The First Leaders’ Debate

Personally, I’m sceptical that these televised debates are actually going to do much to influence the results of the coming election. I’ll be interested to see the ratings they get, and whether or not they’ll influence the results or voter turnout much. That said, it was interesting to see the party leaders lay their differences on the table, away from the miasma of the press that makes the whole political shebang look like so many shades of beige. I was impressed with the format, managing as it did to keep the debate neutral in terms of time and presentation, while allowing some of the cut-and-thrust of parliamentary exchanges.

Unsurprisingly, I was not impressed with Gordon Brown. Quite frankly, he did not come across as either a nice man or a masterful leader; he was a sledgehammer wielded with no force or direction. Predictably, his main thrust of argument was “fear the Tories”. He had few innovations to offer, and no answer to the obvious question: why haven’t you started doing these things already? The way he argued was full of weasel words and “when did you stop beating your wife?” questions directed at Cameron who, very sensibly, simply ignored them. Likewise, his attempts to court Clegg’s support over his reform policies were met with a firm rebuff. I was intrigued by his body language, too. He seemed to be listening to proceedings less intently than the other two leaders and smiled and laughed at a lot of points the opposition made. I can’t make up my mind whether this was a sign of nerves or arrogance…

David Cameron only fared a little better. When accused of the possibility of cuts to education and policing, he simply chose not to answer. What’s wrong with admitting the need to make cuts? On the other hand, I’d say that ramming home the National Insurance increase as a “tax on jobs” was the right idea, and certainly better than Brown’s petty attempts at soundbites. There was a good amount of substance in his work, but he suffered from having to rebut the Labour leader’s most childish attacks – it’s hard to look good when a moronic troll is trying hard to drag you down to his level.

Nick Clegg made himself look good yesterday evening. He made his policies clear, put forward his position well and carried himself with dignity. However, he had a very easy ride. When the other parties regard you as and also-ran and spend all their time on scoring points against each other, it’s easy to appear to float above the situation. To that extent, I feel Cameron was right when he accused Clegg of being “holier than thou”.

I watched ITV’s reaction polls afterwards and wasn’t surprised by the public’s opinion. Easy ride or not, Clegg did come out looking far more capable than the others. Interestingly, though, what the public saw as a decisive debate victory has only translated into a 1% gain in the polls.


~ by Scary Rob on 16 April, 2010.

3 Responses to “The First Leaders’ Debate”

  1. Turnout was averaging 9 million, with suprisingly little dropoff – the last 15 mins was slightly higher than the first.

    Also as to the poll have you seen tonight’s Yougov?

    • I was using the BBC’s election seat counter:

      It looks like they’ve bollocksed up the YouGov figures for the 16th…

    • Also, frighteningly, putting those real results into the election seat calculator shows that the Lib Dems would still only win 100 seats, leaving Labour as the largest party with 276. If Labour and the Conservatives lost an equal share of the votes, the Lib Dems would need around 41% of the vote to get into government. Being fair, that’s slightly more realistic today than it was on Wednesday, but any party getting over 40% of the vote in the current political climate is very unlikely…

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