Wednesday 14 May 2014

Farage: A very dangerous man

Nigel Farage: A liability we don't need
Alex Salmond has been accused of making another blunder on the international stage after fishing leaders contradicted his claim that Europe's fleets could be barred from Scottish waters. The Scottish Fishermen's Federation (SFF) has written to the First Minister seeking clarification after he warned that continental ships could be stopped from reaching Norway if Scotland loses its European Union membership. The body said the claim directly contradicts the principle of "innocent passage", which allows ships to transit through foreign waters and is protected by the UN Convention on the law of the sea.

This should be a stark warning to Ukip.  Farage and Salmond are very similar individuals who both make off-the-cuff pronouncements which are not based in fact.  In a run up to an election, and in debates with lightweights like Nick Clegg, you can get away with fact-free posturing, but when you are talking about a very serious referendum, your pronouncements come under close scrutiny - and if they don't hold up, one can end up looking silly. People will be looking for serious answers to serious questions and if Ukip doesn't have those answers the referendum effort will fail.

I have been told by Ukip activists (reading from their script) that Ukip does not need an exit plan - but this clearly demonstrates that it does if it expects to be taken seriously in the run up to a grave electoral decision. There are answers out there but if you're shooting from the hip, your chances of making a serious case are significantly reduced. Unless Farage gets a grip, with a fundamental understanding of the very nuanced and technical arguments he will face, he will be eaten alive in the debate arena. A careless remark that frightens the horses will blow out chances of winning.

The tub-thumping crowd-pleasing Farage pub speeches are not going to hold water.  The game just got serious. With the Tories leading in the polls and with Cameron having committed fully to a referendum, as it stands, there is a strong possibility of a referendum in 2017. If that campaign is lead by a seemingly racist, immigration obsessed party whose leader is heavy on rhetoric but light on detail, then eurosceptics will lose that referendum. Nigel Farage will then go down in history as the man who buried the eurosceptic movement.

With EU referendum polls looking sketchy and the prospects for leaving looking weak, a referendum blunder puts the final nail in the eurosceptic coffin. Is that a chance we can afford to take? I think it's too important to be placed in the hands of Nigel Farage, whose grubby past may yet catch up on him. As it stands, our best hope for leaving the EU is to avoid having that referendum in order to get rid of Cameron and Farage and buy us some time to prepare. Thus we face an ugly choice in 2015.  It's a giant shit sandwich and we have to take a big bite.

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