As it was not the first, perhaps last night’s TV debate was not as exciting as the one last week, but it was nonetheless an enjoyable and illuminating ninety minutes.
In the so-called spin room afterwards, as I declared GB the winner, Channel 4’s highly intelligent political editor Gary Gibbon asked me whether, had I thought GB had been a clear loser, I would have said so. Fair point.
However, he most certainly was not. The question being asked last night was which of the three leaders is best equipped to meet the myriad foreign policy challenges on a Prime Minister’s desk. And I really felt that the answer was Gordon.
His opening statement was the best of the three. It took on the fact that some people really don’t like him, and that he lacks the PR skills and style of David Cameron and Nick Clegg. But I felt he showed a greater understanding of the threats and opportunities posed by the world of change, and that he commanded the entirety of the foreign policy debate.
The second half felt a bit same old, too much like last week, but interestingly I felt GB more than matched DC for energy, which is supposed to be his thing.
Clegg did ok, but the novelty factor has worn off and he was less compelling. More importantly, he has serious policy problems in areas like Trident and immigration and these will come under more scrutiny from now on.
Gary Gibbon, Andrew Gimson of the Telegraph (who really hates the way the debates are dominating the campaign, saying it is a “ludicrous” way to choose a PM) and I had a middle-aged fart type chat about our desire for the election to be much more focused on policy. We recalled the time when manifestos were launched and then for the rest of the campaign each of the parties did a policy area per day and the media covered it. Gary admitted that if Labour put out a press notice calling the media to a housing policy launch, turnout might be low.
But surely the debate has to turn to policy at some point. In one of the thousands of interviews Sky did yesterday to promote ‘their’ debate, Kay Burley told me that ‘body language’ is the key. No it is not, I said. It is all about policy.
I said after the Clegg surge last week that I hoped it would lead to all three parties coming under real scrutiny on policy. It hasn’t really happened. Partly that is the fault of the media obsession with debate process, polls, and themselves, a trend continuing this morning. But also the parties have to up their game in engaging the electorate on policy. It is where Labour is strongest – so we have to do it most.
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AC – I’m fed up of the tories going on about the NI rise. When you next talk to GB and labour team can you please tell them to mention the fact that the likes of Next (18% rise), Kingfisher (49% rise), Marks and Spencer (unexpected rise in sales) and Tesco (3.2billion!!) all continue to make huge profits in the middle of one of the deepest recessions in recent years – Labour can’t be all that bad for business.
Of the three big parties, only Labour has sensible policies. Of their leaders, only Gordon Brown has substance. Labour should win the election – easily!
I saw the second TV debate (and AC´s interview with George Osborne) on BBC World. David Cameron did better than last time – unfortunately for him his policies on the economy and Big Society are wrong.
Nick Clegg did not do as well as in the first debate. And the policies of the Lib Dems do not stand any scrutiny.
Gordon Brown was his reliable himself. The prime minister knows the facts!
To sum it up: vote Labour! Labour is the only choice.
Can you please tell your people to stop referring to “the Economy” when they ask, “How the Conservatives are going to take the proposed NI hike out of the Economy?” Government money isn’t the Economy: all of the money – including what’s in our pockets is the Economy. Whether part of that is in the government’s or the people’s pockets it’s just moving money around in the Economy.
The more I see of the reported after affect and these ‘shows’ the more worried I get.
The YouGov CEO is the Tory candidate for Stratford upon Avon, there is a clear media bias towards Green Dave and the rest of the Whoops-A-Daisy clan and the change from the ‘presentation factor’ in favour of policy which is what matters isn’t happening.
Each ‘show’ (there not debates) makes it harder not to patronise especially when tricks picked up from one opposition leader are then taken up to weaken his performance while improve theirs.
GB is winning on policy BUT and it’s a big but with media styling as it is policy is doing little.
Until policy becomes the priority I’ll remain just happy that Jedward aren’t also in the running.
It was significant that Brown did better last night when he attacked Clegg from the right on Trident and immigration.
The great unwritten story of this election so far is just how badly Labour is doing. Canvassing returns are suggesting that their vote has collapsed. I can’t see what they can say that will change this. I am watching Brown’s press conference as I write this- he is again repeating his line about the wicked Tories taking 6bn out of a 168bn deficit. Nobody is listening.
Brown is turning out to be a singularly poor campaigner. Is anyone in the Labour party really surprised?
There will come a time when the people will look at the media and ask if they are getting short changed by them.
I pray for the day Cameron actually answers a question.
