Final leaders’ debate: bloggers’ reaction

With the headline poll figures showing a narrow win for David Cameron, Left Foot Forward looks at how some of the leading bloggers viewed last night's debate.

With the headline poll figures showing a narrow win for David Cameron – ICM calling it Cameron 35%, Brown 29%, Clegg 27%; YouGov: Cameron 41%, Brown 25%, Clegg 32%; Angus Reid: Cameron 36%, Clegg 30%, Brown 23%; ComRes: Cameron 35%, Clegg 33%, Brown 26%; and Populus: Cameron 38%, Clegg 38%, Brown 25% – Left Foot Forward looks at how some of the leading bloggers viewed last night’s debate.

Fraser Nelson, in The Spectator, says the Tory leader “saved the best till last… he looked more confident, assured – and spoke convincingly about immigration at last, a subject he fluffed last time”. On Clegg, Nelson says:

“[He] was his usual telegenic self – in thespian terms, an accomplished performance. But he ran away from his own asylum policy, and was comically inept with the facts… I thought Clegg won the first 20 minutes or so. But as the debate went on, he started to sound daft.

‘Wouldn’t it be a good thing to get the Chancellors and vice-Chancellors of the parties together?’ It would be, if Vice Chancellors existed. With his little flourishes – ‘tonight’s debate is about you!’ – he deployed his gameshow host mode. Clegg the Showman came armed with little catchphrases: ‘here they go again’ and ‘political point-scoring!’ ‘Style of old politics!’ But they lost their novelty effect this time – as he had.”

Lib Dem blogger Stephen Tall, however, writing on Liberal Democrat Voice, said that even though the polls had Cameron ahead, among floating voters, Clegg was the winner:

“Well, I guess seeing as Clegg was judged to have won the first two debates it was only fair that Cameron should have a consolation prize. 🙂 For me, it was a score draw, and I do wonder how far the narrow win for Cameron in the post-debate polls reflects more settled party preferences…

“It was certainly a better, more convincing performance from Cameron than in his first (disastrous) performance, or his second improved debate. Brown was less good tonight than in earlier debates – relatively speaking, I mean – less empathetic, more dogmatic, still just as tired.

“Clegg was under attack far more than in the first debate, but withstood the pressure well; his continuing calls for parties to work together better resonates with the public far more than it does with cynical politicos and hacks.

“It will be the headline ‘who won?’ results which get the media salivating, but perhaps the more significant result is to find out what undecided, floating voters thought: they, after all, are the ones who will decide the election. The only analysis I’ve seen so far – from Angus Reid – suggests that they broke decisively in Clegg’s favour.”

And James Macintyre, of the New Statesman, blogged that the final tv debate was “an anti-climax”, the three leaders performing solidly but none setting the world on fire. As for the audience questions, as with the previous two debates, they seemed to be dominated by “right-wing talking points”.
Macintyre wrote:

Presumably because of the BBC’s obsession with not being seen as left-wing, there was the usual right-wing orgy on immigration after a question from the right by a token black person. There was a question on housing and house prices from a wealthy accountant. And there was a question from the right on welfare. Foreign affairs did not get a look in…

“Brown, if we are honest, was solid, especially given the circumstances; but he was not electrifying. He appeared to do his best. But it may not have been the electrifying performance he needed. Surprisingly to some, Brown almost exclusively “went negative” in his final statement, adding to the — perhaps unfair — impression that he has a less positive, more desperate message to convey…

“The problem all along with these debates is the difference between how the candidates do on style and substance. Brown certainly didn’t win on the former; he may have won on the latter. But it may possibly be too little, too late. It could have been worse. But it certainly could have been better.

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2 Responses to “Final leaders’ debate: bloggers’ reaction”

  1. sarah

    I think the three leaders’ debates have had a pretty negative effect on political discourse and campaigning. (There are some benefits since more people have tuned in, but it really is pretty old style communication – novel for the UK, innovative, no.) The overweening focus on the ‘debates’ as the defining moments of the election campaign is obviously more appropriate to a presidential system rather than a parliamentary one. While Rory Bremner’s comment on the Daily Politics Show that people will look at their ballots and ask “Who are these people listed here? Where do I vote for Gordon Brown, Nick Clegg or David Cameron? “was a joke, it did get to the heart of the matter.
    The debates – the lead-up and the instant (did they look into the camera, did they sweat?) and then protracted post-mortems- have utterly dominated popular political coverage; the press entourage then tracks these same leaders around the country (you are lucky to get a glimpse of the actual candidate in the constituency involved) re-enforcing the message that it is ‘all about the leaders.’ (Looking more closely at the methodology of the polls of who ‘won’ would be useful, because they do frame discussion of ‘who’ is winning for days, but that would be a separate post).
    Of course, the ‘leaders’ are supposed to embody and lead the party and manifesto policies for which people will vote, but we need a lot more scrutiny of the teams available to form the government. Given ‘shadowing,’ there are ample resources and good reason to examine the politics and competence of potential ministers. There has been slight opportunity to do so: you have to be a real policy wonk or nerd to dig out these encounters.
    In the Populus poll (which asks some questions besides who won) the question (also a constant media meme) is posed about being ‘in touch with ordinary people.’ To answer this, it is just as important to think about/analyse what the House of Commons would ‘look like’ with different party outcomes. On the sidelines, there has been some comment that the LD surge could well produce a whiter than ever HC; there has been some useful comment (only here and in the Guardian, it seems) on how the campaign and its coverage is women-free (unless you are a wife). Is anyone profiling the class (or at least occupational and educational background) and gender and ethnic implications for its composition of different outcomes? I am not trying to be reductionalist/essentialist, but this is – at least – part of the answer to the question posed.
    The focus on the ‘leaders’ serves the Tory strategy well, since Brown has always been the focus of their attacks and given his poor communication skills, there was little to gain from submitting to this agenda.

    Let’s get back to Team Labour for the final stages of this campaign.

  2. Lady J

    Let it be known that I am not a Labour Party member; but I decided to write and submit this posting out of pure frustration of the media biais I am witnessig towards David Cameron and against Gordon Brown. The Daily Mail, The Sun, The daily Telegraph, The Obeserver and the Times etc, I expected to be biaiased, after all they are the rightwing mouthpiece of the Tories; but the BBC’s blatent cheerleading for a Cameron win and in particular Channel 4’s, with the Braodcaster I respected most, Jon Snow who has become the biggest cheerleader for the Tories makes me fear that our coutry has lost its democracy by the people for the people and has become a country whose prime Ministers is the one favoured and chosen by the media and not by the people.

    Team Labour, do not loose hope. I have a lot of faith in the British people, they will put the media to shame.

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