19 Questions Nick Clegg Should Ask Nigel Farage in LBC's Europe Debate
By Mehdi Hasan, Political Director in The Huffington Post UK
In recent months, with the exception perhaps of the BBC's Andrew Neil, TV interviewers have failed to land many blows on cheeky-chappy, man-of-the-people, buy-me-a-beer-mate Nigel Farage, populist leader of the UK Independence Party (Ukip). Could Nick Clegg do their job for them tonight?
The deputy prime minister may be the underdog going into his live clash with the Ukip leader on, of all subjects, the European Union, but he has proved himself handy at TV debates (remember 2010?). Farage, on the other hand, claims not have prepared for these bouts - and is pretty poor when it comes to dealing with detail or proper scrutiny of his party's positions.
Here are a few questions that Nick could put to Nigel on Wednesday evening - ranging from the benefits of Britain's membership of the EU to the benefits of immigration to Ukip's own dodgy allies on the continent.
1) You say that half of British businesses would support quitting the EU - the Institute of Directors (IoD), however, polled its members and found only 15% back the UK leaving the EU. Why should we believe you, and not the IoD?
2) Isn't it true that the number of European migrants in the UK (2.3million) is almost exactly balanced by the number of Britons living elsewhere in the EU (2.2million)?
3) What would you want to happen to the 2.2million Britons who live in the EU once we pull out? Forcible repatriation back here to the UK?
4) The EU costs us, each and every one of us, 37p* per person, per day. Do you really think that's unaffordable? A little over half the cost of a Mars bar?
5) How much money have you personally claimed in expenses from the European Parliament, in addition to your salary? Is it really more than £2million?
6) If you're so worried about the EU 'gravy train' and 'value for money' in Brussels, why did a member of your party's NEC ask Ukip MEPs to divert £10,000 each from their European parliamentary allowances and salaries to Ukip headquarters?
7) Is it true that EU authorities have been asked to investigate whether Ukip staff in the UK are being paid with EU money, in breach of EU regulations? That's pretty embarrassing, isn't it?
9) You have spent the past year or so hyperventilating about the cost of 'benefit tourism' - yet reports produced by both the EU and the UK government suggest there really isn't an issue with so-called benefit tourism. What empirical evidence, if any, do you have to the contrary?
10) Isn't it the case that migrants from the new EU countries have paid 30% more in taxes to the UK exchequer than they've taken out in benefits or public services?
11) Which taxes would you have raised to replace the £5billion that migrants from eastern Europe are estimated to have contributed to our economy between 2004 and 2011?
12) Why do you think it is that Ukip doesn't have any female MEPs?
13) Could it be because, as former Ukip MEP Marta Andreasen once put it, you're an "anti-women.. dictator" whose view is that "women should be in the kitchen or in the bedroom"?
14) You say you're party is mainstream and isn't on the far-right but you sit with the Europe of Freedom and Democracy (EFD) group in the European Parliament, don't you? Doesn't it include representatives of the Danish People's Party, the True Finns Party and Italy's Lega Nord - all of them pretty far-right parties?
15) You're fellow co-chair of the EFD, the Lega Nord's Francesco Speroni, has described far-right terrorist and mass murderer Anders Breivik as someone whose "ideas are in defence of western civilisation" - why don't you take this opportunity tonight to distance yourself from him and his horrific remarks?
16) On the subject of horrific remarks, do you support your colleague Gerard Batten's demand that British Muslims sign up to a special code of conduct, in which they promise not to be violent? He is, after all, your chief whip?
17) And do you share Batten's support for a ban on any new mosques across the whole of Europe?
18) You often claim to speak for Joe Public - are you aware that the latest poll shows more Britons want to stay in the EU (41%) than leave (39%)?
19) What is it that you most object to about the UK's membership of the EU - the cheaper and safer flights; the cheaper and better phone calls; the cleaner beaches and action on climate change; the higher food safety standards; the tackling of cross-border crime; the single market; the 3million jobs; the 57 years of peace; the global influence?
* 37p per person per day: £8.6bn (UK net contribution to EU budget) divided by 63.7m (UK population) divided by 365 (days in year)