Things started badly for me as I drove early into the car park and there was Farage in a one sided conversation with the other three candidates, Tim, Bannerman and Winston. It took a while to get going but I enjoyed my time at the bar meeting other UKIPers. I was pleasantly surprised by how many came up to me, said hello and shook my hand, even Mr Bannerman but not of course Mr Farage or any of his 'team'.
According to the literature at the meetings the teams, most of whose members were not present, were with their promised jobs::
Bannerman: Maloney (present)
Congdon: Batten deputy leader (present) and Allison party chairman
Farage: Crowther CEO (present), Pearson & Woolfe fund raising, Graves Party Sec, Nuttall YI
The meeting was chaired by Arnott, a Farage/Nuttall appointee The format is each candidate gives a 5 minute opening address followed by one minute to answer pre submitted quesions selected by young Farage man Arnott who seems to have put on a lot of weight since I saw him last 2 years ago. Positively Knapmanesque one might say. The meeting ended with each candidate given two minutes to sum up their position.
There was no unvetted questions from the floor and as a result Farage got away with some quite outrageous answers which were strangers to the truth as some members of the audience well knew.
The high spot was a Bannerman Farage spat over Farage admitting he had not bothered to read Bannerman's policy document/manifesto something which Pearson had obviously not done either and as a result was crucified on live TV.
Tim gave a passable but lack lustre performance. He needs to sharpen his act, speak with more passion, take on Farage's untruths head on and argue strongly for change..
Bannerman was better than I expected from working with him on the NEC. He did take on Farage head on over the policy issue.
Farage gave his usual loud monkey on a pole performance down to the cigarette paper metaphor. Has he ever given a speech without it? It went down well with the Faragistas in the audience who seem to have collectively poor short term memories. It was the same old Farage speech they must have heard many times before.
Winston was funny at times. I expect him to pull out in favour of Farage. He did sign Farage's nomination papers after all! I next expect to see Winston in the London Mayor contest.
Who won the debate? Farage but it was a rigged deck. That is the UKIP way.