Last night saw the United Kingdom’s first political party leader debate, shaped and inspired by the USA’s own presidential debates and displaying an impressive showdown rightly described by the leader of the Liberal Democrats as, “just the start”. To give my own outline, David Cameron was shown to be hollow, and the weakest of the three, Gordon Brown surprisingly managed to demonstrate control, depth to his answers and humor, as well as vast experience, whilst Nick Clegg came out from his traditional sideline position to take to the political stage as a serious contender in now imminent election.
It was Gordon Brown’s performance that was pleasantly the most surprising. The man stood with the most to loose; the debate could have easily involved a large amount of finger pointing into Labour’s grimmer government history, demanding an explanations for the many flaws and mistakes. But it didn’t, and when it did, Brown was able to fend off attacks well, whilst cunningly aligning himself with the Lib Dems to move into an appealing compromising and central ground. Furthermore, it was Brown who dared to joke first, quipping at Cameron, “this is answer time David”, although unfortunately to voters this seems to have appeared heavily planned and poorly executed with a trademark foolish grin. Bu Brown is far too often misunderstood, and it’s really not hard to see through the media and get to the heart of the man that seems to often struggle to present himself.
Cameron certainly let himself down. He perhaps had the most to loose in these debates with the Conservatives having been at the top of the polls for several years now, and he certainly lost a lot of respect. Before the debate began, his party had steeped to low levels by plastering poster’s depicting the Browns as royalty. The posters lacked in taste (not to mention policy!) and were full of irony coming from the Conservative party… Cameron’s words on nuclear deterrent – let’s be real, his words on nuclear war – were unprofessional and rash to say the least, and didn’t reflect well at all, particularly as Cameron was typically the most reserved and cautious throughout the debate. Cameron is slimy, scheming and deceitful, and of the three party leaders he is potentially the most dangerous and least trustworthy. This is the man, of course, who cycles to appeal to environmentalists, but has his car driven behind him…
Nick Clegg, although hailed as the clear winner, came across holding very little substance. Perhaps this has always been the case with the Lib Dems, but having been so impressed with his speech made at The University of Manchester, where he described the scene at Westminster even before the expenses scandal as a “crisis in government”, where “real change” would be needed in order to get the public involved and interested in politics. Clegg certainly speaks with many overarching statements that I agree with, and he often rightly points his finger at the current government for not following up on its own overarching statements, but will his party (should they get into power) actually implement the changes they want to make, or even claim they want to make? Clegg scored this first victory having been rarely attacked. Future debates will not see him get away so easy, and it’ll be interesting to see how his policies are now scrutinized.
Personally, I was surprised by the public’s new reaction to Clegg. But on reflection, it’s a very natural conclusion. The upcoming election has often been described as “an unpopularity contest”, and with the public fed up with the Tories, and now the public fed up with Labour, it shouldn’t be at all surprising that the Lib Dem’s Nick Clegg was the most well-received last night. On the other hand, it is certain that nobody would have been able to predict the outcome of the first debate, and nor will anybody be able to predict the outcome of the debates to follow. The results of the next general election have been plunged into uncertainty.