You are currently browsing the daily archive for April 16, 2010.

Okay, so this is a bit late but the topic will be playing in polls and punditry this weekend.  The UK’s political party leaders debated for the first time ever on live television.  (I hope The Spectator and the Conservative Party don’t mind my borrowing their graphic.)

This idea was originally mooted back in 1964.  The Independent says that party leaders generally believed televised debates to be too risky. Even so, having watched them in the US, they always seemed like a great idea for the UK.  Finally, my wish came true on Thursday, April 15, 2010 on ITV1.  Newsreader Alastair Stewart moderated the first debate in Manchester featuring Gordon Brown (Labour), David Cameron (Conservatives) and Nick Clegg (Liberal Democrats).  DigitalSpy says that 10.3m people in Britain watched this historic event.

I spent a fair amount of time today reading and digesting online commentary about the debate.  All significant polls showed that Nick Clegg performed the best.  Most polls showed David Cameron finishing over Gordon Brown. (That said, I see throughout the day that some polls which were thought to have been finalised have since changed, showing Cameron coming last in the debate.  Please be alert to psy-ops.  Very few in the media want a Tory win.)  Three comments here: firstly, Nick Clegg’s party have no recent history in power — they have not won an election for a century (Liberal Party);  secondly, David Cameron has to be careful how he presents himself with the left-wing media bias;  thirdly, Gordon Brown just isn’t very telegenic and really shouldn’t smile.

What did the expert political bloggers think? 

The Spectator‘s Coffee House blogger Peter Hoskin writes in ‘So what’s changed?: ‘Nick Clegg may now be recognised by more that one-third of the nation.  His party will probably come under greater scrutiny from the media and his opponents.  And the leaders’ debate is here to stay; a defining feature of this election which will become a standard feature of future contests.’    

In ‘Does this make a hung Parliament LESS likely?’ Mike Smithson for PoliticalBetting.com says: ‘… a resurgent Lib Dem party could seriously hurt Labour, in its effort to stop the Tories in LAB-CON marginals. For in these seats Labour have been looking to Lib Dem tactical voters to help them hang on. On top of that there is the real danger that yellow tactical voters at previous elections might return to the allegiance further eating into the Labour vote.’ 

Tim Montgomerie in conservativehome‘s Tory Diary ‘Live blog of the ITV Leaders’ debate’ concludes: ‘My verdict: No gaffes. Clegg used his time in the sun well. Brown survived. Cameron best on immigration, cancer but wasn’t hard enough v Brown. But, overall, unlikely to be a gamechanger.’

Iain Dale in ‘My Verdict on the Leaders’ Debate’ writes: ‘But the thing that won it for Nick Clegg was the way he interacted with the viewer – not the audience, the viewer. He spent most of his time looking directly into the camera. He also did well to address the questioner directly, as did David Cameron. He also smiled more than the other two and you can get away with a lot on TV just by dint of a smile. David Cameron needed to smile more. Gordon Brown just shouldn’t ever smile because it always looks false.’

For a good overview of what Britons think about the debate and main parties’ policies, see ITV1’s Twitter feed from the debate and DigitalSpy‘s forum thread, both done during the broadcast. 

If you missed the debate and want to read summaries of what was said by whom when, check out Peter Hoskin’s ‘Leaders’ debate – live blog’, conservativehome‘s Tory Diary ‘Live blog of the ITV Leaders’ debate’ and Iain Dale’s ‘Leaders’ Debate Open Thread/Live Blog’.  Each has readers’ comments following the post.

Remember that the next debate will be on SkyNews next Thursday (repeated on BBC2, I believe, at 11:30) and the final one will be on Thursday, April 29 on BBC1.

Not everyone will watch all three.  Some may pick up impressions from the first that will translate into votes on May 6.  Others may have a different opinion, depending on whether they watch one or both of the other two debates.  It’s interesting to read from ITV1’s Twitter feed and the DigitalSpy thread just what people think and how easily a debate can help shape their voting intentions. 

As always, read a summary of the party platforms and think about them carefully.  The decision you make on polling day will be one you have to live with for the next five years.  Unless it’s a hung Parliament, in which case expect a Labour leader change (my guess is David Milliband) and another election later this year. 

If  you’re disenchanted with the Tories and want to vote UKIP, please think twice.  To me, they’re a spoiler party.  We saw what happened in the US when Ralph Nader siphoned votes from those leaning towards Al Gore in 2000.  That’s how America got George W Bush elected, albeit by the slimmest (and most controversial) of margins.

This is not the election in which to take chances.  If this were a French election, with two ballots a week apart, sure, I’d advise voting the way you want in the first ballot and voting for the party you can live with in the second.  But, this isn’t France, this is Britain’s first past the post system we’re talking about. 

And to find out everything you always (or never) wanted to know about Nick Clegg, see his life story as told to the Daily Mail last year.  If you’re thinking think about voting Lib Dem, please read it.  Not all that glisters is gold.

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