Friday, April 23, 2010

Lib Dem leader narrowly won debate, Guardian ICM poll finds.

I watched the last forty minutes of it on TV last night, and will watch the whole thing on line later today, but the polls are saying that Clegg won the debate.

I thought Brown looked much better than he did last week and that Cameron continued to talk about the rise in national insurance as if it was the greatest threat to the recovery that anyone could possibly imagine. He sounded ridiculous and was clearly playing to what he considered his strong point, which made him seem partisan in a way in which the others somehow avoided.

But all the party leaders appeared to have upped their game from last week.

Gordon Brown, giving a far more prime-ministerial performance, opened by admitting: "If it is all about style and PR, count me out." But he made some pointed attacks and rounded on Clegg in particular over the Liberal Democrats' stance on nuclear disarmament, telling him to "get real".

David Cameron was noticeably more relaxed, although he failed to deliver the key knockout blow against Clegg that he needs at some point if he is to secure an overall majority at the election. The Tory leader repeatedly argued that his was the only party that could deliver change.

"It's clear from last week's debate that the country wants change but the question is: what sort of change and who is best placed to lead that change? If you vote Conservative you will get a new team and you won't be stuck with what you've got now," he said.

At the only point in the debate in which he appeared to get angry, he accused Brown of sanctioning leaflets full of lies over Tory plans to cut pensioners' benefits.

Last night's outcome suggests that the dynamics of the campaign – which saw the Lib Dems emerge as a powerful third force in the election – have not been reversed.

As soon as the debate ended, George Osborne popped up to repeat Cameron's point about Brown supposedly sanctioning leaflets telling lies about Tory plans to cut pensioners benefits - he even waved leaflets around as he spoke - so it's clear that they think this should be the next big story.

But all three were noticeably better than last week, with Brown even managing to look more prime ministerial than the others.

An hour after the end of the debate, a Guardian/ICM poll of 504 voters who watched the broadcast gave Clegg a narrow win, with the Lib Dem leader on 33% and Cameron and Brown on 29% each.

Brown, however, was considered the best potential prime minister of the three: he was on 35%, with Cameron on 33% and Clegg on 26%.

The Sun instantly announced Cameron as the winner, but we expected that nonsense from them.

The truth is that all three did much better than last week, with Cameron still failing to deliver any kind of knock-out blow.

I have always been of the opinion that the guy leading in the polls is an idiot if he agrees to unnecessary debates, as I argued when McCain was trying to get Obama to debate more. Cameron was foolish to agree to debate Brown and Clegg when he was so clearly ahead in the polls. He had everything to lose and nothing to gain.

These debates have not helped his cause. Indeed, they have positively hindered him. Brown, on the other hand, used the debates to turn one of his weaknesses into a strength.

"This may have the feel of a TV popularity contest. But in truth, this election is a fight for Britain's future. Your future and your jobs. If it's all about style and PR, count me out. But if you want someone to make decisions, and with the judgment and a plan for the future, I'm your man.

"Like me or not, I have a plan for Britain's future. And the way to do it is with a majority Labour government."

He played his cards as well as he could. Cameron continues to under perform, and Clegg is still using the fact that no-one believes he can win to his advantage. This election remains too tight to call.


This is how bad things are looking for the Tories. UK Polling Report are predicting Labour fall short of being able to form a government by 59 seats, whilst beating the Tories by 267 seats to 255.

At that point I presume we have a Labour/Lib Lab pact and Cameron slinks off to obscurity.


The British media is overwhelmingly owned by right-wing billionaires who order their newspapers to build up the politicians who serve their interests, and marginalise or rubbish the politicians who serve the public interest. David Yelland, the former editor of The Sun, bravely confessed this week that as soon as he took his post, he was told the Lib Dems had to be "the invisible party, purposely edged off the paper's pages and ignored". Only a tiny spectrum of opinion was permitted. Everyone to the left of Tony Blair (not hard) had to be rubbished – even when their policies spoke for a majority of British people.
Both TV debates, then, have been a very rare moment in which a slightly more liberal-left voice could speak to the public without the distorting frame of pre-emptive abuse and smears. When, for example, have you ever heard the EU defended as plainly and clearly? The window of permissible opinion was opened a little – and people responded with a wave of enthusiasm. It could've been opened wider still – to the Greens, say – and found a receptive audience too.
These debates might prove more important than any of us could have predicted. Those crazy progressive notions have made most Brits rather giddy with excitement.

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