I watched the second Leaders debate last night on Sky News. With two weeks to go until the GE and after Nick Clegg’s unanimous defeat of his rivals in last week’s debate, he woke yesterday morning to splashed headlines about dodgy financial transactions he was supposedly involved in. Largely dismissed by all as cynical and imaginative press reporting, the incident did add some extra spice to the build up to the debate on foreign policy.
It was a far more intense debate than a week before. No nerves, tactics altered and some fascinating and frank exchanges between David Cameron (Cons. Leader) and Gordon Brown (Labour Leader and PM). Nick Clegg (Lib. Dem. Leader) chose his moments well but was left behind in places and didn’t bag as many points as he did last week, a result I think, due to the tactical changes from the other two.
It was, though, as many expected when it came to specific topics. On being in Europe, Cameron was all for a referendum and used sentences like “the UN Security Council allows us to ‘punch above our weight’” to reinforce his national pride. Brown was pro-Euro, as we already knew, and Clegg may have lost points with his pro-Euro with reform stance.
Moving to the possibility of future missions to relieve other nations of terrorists, Brown held strong to pay tribute to the Forces, defended his position on Trident and promised an Armed Forces review in the next parliament. Heard it before. Cameron went one further to include the importance of the political situation in getting troops home, and Clegg opposed both wanting a full review of Trident and the exploration of new methods for “fighting new kinds of terrorist”.
On climate change there was nothing really exciting other than Brown’s surprise promotion of solar power and Cameron’s scare tactics when discussing 2017 as Britain’s “lights out” year. The nuclear debate popped up and sparked some exchange with Clegg vehemently anti-nuclear primarily due to cost, and Brown a staunch promoter of it. Whether voters are thinking about that at voting time I’m not so sure.
The three leaders seemed to be more or less agreed that the Pope’s visit was a good thing and should be welcomed in varying degrees, but it was on the subject of cleaning up politics where things really got heated.
Brown reiterated his position from the week before, insisting that any MP should be punished through the courts if “the guidelines we have laid down are broken”. One wonders why they are just guidelines and not enforced rules.
David Cameron had another beef, expressing his outrage at Brown for publishing leaflets that “told lies to scare people” and that “he should be ashamed of himself”, when it was revealed that all the policy initiatives the leaflet claimed the Tories would remove were not in fact in their plans at all. Brown denied he authorised the smear leaflets and images of spin doctors running around to verify this sprung to mind.
The subject of immigration stirred up some interesting debate, with Clegg’s proposed amnesty for existing immigrants involving community service being pounced on by Brown, who insisted his measures of a new points system, national ID cards, biometric visas and deportation were the best ways to act as a deterrent and insurance of a solid and fair immigration policy. Cameron insisted both his opponents were “dancing around the real issues” and that capping was important in dealing with the problem. When pushed by Clegg over what the capping figure should be, however, Cameron squirmed silently and managed to avoid answering.
As for their manner and style front of the cameras, there were noticeable differences from last week. Brown had switched to a more serious mood, reducing the number of poorly delivered deliberate sound bites. His tie was back to Party red, enforcing his strong Labour ethos and traditional values.
Cameron appeared more passionate this week and his tie, deep purple (the Queen’s colour) as opposed to Party blue, which indicated to me a subtle hint that he felt he was ready to take his oath and Office. Clegg wore the same tie as last week; gold and shiny a poor choice because if he is riding a wave he needs to show adaptability before he crashes into the shore like all waves eventually do.
Overall I’d say it was pretty evenly rated. Brown lost and Clegg triumphed in the polls again, but I think it was all a lot closer than before. Brown’s tactics worked but his style and delivery will always let him down. Cameron pipped Clegg but not by much. It is proving to be a fascinating contest.
According to the Sky News live Internet stream, members of the Press laughed at Brown during the debate and the young people that had gathered to watch the debate on the big screen outside the venue cheered for Clegg. Two factors that tell you what kind of GE campaign this has been so far.
Next week, the third and final debate before the vote on 6th May. The subject will be the economy and it will be a pivotal debate in the final lead-up. Whoever wins the debate will be in a great position. If Brown loses the third debate I think it will be Cameron’s election to lose.
The Friday video – T-SHIRT WAR!!!
Sounds like there’s at least some content and there are actual debates there. Here, what’s called a “debate” is more of a blah=blah-blah that’s marketing b.s. without any actual content.
Of course, the ignorant still buy it if it’s well-delivered.