The Futility Monster

He'll pointlessly derive more enjoyment out of your resources than you

The Debate Post-Mortem

Posted by The Futility Monster on April 16, 2010 @ 08:57

He's a happy chappy...

Yesterday, I posed three questions, and here are the answers:

  • Will David Cameron Seal The Deal? – NO
  • Can Nick Clegg Justify His Inclusion? – YES
  • Is Gordon Brown Capable Of Fighting Back? – NOT LIKELY

Apart from the BBC (who never take a stance even if it’s staring them in the face), everyone else is unanimous. The Mail called it a “shock victory” for Clegg. The Telegraph, The Times, The Independent, Sky News (and their bizarre voodoo poll), YouGov, ComRes, Populus, Angus Reid… even The Sun grudgingly had to admit it was Nick Clegg, though they quickly commissioned another poll asking “Who would make the best PM?” to restore their David Cameron love fest.

Yesterday I thought Cameron would win, and I thought Clegg could not get a clear victory. That position was wrong. Cameron made a serious tactical error by engaging only with Gordon Brown, arguing and bickering. Cameron reeled out anecdote after anecdote, failing to recognise that many anecdotes do not equal data, and that stories are no substitute for telling us your own vision. He was also a little nervous, a little tetchy, very cautious… and was caught out by the reaction shot time and again.

Cameron was supposed to do exactly what Clegg did. He was supposed to point to Gordon Brown’s wretched record and say that he is the only one who can deliver any sort of change. He was supposed to swat away the Lib Dems as an irrelevance. He was supposed to say that his new Conservative Party can fix the broken Britain.

Cameron’s nervousness at the start meant he took a while to get going. It’s widely acknowledged that he finished much better. He didn’t have a bad night, by any means. He still engaged with the debate well, but didn’t shine as I expected him to. Perhaps he didn’t take enough risks. His body language was definitely a net loser. Labour are spinning it’s because he can’t handle spontaneity, but I disagree with that. Maybe he just wasn’t in the zone. At least we get another two looks to see if there’s form.

As for Brown, probably the less said the better. Expectations were indeed low, and he just about reached them. He was dull, dry, but played to his strongest hand – his experience of government. The result being that he was able to make a case for an old hand on the wheel. However, he made no gaffes, and performed as he normally would in any TV interview: confident, determined, and totally oblivious to reality.

Clegg seized upon these missteps by continuously dismissing the two as the same old politics. They let him get away with that, to some extent, mindful that bashing the Lib Dems could be seen as picking on the smaller party, and that they may rely on them later. They won’t be so coy in the next debate, where Clegg will now be seen as fair game.


Brown is Brown. We know him extremely well by now. As such, he cannot do anything sensational that would ever result in a fightback. David Cameron had the most to lose, and he did suffer a small setback as a result of his below average sparring.

But Clegg clearly did justify his place at the table, was confident and assured, and the format of giving him a fair crack of the whip, and not having to answer questions on hung parliaments, suited his agenda very well.

Winning the first one is by far the biggest prize. The ratings will be much lower for the Sky News one, not just because it’s on a lesser channel, but also because the novelty factor is no longer there. The BBC one will be the next most important one. Clegg can afford to cruise a little in the next one, but Cameron will be out to get him, for sure. A more risk-taking approach from him may even the scores if he can strike the right tone.

One thing alone will prove whether Cameron is a quick learner. Will he copy Clegg’s debate style of looking down the lens more, of addressing particular members of the audience (even by name), and of using gestures to show his separation from “the other two”?

There were no gaffes, no major errors. Which is good, in many ways. It made the debate more about the arguments, and the presentation. And on that score, there was plenty to get stuck into…


One Response to “The Debate Post-Mortem”

  1. Peter Reynolds said

    That’s all very well but what if the volcano doesn’t stop?

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