leader he admired most.

He said Mr Farage had treated the suffering of millions brutally suppressed by the Syrian regime like a game and that his loathing of the EU was such he was siding with the Russian leader.

He said: "This isn't some sort of pub bar discussion, this is a serious issue about how we stop the slaughter, the displacement of millions of people, women and children being sexually abused, terrible violence on an unimaginable scale and all Nigel Farage can say is that he (Putin) has played it brilliantly."

The Liberal Democrat leader said Mr Putin was the one man on the planet who could end the Syrian crisis with one phone call.

As the debate drew to a close, Mr Farage issued a sinister warning with the caution that the far right was on the march across Europe and if reform could not be managed peacefully then there would be significant protests.

The second clash between the two men came before crucial elections to the European Parliament on May 22.

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