2010 UK Election, Colm Flynn, Neill Harvey-Smith, Praba Ganesan, Ray D'Cruz, View by election

Election Debates’ verdict: no clear winner, but a clear loser in the first UK leaders’ debate

Six Election Debate experts split the first UK leaders’ debate of the 2010 General Election 3-3 to Gordon Brown and Nick Clegg. No one gave the debate to David Cameron.

While there was no clear winner, there was a clear loser with four of the six judges identifying Cameron as the wooden spooner.

Watch the debate (courtesy of ITV) here.

Read the transcript (courtesy of the BBC) here.

Here is a summary of what the judges said. You can scroll down or click the link to read their full analysis. As always, Election Debates strives to bring you objective, rational analysis of the debate, free from the usual political spin.

Ray D’Cruz

Winner: Brown – Scores: Brown 81 | Clegg 78 | Cameron 77

Brown won a reasonably close debate: he kept his messages clear and simple, but still managed to convey policy detail. He made fewer mistakes than the other two speakers. Clegg had his moments of clear policy differentiation (e.g. expenses, Trident), but the outsider looking in  – dare I say the maverick thing – got a little boring and repetitive towards the end. Cameron’s rebuttal was often based around examples (e.g. waste) instead of policy argumentation. He was light on for substantive detail and therefore his alternative vision for Britain appeared vague at times.

Read Ray’s full adjudication

Neill Harvey-Smith

Winner: Clegg – Scores: Brown 69  | Cameron 68 | Clegg 72

Nick Clegg made the weather in this first Election Debate, dumping ash all over the hyped Cameron/Brown showdown. He was able to portray himself as the outsider, “being straight with people”, and dragged the debate into a low-energy exchange of policies.

Read Neill’s full adjudication

Praba Ganesan

Winner: Brown – Scores: Brown 85| Cameron 78 | Clegg 82

Brown wins the debate by winning three issues, and remaining close in three others, while sustaining a consistent thematic line which allowed his positions to have better thrust and persuasion in the debate. Clegg who came second had strong issues grasp and possibly edged Brown in speaking style in the debate.

Read Praba’s full adjudication

Colm Flynn

Winner: Clegg – Score: Clegg 80 | Cameron 75 | Brown 73

In general I found the manner and in particular the matter of Clegg to be superior to the others.  Cameron just about came second because for me while there was no knock out blows the only “clanger” in the debate was the idea that Brown would not cut waste because he wanted to keep the economy going and would make savings somewhere later.  Add to that the briefly mentioned argument that he had 13 years why didn’t he fix it then (came in on Lords reform) and you have to say that point undermines much of his arguments.

Read Colm’s full adjudication

Andy Hume

Winner: Clegg – Scores: Clegg 80 | Brown 77 | Cameron 75

Quite a close debate, which was in my view won by the Liberal Democrats’ Nick Clegg. Clegg exploited his advantage as leader of the third party skillfully, displaying an informal and persuasive speaking style and “breaking the fourth wall” effectively to position himself on the side of the viewer against the “establishment” politicians. Gordon Brown overcame his perceived manner deficit with a performance that was strong on policy and detail, and effectively challenged the Conservative leader on a number of occasions. David Cameron found himself squeezed by the other two leaders; despite quite good manner, he was unable to control the ground on which the debate took place as much as he would have liked, and failed to respond to some key challenges, particularly on funding.

Read Andy’s full adjudication

Tommy Tonner

Winner: Brown – Scores: Brown 80 | Cameron 76 | Clegg 72

Who would have thought it? Brown outclasses Cameron on every subject bar policing and health. The usually telegenic Cameron looked ill at ease. Brown came across as authoritative and comfortable. Clegg landed the odd punch but was out of his depth. I would never have called this but Browns performance gives his party a chance.

Read Tommy’s full adjudication

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Discussion

6 thoughts on “Election Debates’ verdict: no clear winner, but a clear loser in the first UK leaders’ debate

  1. What debate was Tommy Tonner watching?!

    Posted by lboddice | April 16, 2010, 8:31 am
  2. Same one as you I imagine – care to elaborate ?

    Posted by Tommy Tonner | April 16, 2010, 12:51 pm
  3. Tommy,

    I think the reason you’ve been asked if you watched the same debate as everyone else is that the entire British electoral landscape changed as a result of this debate.

    After the debate, every major polling organisation declared massive victories for Clegg, some over 60%. The internet, whether Twitter, Facebook or blogs, was awash with mentions of the supposedly “out of depth” Clegg. In the real political world, even Labour (and some private Conservative commentators) declared Clegg the winner.

    Since the debate, the Liberal Democrats have hit unimaginable heights. We now live in a three-party system, whether that is for better or for worse.

    You gave the lad a 72. That’s a score I would generally give to someone who wouldn’t break at a regional British IV.

    Perhaps that is why you’re being asked why. Of course, his arguments were not perfect. Having said that, he got brilliant material (not necessarily in my view but on polls) in about expenses, income tax, Trident and education. His examples stuck. He had superior style. His lines were remembered. He caught the mood. Is that not what debating is about?

    Can

    Posted by Can Okar | April 18, 2010, 1:56 am
    • Hi Can
      Thanks for your comment (and for elaborating on a previous comment). You’re being a bit harsh on Tommy I reckon – for two reasons:
      1. Whether this debate has changed the political landscape will depend on how whether Clegg achieves a good result in the election (the only poll that counts) and whether the debate is held to have had an impact.
      2. We deliberately avoid political context in our debate analysis – there is plenty of that from the regular political press. In this debate is was quite clear that Clegg appearing reasonably credible and avoiding serious problems could claim a political win. That does not necessarily mean winning the debate – though I note some of our panel gave him the win, like you.
      Cheers
      Ray D’Cruz

      Posted by electiondebates | April 18, 2010, 9:45 am
  4. Can

    I have watched this in full three times. The only change I would make is to score cameron and clegg a bit closer but my order remains the same. Clearly you debate a bit so it saddens me that you revert to the court of public opinion to justify your opinion. Clearly clegg has benefitted from the debate but, in my view, he did so by refusing to be drawn into the debate. A strange irony. I can’t score him as winner as he did not engage at all with the others arguments. He stood off he did not stand out.

    Posted by Tommy | April 18, 2010, 6:52 pm

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