Attention to detail on European matters has never been Clegg’s strongpoint, and Farage will throw loads of clichÃ©s at him which need sound factual knowledge to rebut. If he can do so, fine (though he will also start with the handicap of his unpopular coalition tag). Farage is at his weakest when he is forced to go beyond his well-rehearsed soundbites and actually engage with the facts.
There’s the additional problem that Clegg is likely to pander to some eurosceptic clichÃ©s, either for tactical reasons (because he thinks they will play well with the British public) or because he actually believes them (such as Liberal opposition to some of the workplace employee protections we have agreed across Europe).
My verdict: The first round of the debate was indeed interesting. Farage is as virtuosic a question-dodger and myth-peddler as ever. Nick Clegg visibly struggled to hold onto his line of argument in the face of a shockingly one-sided selection of questions.
Clegg was also hamstrung in the early part of the debate by evidently feeling beholden to dubious coalition party lines on Europe, meaning he was unable to take on some of Farage’s more outrageous misrepresentations during the first few questions!