Friday 3 April 2015

I was wrong three times over about the leaders' debate

Well, I was wrong.  I was wrong on many counts. 

First, I thought last night’s debate with the seven leaders would be boring but found it was able to cover some issues which would never have been otherwise covered at all – though climate change only got a nod, even from Natalie Bennett.  I don’t agree with my friend Nick Tyrone that it was dull – not in comparison with the boring snoring (as they say) prime ministerial grilling by Paxman it wasn’t.

Second, I was wrong that Miliband was recovering his style.  I realise this isn’t the way the polls saw it, but I thought he came across as rather creepy, with long lists of policies that seemed incoherent.  I thought he got a drubbing on the NHS, and his hand signals seemed embarrassingly masturbatory.

Third, and I’m happy to say this, I was afraid that Clegg’s simplistic positioning as neither one thing nor the other would miss the point – that it would be too anodyne to catch attention.  In fact, it suited the occasion very well.

It was delivered with passion and personality.  I am, of course, biased, but I thought Clegg managed a kind of effortless dominance over the debate, where Cameron was too tired, Farage was too unpleasant and Miliband was too peculiar.

What  I hadn’t realised was that four of the leaders (Miliband, Sturgeon, Wood and Bennett) would simply outline a sort of vague lefty conservatism, a rather woolly condemnation of bad things and demand for good things, and that would make the Clegg formula stand out.

I’ve read the polls.  I know this isn’t the popular view, and I have tried to see the events of last night through the eyes of someone who was less committed.  I have obviously failed.

But I have a feeling that Nick Clegg managed to build the foundations of a fight back last night that will resonate with people over the coming weeks.  That isn’t clear yet.  Nor is the sheer creepiness of the leader of the opposition.  But my guess is that it will be.  We will see.

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David Evans said...

Sadly, I fear you are clutching at illusory straws. Ed Milliband’s persona may collapse in the way you envisage, but only David Cameron will gain and any expectation that Nick’s performance will do anything for us across the country is a dream. No one trusts him, Scotland will not, and possibly will never, forgive him or us, and we are heading for less than 5% across much of the country.

We were a force for good, with local activists, hands on power in quite a number of councils and a chance to show what Liberal Democracy could do in Westminster, and Nick Clegg threw it away. He has destroyed our party for at least a generation and given the Tories, UKIP and the SNP a chance they would never have even dreamed of before he became leader. A second term for the Tories, third place in terms of votes for UKIP and third place in seats for the SNP, all three of these could occur, but even if it was only one, it should be enough to damn Nick Clegg. However his destruction of our party across most of the UK has done that already.

Lidl Janus said...

Have to agree with David (Evans). Ed Miliband isn't exactly pulling off a radical turnaround, but he's probably doing just well enough to delay the vaunted "crossover" in the polls and offset the occasional slight, inevitable gaffe, as this SNP-memo business might turn out to be.

As someone who's not a Lib Dem member, but did vote Lib Dem in 2010, I'm not even remotely convinced by the current pitch. It might be realistic to acknowledge coalition, but all Clegg's offering is either a less-Labour Labour government or a less-Tory Conservative government, and the best move to avoid either of those is to vote Tory or Labour (respectively) in the first place, not LD. The Lib Dems shouldn't exist just to be an adjunct to other parties, as is being implied.

And the breezy insistence about outperforming the polls on election night, and how Clegg'll retain Sheffield Hallam easy, smacks of delusion, not confidence. It's neck-and-neck in a seat the central Labour office are barely lifting a finger for.

That said, for the Tories to be on 16% in Sheffield Hallam should bother them too, given that it's the Toryest of seats outside London. The fact that it doesn't speaks volumes.