Friday 16 April 2010

Leaders' Debate - the result

We didn't win the quiz (see below). We were tied for first but lost the tie break. I did catch the first minute of the debate before leaving - I was at a neighbour's "Debate party" - but my only observation was that, much against the predictions their ties matched party colours rather than being a neutral purple. That decision will have taken hours of time, and usefully highlights the fact that there really is a clear choice between the parties. You'll want to know that I am writing this wearing a blue sweater and trousers, although my shoes are brown.

I've now read lots of blog posts, summaries, newspaper articles etc (even some tweets) on the debate - and talked to people who did watch it - so feel well qualified to comment.

I'm fairly pleased with my predictions below, but underestimated:
a) how well Clegg would do (it was always obvious he would do the best, but he personally must have excelled to have done so well); and
b) the interest in the debate, and how interesting it was; it seems to have been more spontaneous than I thought.

I suspect Cameron (and Brown) must also have underestimated how well Clegg would do. Cameron seems to have made two mistakes in the debate: one was to allow Clegg to appear, the other to be too passive: he apparently could be seen to be holding himself back from attacking Brown (verbally). But he was probably under strict instructions not to behave as though it was Prime Minister's Questions. The impression is that he mildly disappointed, but did not damage himself. Although an immediate poll put him a long way behind Clegg, it continued to show him as the best PM of the three.

And this was after being attacked by both Brown and Clegg. It appears that Brown continually sought to identify himself with Clegg ("I agree with Nick..."), probably partly to cement the pact if there's a hung Parliament and partly to show that Cameron was not the reasonable one.

Clegg did not seem to talk about policy much - his line was, you two (Cameron/Brown) are all the same, I'm one of the public - and his choice to look at the TV audience not the studio - made seemed to pay off as he was "one of us" rather than a - spit - politician. That's a good approach, but it will be interesting to see if he can pull it off twice.

This all creates a dilemma for the Tories and to a lesser extent for Brown - to what extent do they highlight the Lib Dems weaknesses in both behaviour and policy (eg their biggest doner was a crook; they wanted to join the Euro which would have decimated our economic position now) but at the risk of giving them publicity - as opposed to essentially ignoring them and hoping the hero worship will die down.

The immediate polls show a significant rise for the Lib Dems - and the Betfair stats at the bottom of the blog show a near 10% reduction in people thinking there will be a Conservative majority, and a similar increase for a hung Parliament (although strangely there hasn't been much movement in predictions of numbers of seats won by each party). But will this last? The This Week experts last night said ignore any polls until Sunday. Those will be the interesting ones.

And from talking to people who did watch it, I don't sense it's going to change many people's minds. The decided voters saw reasons to support their existing choice, the undecided voters thought Clegg won, felt a bit more positively about him but also thought he had had an easy time of it.

Its a bit of a bugger for Berwick upon Tweed, though, where an exciting Conservative candidate is showing signs of outpacing a Lib Dem MP past his sell-by date. The debate will have made waverers waver more.

1 comment:

Troy said...

Clegg will face higher expectations for the next debate - peaked too soon? Hopefully Cameron has held something back and will show a steady improvement.

I was screaming at the TV for Cameron to say to the audience (including those at home) "so let's be clear here, Labour view putting money back in the pockets of individuals and the companies they work for, by reversing the NI increase, as 'taking money out of the economy' - if you are not the State you are not THE economy - your only use is to pay taxes to the State, and ever increasing amounts of taxes."

And of course you were wearing brown shoes - you were in the country!