I noticed that cameron did say he was looking to M&S to provide home improvements in the energy/climate change question. Has he done some deal behind the scenes?
No wonder Rose is a fan.
Figures out today must make the money men focus on the detail.
Why is it the poll total never add up to 100%
Why is it that the internet polls after the debates always reflect the bias of the organisation conducting the poll…..maybe I am being cynical?
Who will make sure that the candidates actually answer the questions….Boulton was rubbish last night.
Unfortunately most of Europe disagrees with you that Brown is a world leader. The survey in the FT today tells us that 80% of French and Germans believe Brown either had no effect on the financial crisis or was actually damaging.
A far cry from Brown’s claims.
As for winning the debate, nope most commentators have him third (that’s out of three).
I agree that the emphasis should now be on policy (and the related dividing lines), Alastair but please try to get Gordon to present the choice in terms of simple understandable images rather than statistically based, sophisticated arguments.
Talking about the Tories taking £6 billion out of the economy and the need for a Keynesian stimulus doesn’t mean much to the average punter whereas comparing Tory policies to ripping away the life-support system of a patient in intensive care and Labour policies to a helping hand would have far more impact.
Overall I was quite impressed with all 3 yesterday. It felt like we had 3 parties with differing policies and that there was a real debate about whats best for our country. This has felt lacking previously and the first debate seemed more of a novelty show.
You were a right pratt on sky last night. Funny to watch though. Can’t believe you can say so much that you know is untrue and you don’t believe yourself.
I thought Brown did much better last night. I don’t mind his clunkiness in style. I don’t think he’s that bad at presentation. His problem is that he is disingenuous. He lies. We all know he is lying when he does it and he is ridiculous as a result. He is a laughing stock.
Cameron won the debate easily. On the key policy issues discussed last night Cameron won every one. He has the most popular arguments on Europe and Immigration and Clegg looked a fool trying to tone down the Libdems policies for public consumption.
I strongly feel that the result will be even worse for Labour than the polls show. Your guys are not gonna turn out – even with all the (bollocks) scare stories about the Tories. They’re just asking – what makes Labour different anymore? Why would I bother voting for Labour when they can’t be bothered campaigning for Labour.
The best thing from these debates has been a further disturbance of the media elite. It’s so funny watching you all running round like headless chickens. Sadly I don’t believe the debates have got more people involved in politics or the election. It may have woken up those who were already interested but the vast majority of people are still saying ‘none of the above’ please.
I was ecstatic about Gordon’s performance last night. I thought he went like a train. He was streets ahead of the other two. If you had anything to do with it, Alistair, then congratulations, give yourself a pat on the back. I am sorry that the majority in the room thought otherwise, but it was not Gordon’s fault. (I was gobsmacked when “Cameroon” got the highest vote.)
Perhaps, if these polls ARE indicative of the mood in the country, we now have to start thinking that the Conservatives are likely to get in. I think people may be fed up with the personalities in the Labout Party and want a change. But they evidently DO think body language is the key, little realising how this change will impact in their lives. Well, good luck to them, they will get the government they deserve. Pity about Clegg. He came over like the trainee home insurance salesman at my bulding society. Out of his depth.
Cameron rails against the 1% rise in NI and then says that we can all save one pound in every hundred to cut waste. Can’t business’s afford a one per cent rise if “we’re all in this together” as Dave says.
The final statements at the end of the programme were interesting, Dave more or less constantly repeated that we have to have change for change’s sake, Clegg more or less said the same. Only GB said anything about policy.
Finally Alastair, when we take about scrutiny it would be nice for Clegg to quantify his statement on scrapping the Eurofighter Typhoon. There are 3,000 highly skilled engineers working directly on this aircraft in Lancashire, I’m one of them. An independent report from the University of York states UK wide, 40,000 workers depend on the Typhoon for employment. Where do they go if the plane is scrapped? The Society of British Aerospace Companies states that for every pound that is invested in the defence sector £277 is returned. Far from trying to cripple the UK aerospace industry Clegg should be realising how much it contributes to the economy, perhaps even the Tories might agree and cease their fascination in wanting to purchase “off the shelf” US made kit.
I think Gordon done well, i hate te idea of our pm being elected by the media which is what is going to happen, where is the personal touch this election.
so far i have had very little info through the post and where has the dooe knocking gone this time.
Tony Blair was good at meeting and greeting, we have had none of it from Gordon or the cabinet this time round.
