Analysis General Elections Web Exclusives Politics

The first election debate: history in the making?

Yesterday saw the first ever Prime Ministerial debate on TV

Archive This article is from our archive and might not display correctly. Download PDF
Yesterday saw the first ever Prime Ministerial debate on TV. The contest had the feel of a boxing match. It had been hugely publicized by political commentators as it was seen as a chance for voters to see the leaders of the three main political parties in Britain go head-to-head without the cheerleading behind them or the dispatch box in front of them as they are accustomed.

There was talk of knock-out blows beforehand, but in fact we saw a lot of stalemate and even some agreement with the occasional blow being landed during the debate. After the debate cabinet ministers rushed to their man's side claiming victory.

The ITV reaction poll showed that Nick Clegg won decisively on points (43%), with David Cameron coming second (26%) and Gordon Brown just behind in last place (20%). Why did Clegg do so well despite being less well known? The reason is exactly that. Nick Clegg appeared as the outsider, criticising the establishment governing parties. With the frequent use of the words 'these two' and 'we hear the same things' he successfully ducked and weaved around the perception of corrupt politicians in an environment of immense scepticism about politics in general.

David Cameron was competent, performing as expected landing some blows on the incumbent Prime Minister. Though, he looked uncomfortable at times when he was attacked by Brown on guarantees on spending for education, policing and the removal of hereditary peers from the House of Lords. Saying that, in traditionally strong Tory issues like immigration and crime he was very effective using specific anecdotal examples to rationalise his tough stances. Towards the end he made a heartfelt plea for better conditions for carers drawing on his own experience in relation to his late son.

Gordon Brown seemed to struggle a little in the format and gave us a reminder of why he is never appeared on BBC's Questiontime. He rarely looked at the audience and his opening and closing statements were somewhat partisan. He did succeed, however, when he aggressively attacked David Cameron by putting him on the spot about the aforementioned issues.

Brown did not make any serious gaffes, he seemed relaxed and even managed to crack a reasonable joke about the Conservative poster showing him smile. It was a slightly above average performance given his clear history of presentation problems and his having a governing record to defend.

With a further two 90-minute bouts to go before the voters are polled, the parties will no doubt reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of their leaders and try to improve. But with such an exhaustive confrontation with no clear highlights that will be remembered after polling day, maybe we should be questioning the stamina of the audience, not the participants?

You Might Also Like...

7 Comment

~J Posted on Sunday 18 Aug 2019

Had the feel of a boxing match? I'm fairly sure you were watching a different debate: the one I watched had the feel of a YSTV-budget gameshow, hosted by an incompetent idiot and starring three people who failed spectacularly at saying anything new. The debate was still interesting and worthwhile, though: I'm just saying it wasn't exactly a cage fight..

Reply

n Posted on Sunday 18 Aug 2019

Pi Chart fail.
gap between red/yellow join & vertical line drawn through center = 7% according to Nouse.

Yet somehow, gap between red/blue join and horizontal line drawn through center = 1% according to nouse.

Nouse, Why is 7% smaller than 1% ?

Reply

Ali Clark Posted on Sunday 18 Aug 2019

Hi n,

The pie chart doesn't show those who didn't vote, which is roughly 11 percent. Even so, I haven't looked at it too hard because this pie chart was made by my office program and I'm fairly happy with it's accuracy.

However, there may be an extremely slight error due to stretching, if you're interested.

In all seriousness though, please keep commenting if you see something wrong, constructive feedback is win.

Reply

Really? Posted on Sunday 18 Aug 2019

Really Ali?

"constructive feedback is win." so is grammar!

Reply

~J Posted on Sunday 18 Aug 2019

Grammar are wins!

Reply

n Posted on Sunday 18 Aug 2019

@Ali It's nice that you have a reason this time, but in future, if you have a reason, put it in!

Generally, pie charts do not mix with elections of any kind unless all parties are shown or grouped onto it.
Try Bar charts! - far clearer that way.
:)

Reply

Ali Clark Posted on Sunday 18 Aug 2019

If I'd represented the no-votes it would have been grey (see elections tab background), and that would be rubbish because colour is nice. PLUS... the fact that it was 11% and not 5% who didn't vote really doesn't mean anything interesting to us.

I rest my case. And the pie stays.

Reply

Leave a comment

Disclaimer: this page is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.