The third leaders’ debate

Last night, I watched the third and last of the televised debates between the three main political leaders, this one hosted by the BBC. I’ve watched all three and generally they have been lively and illuminating events. I’ve learned some more about the manifestos and the polices of the three parties and the different approaches that the parties would take on key issues like the management of the economy and the reduction of the deficit.

I don’t think party leaders in a General Election will ever again be able to refuse to debate the issues with their opponents on live television. In that sense, the debates have changed British politics for ever.

The basic format, with all three leaders, having equal time and exposure was always going to give the greatest opportunity to the Lib Dems and Nick Clegg has seized his chance and performed well. It remains to be seen whether this will translate into as many more votes as observers first thought and whether a boost in votes translates into that many more seats given our electoral system.

Gordon Brown has performed better than many of us feared and shown real command of all subject areas, but his answers have been too rapid and too technocratic. The debates have not featured a knock-out blow or even an especially memorable quote and Brown above all needed such a game -changer.

David Cameron has grown more confident and assured as the debates have gone on. He’s not been able to provide any more detail on matters like how he will find the scale of savings required or any more justification for unfair measures like a reduction in inheritance tax, but he has communicated in simple and effective – if rather glib – language and come out the debates looking like a man ready for No 10, even if he doesn’t win an overall majority.


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