>Prime Ministerial Debates

>We’ve now had the second televised leader’s debate in UK history.

Let me know what you thought about what was said.

  1. Who won?
  2. Who dissapointed?
  3. What policy issues were you particularly pleased with or particularly not?
  4. Did the debate really make history? Will it affect votes?


  • >1. Nick Clegg. Actually, I thought it followed a very similar pattern to the 'Chancellors'' debate the other week, with the Lib Dems ahead by quite a distance with the other two more or less on a par. I think Cameron probably edged Brown this time though, who was unnecessarily aggressive at times.2. Brown needs to seriously up his game on the economy. Cameron is scoring easy hits with his 'job tax' rhetoric. Brown needs to find a way of dismantling that, perhaps by explaining exactly how it would work, explaining why he believes it necessary (perhaps highlight the fact that the Tories have promised a lot but not even begun to cost it. They talk about rolling back the state in favour of the 'big society' – if you add that to his refusal to commit to any tax rise, what is going to happen to vital public services and jobs?), and focusing on his own big theme of fairness (i.e. taking a tax rise away from employers and earners of >£20,000 and raising the inheritance tax threshold and giving handouts to married couples, some of which will be very rich indeed, leaving significant public service cuts and/or indirect tax rises that affect the poorest disproportionally – e.g. VAT – is hardly 'fair'). In other words, we need to make up the deficit in a way that is clear (the Tories', even if we accept that such a plan exists, which is generous, is not) and fair (the Conservative manifesto, as I point out above, has seriously unfair implications). If he doesn't attack this effectively Brown will get a beating in the economic debate. This was the biggest disappointment.3. Clegg was surprisingly excellent on both crime and immigration, areas traditionally seen as strongholds of the right. He came across as fresh, reasoned and sensible and, echoing one of the many strengths of the Lib Dem manifesto, he was effectively able to link both of these issues to the economic recovery. You'd expect him to boss the political reform question, as he did, but not necessarily immigration and crime. Well played.4. It has made history in that it is the first of what will now, almost-certainly, become a healthy tradition in UK politics. Credit to all three as well, I think they were all generally statesmanlike, polite and, best of all, focused exclusively on issues rather than personality; I think the whole thing will have done UK politics and politicians a deal of good.Will it affect votes? Well, the really, really exciting thing for political geeks like myself is that we just do not know. It has added a whole new dimension and factor to be considered by psephologists and political scientists – at least in this country – and that really is terribly exciting. My hunch is that it won't make much difference to the relationship between Labour and the Conservatives (the US debates, which feature only the Democratic and Republican candidates, rarely make much difference), but if the first two (including the Chancellors' debate) are even nearly replicated over the next fortnight I think the Lib Dems will get a boost, which is hopefully a pleasing dint in the armour of the old two-party system. But, really, I don't know.I absolutely loved it, I really did. Continued…

  • >For all its strengths – and there were many – there are two major issues as far as I can see:1. Jon Snow, for one, isn't keen on this presidential-style spectacle taking place in a Parliamentary system where, ultimately, most of us are not going to vote for any of these men. Personally, I think for good or ill we are in a highly-centralised party system now and, at the very least, to have these leaders acting as spokespeople for the manifestos (which is a big part of what last night was) is very helpful on many levels, not least the discussion we just had about people being aware of issues before voting. I don't have a problem with this, though philosophically I can see where Snow is coming from.2. More valid, I think, is the sense that this was an incomplete picture. It might have been impractical, if not impossible, to have every national and regional party present, but this would nonetheless have been more desirable. The SNP and Plaid have been very noisy about this, and probably rightly so (though there is now going to be a regional debate); the Greens, BNP and UKIP less so (at least, I haven't heard them), but I can't help but feel that for all its advantages it might, if it does affect the vote at all, transform a two party system into a 2.5 or 3 party one; in other words, the smaller parties will be further squeezed out. Of course, we simply cannot know just yet, but that is a genuine fear.

