The UK’s Second Prime Ministerial TV Debate

Round two of the leader’s debate ended last night with the two “old party” leaders, David Cameron and Gordon Brown, catching up with Nick Clegg’s original lead. The second debate saw a more quickly paced three-way duel of policies and personalities.

Again, the conservatives were seen to be making poorly thought out moves to sway voters towards them. Last week we saw childish posters depicting Gordon Brown as royalty. This week saw what Peter Madelson described as a”disgusting” and shocking smear attempt, whereby surprise surprise, Nick Clegg was the target…

As I anticipated, Clegg was positioned in the middle this week, and bore the brunt of oppositional offences that were completely lacking in last week’s debate. Cameron and Brown both upped their game, now being much more emphatic, and addressing the camera, resulting quite rightly to a very close series of instant polls.
On the European Union, Brown opened brilliantly with a very convincing argument for being in there. “Jobs”, he strongly claims, is the simple answer. On the other hand, Cameron appealed perfectly to EU skeptics, retorting that far too much control and power over the country is being given away to the EU. To which, Brown again responded very impressively and emphatically, arguing passionately that collaboration within the EU is required for economic recovery – the classic Labour response to the economy. Brown not only well-handled the issue of the EU, but he also held the strongest answers on Afghanistan, giving a necessary (given recent criticism over troop’s equipment), bold overview of Britain’s mission.

But of course not all was good from Brown, he managed to throw a cringeworthingly awful blow to both Cameron and Clegg, claiming that they were “like his two boys fighting in the bath”, in an obvious attempt to separate himself from the other two parties in exactly the same way as Clegg had so successfully done last week. “I think that one sounded better in the rehearsal,” quipped Clegg. Alongside that, Brown’s cheeky grin all too often surfaces at inappropriate moments, giving the false sense that he’s detached from the issues at stake.

The question on the environment was interestingly made personal; enquiring each of the leader’s green policies, whilst rooting for hypocrisy. Brown responded that he uses the train, Cameron said that he uses decent house insulation (!) and Clegg tried to honestly admit that he could do more. At the “after show party” Sky News seemed to play an amusing game of “politician roulette”, doing an awesome job of failing to capture any depth and policies of the people involved. For some reason, the most popular question in the press rooms was on religion, catholicism and the pope – yet this was the only issue where all three party leaders agreed!

The debates seem to be all about creating as much hype, contention and unsettlement within the electorate before an election. The election is now a three horse race whereby one of the horses has to run twice as far in order to win than the other two. A fair, diplomatic election..?

The UK’s First Prime Ministerial TV Debate

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.

Enter the leader of the BNP…

Last night the leader of the British National Party, Nick Griffin, was welcomed by the popular political program, Question Time. His appearance on the show has been that of great controversy, and the fuel behind a series of protests leading up to the show.

The first issue, addressed to opposers of the BNP, is as follows: is it right to let a representative of the BNP onto the program to join the debate and have questions posed to him like any other political party? Yes it is. It is so clearly is it right to do so that I must admit I find it hard to understand why some people disagree with letting him on the show. Opposers of the BNP believe in diversity, tolerance, and acceptance of other people, no matter what their background, race, or views are, so long as they’re not physically threatening. So why be intolerant of another man’s views because they differ at such a fundamental level? It’s hypocritical. In this country we have the freedom of speech to voice any opinion, and, given that the BNP has received enough votes to bring two of its members into the European Parliament, it is right that the BBC respects and represents the views of this proportion of voters by allowing the BNP to represent themselves on Question Time. Furthermore, suppressing a faction’s viewpoint is not the way to defeat this viewpoint. The way to do so is to have the debate, as they did last night, allowing the party to express their views, and of course, to challenge them. It should then be down to the public to decide their stance towards the party. If the nation watched the program last night, and the majority were won over by Griffin’s views, so much so that he wins the next general election – so be it. Let speech be free and open, and the public will decide. This is democracy, as opposed to surpression.

The show was executed well, the audience allowed Griffin’s views to be heard, and posed decent, intellectual questions to him, demonstrating strong political arguments. The whole purpose of the show was fulfilled, to allow the BNP to represent themselves, discuss their political viewpoints, and to answer questions posed by the public. But was the show biased? Well, it’s perhaps hard to find other panelists that come towards the side of the political spectrum Griffin was representing, so the show appeared to be a four vs. one fight for the majority. But that’s how the political battle is. No other political figures have the same views as Griffin. But it wasn’t always Griffin on his own. Labour’s immigration policy was brought into question, where it appeared Jack Straw (who opened by superbly contrasting Winston Churchill’s views to that of the BNP) was on his own.

What the show managed to achieve was that it displayed Nick Griffin for who he really was. He demonstrated a deluded view of society,  a many-faced approach to comments made over past years, a lack of an ability to back his points up with appropriate evidence, and a way of handling issues that resembled that of a young child, clapping and smirking away in a most unprofessional manner. The BNP failed last night to demonstrate their viewpoint appropriately, and why this viewpoint is the correct way for the British society.

But now the show’s finished, and low and behold Griffin’s just appeared on the news claiming the show’s format had been changed and that the show was subject to bias. “That was not a genuine question time, that was a lynch mob,” Griffin claims. No it wasn’t. That was the majority of the British public’s views, arguing to a man who could clearly be seen to be struggling to make any effective counter arguments without further angering the audience. People exceedingly disagree with you, Griffin! The format of the show was not changed. How on earth was it? The audience took turns in making points and questions to the panel, and the issues that they felt were most important to discuss was the BNP. MPs on previous Question Times did not complain when the entire program was focused on their expenses. It’s what the public wants to discuss. It’s the current issues of the day. The diversely selected audience may bring up any issue they wish, and the issues on the minds of the audience was the BNP. What a chance to discuss these issues, and of course this chance was taken, and the BNP was shown up and brought down. Roll over Nick Griffin.