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Election 2010 Party Leaders’ first TV debate

Politics / No Comment / April 16, 2010

Last night’s debate between the party leaders has given momentum to the Liberal Democrats, at least for a few days. Whether the debate proves to have been a ‘game changer’ will, however, only become obvious with hindsight.

David Cameron had previously been vocal in demanding the debates and was expected to excel at them but, in the event, he was a trifle subdued. Placed between the other two leaders – a position that Fraser Nelson thought would provide a visual advantage – he seemed almost under siege when they tried to talk over him.

Gordon Brown probably exceeded very low expectations. He tried to crack a couple of jokes early on and didn’t lose his temper, although he he did appear quite agressive towards David Cameron at times, asserting at one point that ‘there are questions you have to answer’ – one of his favourite tactics in Prime Minister’s Questions. He persists with the delusion that cutting state spending is ‘taking money out of the economy’. The truth surely is quite the reverse: spending less means taxing less and thereby enabling the private sector to put capital to more profitable use.

Nick Clegg, by general consent, ‘won’ the debate: he was articulate, personable and caught the camera spot on during his opening and closing statments (these all seemed somewhat reminiscent of Jerry Springer’s final thoughts ). As the leader of the third party, he positioned himself squarely as the ‘neither of the above’ candidate and sought the moral high ground whenever the other two started arguing between themselves.

When the candidates reconvene next week, Nick Clegg will start with the burden of expectations; he should beware that his rhetoric blaming ‘the old parties’ for everything might wear thin. I predict that the winner would – or at least should – be the one who puts aside sound bites used elsewhere and actually engages directly with the audience in language that properly resonates with them.

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