So it’s time for the second leader debate tomorrow. This one should focus on international affairs, so it’s likely Gordon Brown will be on the defensive when talking about Afghanistan, Iraq, and the “special” relationship with the USA.
But Brown should have been on the back-foot in the first debate on domestic policy, yet Clegg’s style and Brown’s substance somehow combined to force Cameron into a box. The Conservative leader was most popular when talking on the ‘British jobs for British workers’ immigration debate and that causes an issue for the Tories. They have consistently tried playing to the middle-ground in an effort to win back the Conservative voters who deserted the party for the New Labour project, but if he feels support is coming from sounding tougher, harder right, and less empathetic, then what can he do?
Those views will resonate with old-school Tories, and probably the party membership. But he won’t win the election by sounding like Michael Howard used to. Especially when Cleggmania means the Lib Dems are now on a charm offensive with Vince Cable already the most trusted politician in the UK.
Clearly, with the present first-past-the-post voting system, there is no chance of a Lib Dem majority, but a surge in support for Clegg means we are aiming for another Labour government (if Lib Dem support is mainly poached from Tory areas) or a hung parliament in which a Lab-Lib coalition will carve up power between them.
Whatever your politics, this has to be the most closely-fought and exciting British political battle in a generation. And it’s all over the TV and Internet in a way that was not imaginable at even the most recent general election. I’ll be blogging the debate live for Reuters, so lookout on their politics page for my comments as the leaders speak…
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Tagged cleggmania, conservative, david cameron, election, gordon brown, Labour, lib dem, liberal democrats, nick clegg, party, reuters, tory, vince cable
2m tuned in live to watch the Chancellor’s debate live on Channel 4 last night (I was live-blogging it for Reuters). Yet if viewing figures are to be believed, something like 4 times as many watched both Eastenders and Coronation St on different channels.
So was it worthwhile even bothering? The people who will really decide the election are those watching the soaps, and the key issue is going to be whether they are fed up of Labour after 13 years or whether they don’t believe that Cameron and his Tories offer any real alternative.
One thing is clear, they are not bothered enough to stop watching the soaps so they could spend an hour watching the politicians love-in.
Many are calling the experiment a failure and already denouncing the US-style leader debates planned for later in the election campaign. But is it any real surprise? So many people are disaffected and uninterested in politics it could be argued conversely that to get 2m live viewers for a political debate on a Monday evening, plus all the online activity and debate, is actually a great success.
I think it’s useful to get the politicians on TV and on the spot. Like all TV, it’s not possible to delve into detail. So many questions were left unanswered during the debate yesterday because it would be too boring or technical to drill into tax codes, but a lot of politics is about trust in leaders and the TV debates do help to establish who is confident of finding a solution, and who the public enjoy hearing.
Policies and ideology matter, but skilled presentation wins votes.
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Tagged alistair darling, askthechancellors, c4, chancellors, channel 4, conservative, debate, election, george osborne, Labour, lib dem, news, politicians, tv, vince cable