The Futility Monster

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

The Third Debate Post-Mortem

Posted by The Futility Monster on April 29, 2010 @ 23:08

Cameron holding court...

The news is in, and it’s not good.

I thought Nick Clegg had a very strong first third of the debate. He got stuck in, he stood ahead of the other two, and didn’t get bogged down in the partisan bickering. He addressed the questioner. He looked at the camera too. A perfect balance.

Then it all seemed to go wrong.

Make no mistake, Clegg did not slip up during this debate. He was fairly strong, and especially so when the second question about direct taxes was such a gift to him. And I absolutely admire his bold, principled, and utterly correct, stance on the immigrant amnesty.

After that though, it didn’t work so well. His closing statement in particular was very poor. Filled with waffle and an incoherent narrative. And why so many glances at notes during it? He didn’t do that in previous debates. Nerves, perhaps?

Meanwhile, I have to give it Cameron. I disagree with him in a lot of places. And I think he really is a Conservative in every fibre of his being. His is an agenda of extreme individualisation, the continuation of the Thatcher legacy that was only perpetuated by Blair.

But his poise, his political antennae, his soundbites and his narrative were mostly correct tonight. He was shameless in shoe-horning in the Euro in a perfect stroke of attacking his rivals. He bashed Gordon Brown to hell. He patronised Nick Clegg like he didn’t deserve to be playing with the grown-ups. Clegg reacted well, but the damage was already done.

And then his closing statement was much the stronger. Authoritative, stern, clear. He lost points for being caught out frowning too often, but it doesn’t seem to matter any more. He looked a bit greasy too, sometimes a bit too smooth with the way he tried to charm the questioner. I didn’t like it, but it doesn’t wash with me. I think the electorate will.

Gordon Brown, I thought, actually had a decent debate. He was his usual self, bashing through the numbers, playing the experience card time and time again. He should have said “this is no time for a novice” because it would have been appropriate. But he didn’t. He looked very edgy at the beginning, but warmed up, and delivered his worst to Nick Clegg largely by ignoring him.

Brown’s focus was broadly on David Cameron and the “same old Tories”. It, and the inheritance tax line, is his strongest suit. He did his damn hardest to play it. He made the point time and time again, even if it was totally tangential to the question. He’s certainly been trained well.

But it’s too late for him. The electorate has no empathy for him. The few left that do are all Labour supporters anyway.

Overall though, it was quite a boring debate, despite it being the most lively of them all in terms of attack. But maybe that’s what made it boring. It was all too much like the same old politics. Not like the first one, when Clegg looked fresh, new and took the other two apart for being stuck in the past.

Should it be repeated at the next election? Most definitely. It was long overdue, and has reinvigorated political debate in this country. It was filled with substance and character. It needs a little revision, and I just wish the media would reflect the actual content of the debate as well as who “won” it, but it has, broadly, given the politicians a more direct chance to engage with the electorate.

For today though, there was only one winner, and that was David Cameron. A Tory majority is now very much back on the cards.

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