The Sky News Debate

I’m not sure I’d have predicted what went on in this week’s debate, even if I’d thought about it particularly deeply. As I said in my article last week, Nick Clegg was given a very easy ride because David Cameron and Gordon Brown spent all their time laying into each other. It’s easy to rise above a situation like that and look like the highly-composed, ideal candidate. Now that the leaders of the other two parties aren’t treating Clegg like an also-ran, the dynamic between the three of them has changed dramatically.

For one thing, Cameron and Brown’s engagement with Clegg has meant that his policies were challenged and that he had to make more direct challenges to the Labour and Conservative leaders. Certainly, this made for a more interesting debate. It also meant that Brown came across a little better. Instead of appearing quite so childish and bullying as he laid into what he perceived to be his biggest threat, his slapping down of Cameron and Clegg both at once seemed a bit more controlling (if no less arrogant). Cameron suffered, unsurprisingly, from facing a two-pronged attack. Although he still came off very well generally, Clegg and Brown made the Conservative policies on Europe seem completely untenable (even though they seem quite reasonable on paper). Clegg also fell foul of being centre stage quite visibly. Unwisely, he chose to challenge Cameron through direct questions on a couple of occasions and came across quite badly as a result. His repeated attempts to ask Cameron for a figure for the Conservative immigration cap was, to say the least, misguided. Evidently, Clegg was assuming that this would be an arbitrary figure like UKIP’s suggested cap of 50,000 per annum. It should be blindingly obvious that the cap should be set and reviewed annually according to need, and Clegg did himself no favours by not taking that, very reasonable, explanation for an answer. The fact that he then continued to hound Cameron by repeating that question belied his smooth and considered appearance from the previous week.

So who won? Well, I can’t really see how anyone can win a three-way debate on multiple issues with a time limit. The only real measure will be at the polling stations on 6th May. In terms of how they came across, Cameron and Clegg, as last week, showed themselves to be effective politicians with well-thought-out policies. Brown came across as domineering and his policies, however well he presents them, will always seem like false promises given that he hasn’t already started to implement them despite two years in power. YouGov’s poll in the immediate aftermath put Cameron a little ahead of Clegg, but I think that’s just the effect of Clegg being a pleasant surprise last week and suffering from actually having to work this week. Personally, I’d call it a draw between the Liberal and Conservative leaders.

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~ by Scary Rob on 25 April, 2010.

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