Last week Nigel Farage, the leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), and Nick Clegg, British deputy prime minister and leader of the Liberal Democrats, faced each other in the first of two scheduled debates on the U.K.’s membership in the European Union.
Polling suggests that most Britons who watched the debate believed that Farage beat Clegg in the first debate, which was more of an extended Q and A session with a studio audience than it was an actual debate.
In the build-up for the second debate, scheduled to take place this Wednesday, Farage is being criticized for comments he made about the crisis in Ukraine during the first debate and for praising Russian President Vladimir Putin as an "operator" after being asked which world leader be admires the most in a still-to-be-published interview with GQ magazine.
Farage said in response:
We should hang our heads in shame. The British government has actually geed up the European Union to pursue effectively an imperialist, expansionist – and even Mr Barroso the commission president once himself said we are building an empire. We have given a false series of hopes to a group of people in the western Ukraine. So geed up were they that they actually toppled their own elected leader. That provoked Mr Putin. I think the European Union frankly does have blood on its hands in the Ukraine. And I don't want a European army, navy, air force or a European foreign policy. It has not been a thing for good in the Ukraine.
Watch footage of Farage’s response below (starts at 57:35):
The BBC has the following to say about Farage’s comments on Putin in an unpublished GQ interview:
In an as yet unpublished interview for the magazine GQ, details of which have been released, the UKIP leader was asked which world leader he most admired.
He reportedly replied: "As an operator, but not as a human being, I would say Putin. The way he played the whole Syria thing. Brilliant. Not that I approve of him politically. How many journalists in jail now?"
Without reading the whole interview, it sounds to me like Farage is praising Putin’s brutal effectiveness and commitment, not his moral judgments. That said, Farage's recent comments on the crisis in Ukraine and Putin do betray a strange understanding of moral responsibility that is unlikely to help him attract more support in future elections.