Leaders’ Debates – Part One

Well, that’s ninety minutes of my life I’ll never get back. Actually, it wasn’t as bad as I expected, and in some ways the perceived outcome was surprising (to me – a bit – anyway). This, the first televised debate of its kind in the UK, appears to have been some sort of attempt to engage the electorate in their own homes, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if a large proportion of the ITV-watching population simply reached for the remote at 8.30pm. I didn’t – for my sins – and this is what I thought…

Gordon Brown fared better than I expected, although I thought he looked worried and old – and his attempts at joking his way out of a hole fell a little flat to my ears. He handled the question on the economy with more knowledge and grace than David Cameron (all those years in the Treasury waiting for Tony Blair to begone are paying off now, eh Gordon?), but his weird little attempts at deferring to Nick Clegg were noticeable and rather amusing – “I agree with Nick” being the catchphrase of the night from Gordy. I get the impression that Downing Street may well be preparing for a hung parliament and are thus rather clumsily grooming Clegg because they suspect that he may end up in an important position in any resulting coalition government.

David Cameron was smug, shiny, plastic and desperately trying not to come across as Eton Dave. In the main he failed, despite making pointed reference to his children being at state schools, and dredging up a bunch of tabloid hysterics-type anecdotal stories to ‘prove’ various points (all of which, to me, sounded like the Daily Mail would have rejected them on the ground of dubious veracity). And what was with all the ‘I’m a normal, caring bloke, me’ crap about talking to ordinary people about their concerns? If Dave was to believed tonight, there’s nowhere in Britain he hasn’t been and no minority group he hasn’t consulted for their opinion. Hmmm. He did provide us with a fun drinking game for the next debate – although if I’d taken a shot every time he started wibbling on about the ‘jobs tax’ this time round I’d be in an alcohol-induced coma by now…

Nick Clegg surprised me. As with Labour and the Conservatives, I’m just as unlikely to vote Lib Dem, but Clegg’s performance was (despite a slightly wobbly and anonymous start) easily the most convincing and confident of the three leaders. He came across as more human and more aware than his opponents, which is a helpful start. His exhortation to stop talking about reforming the corruption in politics and actually do something about it certainly made sense, although it irresistibly reminded me of that scene in Monty Python’s Life Of Brian, and his call to “put people before politics” was worthy but highly unlikely to ever happen any time soon. Whether or not his policies appeal to the electorate is almost immaterial; tonight’s debate has finally given Clegg (a man to whom my reaction has traditionally been “Who?”) and his party a more equal standing in the political spotlight alongside Cameron and Brown. Whether this will last as far as the election and beyond is yet to be seen.

The next debate will be on Thursday 22nd April (Sky News), and will cover foreign policy issues. The final debate is on the economy and will take place on Thursday 29th April (BBC).

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One thought on “Leaders’ Debates – Part One

  1. Pingback: More Election Propaganda – and the 2nd Leaders’ Debate « Another Kind Of Mind

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