Alistair you charlie and peter m are the best pr men around get labour out on the bus meting and greeting the ordinary person the only way to win votes
I Think Grdon done well last night, but i hatethe thought of the media electing the p which is what is happening, the leaders debate makes great viewing but where is the personal touch gone, this election there has been no mett andgreet by gordon or the cabinet we need the personal touch which tony was so good at, come on alistair get them out there, also what happened to old fashioned door knocking
So we now hear on BBC News channel from Michael Gove that an incoming Tory government would release the serious case review into the Baby P affair.
Could Michael Gove have a word NOW with the Leader of the Conservative/LibDem controlled Birmingham city council to encourage him to open up about the Khyra Ishaq starvation scandal. So far there has been no proper explanation forthcoming from his Tory and LibDem colleagues running Birmingham.
What’s sauce for a goose is sauce for a gander.
I listened to the debate on Radio 4 just like I listened to the first one. I don’t have a TV. I can recommend the radio for these debates because you can hear so much more without the vision. You can hear, for example, the “joins” between the rehearsed bits and the rest very clearly.
Anyway I think Brown did superbly well. What is not understood by many is that Brown is not trying to win a style/presentation contest like Cameron, but rather he is concentrating on getting his political points across in a way that is comprehendible for the viewers/listeners. In this he is very much more successful than Cameron. I think that the vast majority of people don’t have a clue what Cameron means by “big society” but they do understand when Brown talks about “taking 6bn out of the economy puts the recovery at risk”.
I was glad that Brown included in his opening address “if it is about style then count me out”.
The key to this election now is the handling of the increase in Lib Dem votes. There will be an increase, of that I’m sure, but how to get more of those to come from the Conservatives than from Labour?
The problem is that Labour people, like me, often quite like the Lib Dems even if we find them smug and irritating. What worries me is that some Labour supporters might go out and vote Lib Dem.
But I wonder about all those Conservative voters who must have their doubts about the Conservative party’s extreme euroscepticism? I remember Ted Heath and the europhile Conservatives some of whom are still around of course.
Very many Conservative voters would be horrified if presented with the full truth about the Conservatives in Europe. Their associations with the far right. The behaviour of the Conservatives themselves, voting against equal rights for women etc.
So, getting those moderate Conservatives, who will not vote Labour, but would vote Lib Dem might be a good thing to do perhaps?
It will take a complete capitulation of Clegg and Cameron running out the studio, before we see the media admit that GB has won. He won hands down last night, because when you go back and pick out the quotes from all three, he is the only one that gives a full picture on international affairs.
He didn’t flinch from any question, like Cameron did; he just answered them all with clarity of thought, and with the decisiveness of a statesman. He spelled out the myriad of reasons for continuing with a nuclear detterant, that the other two didn’t fully grasp. He painted the full picture in Afghanistan, that we haven’t heard any politician do before. The Pope’s visit was dealt with, in a way that declared we welcome all faiths, but we don’t agree with all their beliefs. But it was the growing feeling from last week, that people are starting to slowly pay more attention to who they can trust to make the big decisions for the country. Next week GB will be like a pig in the proverbial with the economy, and we will see the attacks all this week on that. Sky, BBC, ITN, the right-wing newspapers, the tories and the lib-dems, will all gang up over this, and Labour have to shout loudest with the truth -that the economy needs to be nursed in a controlled way, and that Osbourne is a risk too far. Osbourne’s incompetance over the past 18 months, has been staggering for a shadow chancellor. He called every decision wrong. Vince Cable and Ken Clarke should be shown up for the contradiction-in-terms they are. Ken Clarke criticised the NI rise, yet he took the same action in the 90’s when interest rates were sky-high and inflation was rampant. And Vince Cable has had to backtrack on NI, where he changed his mind in a week.
Osbourne has no credibility on economics as we know, but Cable is not the little hero he has been painted as. Firstly, his warnings were on ‘rising debt levels’, which were not the genesis of the financial crisis. As everyone now knows, the sub-prime mortgage market in America was the problem. Secondly, in 2008 he criticised the government for stimulating the economy with public spending, only to agree with the action 4 months later. He then critisised ‘quantitative easing’, describing it as the Robert Mugabe school of politics, only to agree with the action later. On the Bank of England, he has changed his mind. He said that the government should let the Bank set interest rates, only to change his mind yet again. This is not the sound judgement that we need at this time.
The economy is still in a fragile place, and needs to be nurtured to full growth. We also have to do it in a fair and responsible way, where everyone has responsibility, including the Lord Ashcroft’s of this world. We don’t need a new Prime Minister, as we have the right man already. Along with TB, he re-built our economy on a basis of fairness, and he will build our future the same way.