Don't Try to Keep Nigel Off TV Debate

13/05/2016 11:52

Sorry Vote Leave, but you're wrong to try to keep Nigel Farage away from a debate with David Cameron on ITV.

Essentially their point seems to be twofold: they say Nigel polls poorly amongst undecided voters, and that immigration isn't the biggest issue for those same voters.

The second point is irrelevant to the ITV format, in which he'll take questions from the public. It's up to them whether to ask him about immigration or the economy; trade or sovereignty; jobs, or the whimsically bizarre Project Fear threat of Brexit causing World War III.

What about Nigel polling poorly amongst undecided voters? They miss three critical points:

1. Winning a referendum is about getting your voters to actually turn up to polling stations. Whilst the Leave campaign's voters are more committed than Remain's according to most polls, they're also disproportionately in the socioeconomic groups least likely to vote. Nigel polls much better with them.

2. Nigel actually polls better on competence-based questions. Those who don't want to agree with him will grudgingly admit he is an effective communicator. It's possible to dislike someone, yet recognise their arguments make sense. In some cases, some people may dislike him precisely because his arguments make sense!

3. Nigel wins debates. He trounced Nick Clegg in the televised In/Out debate two years ago. He's the most experienced debater the Leave campaign has on the EU issue. He has a depth of knowledge about the EU that others don't. Winning the debate is in itself important; more important than Nigel's polling amongst undecided voters.

It would be nice if those supporting Leave could attack the opposition for once, instead of each other. That problem isn't solely related to Vote Leave; others have done exactly the same in recent months.

Of course Nigel Farage has a role to play in this referendum campaign, just like Boris Johnson, Paul Nuttall, Chris Grayling, Douglas Carswell, Kate Hoey, Iain Duncan Smith, Gisela Stuart, Jenny Jones and many others do. Vote Leave should recognise that Nigel Farage has a powerful voice; it must be part of the the choir.