Friday, 16 April 2010

They've just finished waffling on to each other, and you could have predicted the outcome without even watching the debate. Brown was bumbling and useless, unable to say anything worthwhile; Cameron did okay on the whole, making some good points; and Clegg won in terms of connecting with people and showing himself as being separate from "the two old parties."

ITV pollsters phoned people after the debate to gauge reactions, and these were the results:

It's good to seen Gordo in third place in each poll, but how on earth Brown he is still getting more than 1% I'll never understand, but such are the mysteries of life. Maybe they phoned Sarah Brown a number of times. Anyway here's my own short, and very bias, analysis. I'm going to do my best to judge on who won on policy, and not on orating and being connected with the people, because the order would always be Clegg, Cameron, Brown if that was the case. I also don't consider presentation and style to be important - Labour like to say that Brown may not be good at style, but he's got substance - but I can't agree with that.

My ranking
My ranking of the debate

Above is my ranking, not based on the poll results above. It was easy for me to place Labour in third place - some of what Gordon was saying was so insane that the notes I was taking turned into violent, angry scribbles - but I had far more trouble deciding between 1st and 2nd place. I almost ended up with Clegg in first, but I felt I would be judging on style and not policy if I did that. Cameron did a good job of setting out his policies - common sense and apparently popular suggestions on immigration and prison sentences and policing. I was also particularly impressed with Cameron and how he kept managing to make Gordon look a fool - though he doesn't really need any help doing that. The leader of the Conservatives put across his point for cutting wasteful spending, but Brown kept coming back with the argument that we can't start cutting now because it will put the economic recovery at risk. Apparently instead we're supposed to keep on wasting money until a year or two down the line, because wasting the money of taxpayers is keeping the economy afloat - all those big and successful  businesses that employ a huge amount of people and disagree are obviously just stupid liars. Okay then. Brown also showed himself up by seemingly promising to ringfence everything under the sun - the NHS, education, and policing will all be immune from cutbacks under a Labour government, so he kept trying to make the Conservatives look bad because Cameron wouldn't pledge to do the same. There's a reason for that - if you ringfence all of those, the burden will fall more heavily upon the other departments, and according to the Spectator, would result in a whopping 25% being hacked off from other areas. That's a quarter of all budgets except the ones Gordy has put a fence around. He kept asking Cameron whether he'd pledge to do the same, to which Cameron ought to have given a straightforward answer that said it wasn't possible and that it would be more damaging to do so, and for education, he should have outlined their somewhat revolutionary plans to give power to parents and teachers to set up their own schools. Unfortunately he tried to step around it, making it look like he was dodging the question. I think, had there been less pressure and fewer constraints, Cameron could have done a better job of defending his party's policies and highlighting the weaknesses in Labour's.

Brown then did a jolly good show of pretending to be a reformer again, mentioning again those wonderful Labour plans to give us a referendum on the AV, and to democratise the House of Lords. They've only left it 13 years, after all, and it's most certainly not a transparent attempt to win Liberal Democrat support in the event of a hung Parliament. How absurd of you to suggest such a thing!

Let's not forget Clegg in all this. Aside from being a wonderful orator and seeming to be more in-touch with the audience than the other two, he raised the issue of the Trident nuclear weapons still being renewed at a time when public services are going to suffer. Some would argue that we need to keep up to date with our nuclear deterrent, but for others - including myself - I find it tough to believe we should be cutting important services when still upgrading killing machines that will almost certainly never be needed. Even the USA and Russia are scaling back, but our little island is apparently likely to come under fire from nuclear bombs at any given moment. However, as was evident by the status update of a chum on Facebook that declared: "Nick Clegg u have just lost my support!", not everyone is enthusiastic about this policy.

Oh, and I grimaced at the end when Brown darted away from where he had been told to stand  at the end of the debate - with the other two leaders on the platform whilst the camera zoomed out - and jumped straight for the chance to shake hands with the audience. There he is, Brown - man of the people. He'll shake your hand and pretend to care until the 6th May. Either he's got a short-term memory and can't even remember to stand where he was told, or more likely, it was Mandelson's stroke of genius, who probably said: "Ohh, Prime Minister, wouldn't it be a good idea to go and shake hands with the audience, leaving the other two looking aloof and out of place? You'll do it if you know what's good for you", and then oozed back off to his plotting cupboard. Yes, he has a plotting cupboard.

Whilst I'm at it, I ought to have my moan about these debates in general. I don't like them. We've been moving towards a Presidential style of politics for a while now, but this was the final step. We've put the leaders on the box to battle it out, and are now encouraged to choose a Prime Minister, not a candidate in our area who is a member of the party whose policies we believe in. If people were choosing in personality alone, it would be a landslide for Clegg, but policy is what matters, and I fear that it is being sidetracked for slick, styled, and planned public appearances on the telly. Someone on an online live feed even commented that "Cameron's collar looks slightly wonky". Is this what we've been reduced to? Of course, I realise this is all grossly hypocritical, since I've just spent the last 1,500 words talking about it, but I'd like to think I've at least tried to relate to policy, and not just the way they came off to the public. (Gok Wan's guest article is coming tomorrow - he'll be commenting upon the all-important suits and ties of the leaders...)
At any rate, we've seen the massive impact these sort of events can have. Nick Clegg being allowed to take part has put his party  on a far more equal footing with the two main parties, and he was able to shine. I still think there's next to no chance that his party can win the election, but if he can grab enough votes from Labour and the Conservatives, he could ensure a hung Parliament, which gives him the opportunity to strike  coalition. (For all that is good and holy, please choose the Conservatives. Thanks.)

Finally, you may have noticed that I'm not going hammer and tongs at these leaders, attacking them for daring to be members of large political parties with their evil Whips and such, particularly if you read my article which was a tirade against the Digital Economy Bill's passing. Anger does many things - clearly it causes me to type too fast and go a bit mental, as well as causing me to make statements that are far too sensationalist. I stand by the view outlined in that article that there are many things wrong with our current system, but having argued with myself recently (don't you argue with yourself?) I concluded that is was mostly the ravings of a tired and, for a short while, disillusioned and boring teenager who needed to eat some bourbon biscuits to calm himself and take a step back from his mentalness. Having consumed these bourbon biscuits, I'm far less insanely dogmatic and angry, though I still find the whole Whipping system malarkey to be rather disturbing, resulting in our MPs putting party before people.

Nick Clegg u have just lost my support!N

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