I caught a snatch of a Five Live phone-in on the TV debates this morning, where the sense of the calls I heard was the clear dissonance between what people thought, and what the polls and pundits said.
As I tweeted in advance of last night’s debate, the right-wing papers (ie the majority) were all going to give it to Cameron, just as last week they were all going to say he was the Comeback Kid after Nick Clegg outshone him as the Time for Change brand in round one. Likewise I think people are becoming very suspicious of these instant polls.
I would pay more attention if they were polls of undecided voters. Many people have made up their mind about GB. Those who know him, and have decided they are not going to vote for him are unlikely to give much credit to him for winning a debate, as in my opinion he did last night.
I know I am biased, tribal, can’t stand the Tories and think Clegg is becoming too sanctimonious for his own good and says next to nothing on policy. But I totally agree with one of the callers who said that some people say they want substance in their leaders but too often go for the style. (TB was something of a rarity in having both, which is why it is good to have him back on the trail today). The caller said only one person up there appeared to have real mastery of detail, GB.
I was also struck by how many questions Cameron refused to answer – on his plan to give a six-figure tax cut to the 3000 richest estates in the country (five or six times), his immigration cap (two or three) his damaging policies on manufacturing (three or four).
GB pressed home the key points about this being the vital year to support the economy with continuing government investment to get growth going, and also about the unchanged nature of the same old Tories.
He also managed to tie Cameron and Clegg together on the coalition of cuts of tax credits for children.
The Clegg phenomenon has just about held up for the first two debates but if the online traffic was anything to go by, the act was wearing thin. ‘Is there anyone he doesn’t agree with?’ asked one. As for his ‘let’s all work together,’ it is one of those easy-to-say nonsenses which is a nonsense precisely because elections are where you thrash out different views and different policies. As someone pointed out on here last night, in one answer he said we have to get back to manufacturing, and in the next was scrapping Eurofighter, without a mention of the tens of thousands of jobs affected. As for Cameron’s opening statement that we would have real change ‘like not going in the Euro’ … er, that is non-change.
In the so called spin room afterwards, all sides were claiming victory for their man, which I accept is a bit tedious. But I really did and do believe GB was head and shoulders above the other two on substance, that Cameron let himself down by not answering questions, and that Clegg was already looking a bit same old same old.
The right-wing media is so desperate for a Cameron win that the headlines today are all part of trying to create an unstoppable momentum for him. The good news is that millions saw for themselves and will trust their own judgement and that of their friends, relatives and colleagues much more than a media that has become more biased in this election than at any I have ever been involved in.
The polls are not great for Labour. True. But the sheer number of undecideds is good news for Labour. It means despite all they have seen and heard, despite all the posters, despite Murdoch, the Mail and the rest, they are still holding out against a Cameron premiership. And last night GB did a very good job of giving them the very good reasons why they are right to hold out, and right to keep asking the questions Cameron and Clegg don’t want to answer.
Everyone who believes in progressive causes, who believes in fairness, who believes in good schools and hospitals for the many not the few, and who believes that an unchanged, unprogressive, unmodernised, unfair Tory government would be disastrous for Britain has to keep fighting to make sure it doesn’t happen.
* Buy The Blair Years online and raise cash for Labour http://www.alastaircampbell.org/blog.php.