  • >1. Yes everyone agrees Clegg took the victory. It's a bit more difficult with who came second though. For me it was Brown, and on the ITV online comments, as well as on Twitter it was the same. But over all the most reliable polls put Cameron second. Cameron's approach both won and lost him points. By being calm he managed to convince people that he really was a new, 'nice' Conservative. As you said Brown did try and intimidate Cameron once or twice (though you can't blame him too much for that as it was nothing compared to PMQs, which he's obviously become used to). Yet at the same time he came accross as so calm and un-aggressive that he seemed to lack the passion shown by Clegg. 2. Online voters put a majority of support with Brown as the most trusted on the economy. However you're right that Brown does need to up his game here. It should be stomping ground for him yet he failed to hammer home the flaws of the other party's policies e.g. by dis-counting a higher NI tax Cameron would most likely need to implement a higher VAT.It was also a dissapointment for Clegg to come off largely un-criticized. Cameron did try and critize Clegg at one point and did, I think, come off the worse for it. So perhaps Cameron and Brown backed off of him a little too much in fear? But Brown was definitely not eager to attack Clegg nonetheless. In fact quite the opposite; he tried to cozy up to him by highlighting agreements.The biggest shock for me was how little passion Cameron seemed to display. But as I'm pretty much whole heartedly opposed to the Tories it's not so bad for me.3. I was dissapointed that all three party leaders failed to make much use of the stats. Clegg did this to a degree by talking about figures of money, for example that £12 bn (I'm unsure on that figure becuase some say less and some more but I think it was what Clegg said) would be saved by scrapping Trident. But the on the whole they tried to rely on human interest stories rather than using any empirical evidence.Though not to let Clegg get off scot-free, I disagree with his policy on Trident. I think we would be better served giving our nuclear arsenal to a specially formed international body within the UN (so long as rigorous steps were taken to avoid corruption, and the power of employment was given to the General Assembly). This way we would achieve:. Save money as members could share costs.. Allow all members the protection of a nuclear deterrent.. Give a real argument to rogue states such as Iran for not arming. After all it's all very nice of the US to cut its arsenal but at the end of the day it's Israel that is Iran's major security concern. As long as Israel has the power of nuclear weapons and the Arab, Persian and Muslim worlds do not, then we will see attempts to arm.. Maintain a nuclear deterrent.. Present the UK as a generous, peace-loving and protecting nation around the world.4. Could not agree more. Well said! Who do you think was the most statesmen like?I think that you could well be right about the Lib Dems taking the votes of the minor parties. Perhaps we may one day see such debates in every constituency, with every candidate being given a voice? I think a lot of people would like that to be the case.P.S. Fingers crossed for Clegg performing as well in the next two debates and not making any serious cock-ups outside of the debates. If that happens I think we could well see a huge shift in UK politics. I'm doubtful that Clegg can win the election outright but imagine if what we saw was not a hung election with Cameron or Brown as PM but Clegg. That would certainly be interesting!

  • >Just to clarify on use of the stats I meant stats about future projections not past performance. I'm well aware Brown used plenty of them.

  • >I was a little dissapointed by the 2nd debate. A common quote on the news straight after (I'm watching it now) is "You can't put a cigarette paper between them". I think there are important differences. But there were still far too many similarities (on all issues).Cameron and Brown clearly bounced back well after their humiliating defeats last week. They showed much more passion and belief in their policies. Unfortunately Clegg seems to have let the events get to him as well. Although he still handled himself well he definitely lost that eager passion to promote real change. If you watch what he says he often pauses before starting, speaks much more calmly than last time, and ends by looking straight back down to his notes rather than holding eye contact until the camera leaves him.Once again I'm surprised at the polls. It seems that each one is coming off with an exact third in polls conducted immediately after the debate. This means that Brown, who was last, did best. I actually agree, but would have thought the anti-Brown sentiment would have meant that Cameron came out on top. Of course though more accurate polls will be released tommorrow. The biggest dissapointment for me was the lack of any guiding visions put forward as to where they want Britain to be after the recession. The closest is of course the Conservative's 'Big Society'. But what does that really involve? For me it's the height of hypocrisy for such an ambiguous plan to be laid out with no real visible substance.

  • >I've just watched the first third of the last debate. Cameron and Brown are awful! They're bickering between each other, not responding to the questions properly, and repeating arguments without proper justification or pragmatic debating. Cameron and Brown, by only responding to each other, are letting Clegg trash them!

  • >Ironically, after that last comment, the polls say that Clegg suffered quite a bit at Cameron's hands on immigration (coming second in the polls behind Conservatives but ahead of Labour). They did get down to debating actual policies as opposed to what happened in the last debates. However they certainly did not address the questions asked to them, and they still acted in a childish manner.Brown failed to make his needed come back after the disaster of earlier in the day when he was caught on recording calling a voter a "biggoted woman". Yet in his behalf he seemed to want to say more but didn't know how to say it in lamens terms. It's the one real flaw of democracy that the majority of the electorate simply can't vote on a lot of things that politicians vote on because they have been through the same education, and haven't had the same experience.

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