Jones v Farage

This was a tough night at the office for Carwyn Jones.

There were times in the middle period, on the economy and EU aid, when it felt that Nigel Farage was dictating the terms of the debate.

The first minister regained some ground in the question and answer sessions but his punchy quick-fire style, followed up by a question, gave plenty of airtime to the UKIP leader who was more than happy to use it as a platform to launch yet another attack on the EU.

Did we learn anything new? Well if we didn't know already, we learnt how difficult it is for an opponent to land a blow on the UKIP leader in a debate like this.

There were potential opportunities for the First Minister over concerns expressed by firms like Airbus, and there was a moment when he appeared to have Mr Farage in trouble early on by repeatedly asking him to back up his claim that more than 70% of British laws are made in the EU.

On the ropes

Was this the moment the former barrister would have the former financier on the ropes?

Well not exactly as the blows were not landed fully. Instead Nigel Farage was beginning to dish it out himself as he rubbished claims that farming would be decimated by a withdrawal, and that Airbus would pull out, sarcastically claiming that planes need wings to fly (this is the reference to the wing-making factory in Flintshire.)

It was breathless stuff at times. The two men, who were clearly pumped up, got into full flow remarkably quickly.

They had very different styles. Carwyn Jones had an unflashy bread and butter approach in which he relied on his experience in his job speaking to potential inward investors and big business in Wales, who all told him that they want the UK to remain in the EU.

The basis of his argument was risk. The fear-card was played repeatedly as he questioned why anyone would risk jobs and aid with a withdrawal.


And he also questioned why there needed to be the choice of an in or out in the first place, as he tried to convey a sense of ease at being Welsh and being part of the UK and the EU.

Nigel Farage's argument revolved around the familiar theme of sovereignty and being prepared to "take back our birthright."

One of the livelier exchanges was about the steel industry. Mr Farage claimed that if the UK was set free from the EU it wouldn't allow dumping by the Chinese steel producers, making it more likely that Tata would be investing in Port Talbot, rather than a sister plant in Holland.

And on agriculture, he effectively dealt with concerns about the loss of EU subsidies, saying that farming existed well before the setting up of the EU in the 1970s, and a British system of support would easily be devised.

It was all engaging stuff, and largely good natured. If the rest of the EU campaign is anything like this it'll be a lively affair.