TIM Farron has revealed the behind-the-scenes roleplay he took part in to prepare Nick Clegg for his televised tussle with UKIP leader Nigel Farage.
In an empty central London theatre, the Lakes MP donned the trademark purple tie of the Euro sceptic for a practice debate with the Lib Dem Deputy Prime Minister ahead of the real thing.
Aides revealed that to prepare for the role as the UKIP leader, Mr Farron watched recordings of his public speaking with Farage winning plaudits for his man-of-the-world directness.
Mr Farron’s aides observed: “He’s very folksy considering he’s a former city trader who sold commodities, but manages to portray himself as the man down the pub.”
With Mr Clegg’s protection officers from Special Branch guarding the doors, the Lib Dem President and his party leader rehearsed for the BBC-screened debate.
During the debate, Mr Clegg landed some strong uppercuts - warning the audience that leaving the EU would lead to a ‘Billy-no-mates Britain’.
“It was the easiest thing I’ve ever had to do,” said Mr Farron afterwards.
“All you have to do to play Nigel Farage is think of the easiest and laziest thing to say and then come out with it. I roughed Nick up a bit – trying to be Nigel Farage and saying the sort of things he says,” he explained.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for Nigel because he’s clear about what he says and what he stands for, but it’s extremely dangerous and he gives no consequence to the hundreds of jobs we would lose, even locally, if we came out of Europe.”
Media commentators and public opinion polls found Mr Farage comfortably came out more favourably.
You Gov gave it 68 per cent to the UKIP leader to Mr Clegg’s 27 per cent.
But Mr Farron said Mr Clegg had done well fighting the pro-European corner.
And he pointed out that neither David Cameron for the Conservatives nor Labour leader Ed Miliband had dared get in the ring with the man-of-the-moment of British politics.