Friday, 16 April 2010

Clegg wins first TV debate by a mile

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Well after all the hype and fuss, the Prime Ministerial Debates on TV turned out to be fascinating for the hacks and politicos and vaguely interesting for the rest of the 9 million who tuned in to ITV. Alastair Campbell [Ed - After comment below Stewart!] the host was very annoying with his shouting at the candidates and constantly uinterrupting them, just as they sometimes were getting into interesting exchanges. He seemed desperate to hurry them through the prescribed agenda and list of questions, rather than professionally guiding the event and making it more natural.
Gordon Brown, Nick Clegg and David Cameron

Nick Clegg won it by a mile. Generally relaxed, confident and full of clear ideas. Yes there was less pressure on him to perform but hey try saying that when you are up in front of the cameras on the most important hustings of your life. Heck the pressure was on all three. Clegg though worked the TV studio audience and whilst still indulged in a little of the yah boo politics, he generally stuck to substantive policy statements. The Lib Dems were ecstatic afterwards and so they should be, Clegg deserves to take the plaudits after that performance.

Now for David Cameron. I was amazed at how poor he performed. He didn’t seem comfortable sandwiched between the other two. He gave luke warm answers and was too feeble when Brown tried to attack him. Cameron clearly was feeling the pressure and keen (if not desperate) not to drop a clanger that could cost him the election. Unfortunately, that wariness came over and he looked blown away by the cock sure confidence of Clegg next to him. Cameron was the biggest loser of the night.
Gordon Brown lived up to expectations, which were pretty low. Gordon is no Tony and it showed. He tried very hard to land a few punches by drawing Cameron on the specifics of where the Tory cuts of £6 billion would land within 9 months of coming to power. Brown gave substantive replies but his delivery was clunky. But that’s just the way he is and no one could seriously expect him over night to turn into JFK. So overall I thought he did better than expected.

So the key question now is what will happen to the opinion polls?

YouGov poll afterwards gave Clegg 43%, Cameron 26% and Brown 20% in terms of who won the debate. The Times Populus poll gave Clegg an even big lead. That may give the Lib Dems a shot in the arm of 2 or 3 points (after the polls settle down) over the coming week. The chances are that if say they go up by 3% then 2% will come from the Tory support and 1% from Labour.

Whilst the polls are bouncing around it is very difficult to decide where they currently are now. However, if we take say the BBC Tracker then yesterday Conservatives 39%, Labour 32%, Lib Dem 20%.

Already today that has changed to Con 37%, Lab 31%, Lib Dem 21%. I suspect that the Lib Dems may even edge up another point or so in the next few days.

On a rough and ready uniform swing over the country:-
Party
Seats
Con
285 seats
Lab
278 seats
Lib Dem
58 seats
Other
29 seats
Total
650 seats

This gives us a hung parliament with Cameron 41 seats short of the magic 326 to form an outright party. However if Brown can do the deal with Clegg then Lab-Lib Dem have 336 seats and would have a working majority (for now).

Note – If the Conservatives lose 1 point and the Lib Dems gain 1 point directly (Con 36%, Lab 31%, Lib Dem 22%) the numbers change as follows:-

Party
Seats
Con
271 seats
Lab
291 seats
Lib Dem
59 seats
Other
29 seats
Total
650 seats

Whilst the Lib Dems may gain one extra seat the Conservatives lose 14 seats and Labour gain 13 seats putting Brown in the driving seat with a potential 350 Coalition majority. All of this, of course, is based on uniform swings across the country, which simply will not happen. There will be umpteen local variations BUT the message is clear; if Clegg does well in the next two debates and continues to snick a point or two off the Conservatives then Cameron’s expectation of the keys to Number Ten will start to collapse. 

No wonder Peter Mandelson looks so quietly confident as he trails Brown around the studios watching over him do the interviews. 

Mandelson knows that after all the talk that Labour were finished last year and Brown could not possible win, the odds are shortening on a Lab-Lib Dem Coalition.

We await the next TV debate with interest.

9 comments:

  1. You meant Alistair Stewart presumably not Alistair Campbell - confusion in Scottish names!
    At constituency level, the rising number of ex-Labour votes going to the Lib Dems, but also UKIP, BNP and the Greens will indeed make a substantial difference. Splitting of the anti-Labour vote will make it very hard for the Conservatives to gain a majority.
    It was obvious that David Cameron had a game plan given to him not to lay heavily into his opponents and thus come over as a borish vote losing public school bully. He was also in the weakest position standing back in the middle - a bit like a tennis umpire having to look both ways and therefore direct his arguments at one or the other opponent, but never both - and with the camera elsewhere.
    Next time it is likely that Cameron and Clegg will change places - Brown will probably want to stay where he is on stage left. That will give Cameron the positional advantage over Clegg and it will be a week nearer to the election.
    With so much total ignorance and disinterest about politics in a sustantial rump of the population, the only likely result of the debates is that the Conservatives will find it harder to gain seats.
    Of course, adopting a long term perspective, a Labour Liberal Coalition could in fact be the best possible result for Cameron - ensuring a large Conservative majority in 2014/5 in a much better economic climate for growth and prosperity. (A Kinnock victory in 1992 with Black Wednesday could have changed everything - giving us 13 years of Conservative rule from 1997 - 2010, and with Tony Blair unable to grasp the leadership!)

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  2. Whoops! Apologies, trying to write too quickly. Yep Alistair Stewart - thank you.
    Agreed totally that if a Lab-Lib Dem Coalition comes into Government in 2010 it will be a tough economic climate with dramatic cuts in services. Cameron ultimately would then benefit and if the Coalition broke early he could be in Number Ten before 2014/15 (See earlier post http://paulwbmarsden.blogspot.com/search/label/UK%20general%20election).
    Thank you for your comments.
    Paul

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  3. Certainly cue for a new blog "Is this the election you don't really want to win"

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  4. I think there's truth in:

    "It was obvious that David Cameron had a game plan given to him not to lay heavily into his opponents and thus come over as a borish vote losing public school bully."

    To my eye, the most interesting parts of the debate were Clegg vs. Cameron and I think that the former could well illicit the latter's anger in the upcoming debates: http://bit.ly/aMzxcg

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  5. Thanks David.
    This is the election that is proving to be fascinating for those with an interest in elections! You can be sure of many more Blogs on this issue and plenty of other issues.
    Thank you for reading!
    Best wishes.
    Paul

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  6. Thanks Bob.
    I agree with you that Cameron had the game plan as you describe, which back fired. Next time he will surely be better prepared?
    Cheers
    Paul

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  7. I personally want the Lib Dems to win the election! would be great for a change! I have no love lost for Labour or the Tories

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  8. I take back my initial comment about wanting Lib Dems to win....found out about some undesirable aspects of the party. Scratching the veneer, I am not impressed by the grain. The character of a party matters so much more than cheap talk. Now I will have to make a choice between Labour and Conservatives!

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  9. Well Anonymous, there is plenty of time to check out all the parties' policies.
    Perhaps tune into the next TV debate tomorrow, Thursday 22nd April at 8pm on Sky News?

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