Judge: Praba Ganesan
Winner: Gordon 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.
Brown’s clear strength was best at tying up most of his positions thematically, for example much of his material was consistent with his opening position that Britain is at a point of either moving forward or hesitating, and that much of the expenditure in the financial climate was about building the future (which is key to the Cameron/conservative position of reducing expenditure now). It gave his material more thrust and cogency, more persuasion overall. On the issues, it was clear that Brown was strongest in immigration, MP scandal and the military.
The 3 clear area wins for Brown were partially reduced by the marginal wins for Clegg in law and order, education and care for the elderly. Clegg was successful in sustaining a progressive and realistic look at those issues even if his solutions were not dissimilar to Cameron mostly. In appraising manner, Clegg was clearly the most connected of speakers compared to Brown, and most certainly Cameron who was constantly aloof. Clegg at times overplayed the whole, we are right because clearly Labour and Conservative seem to have a go at each other in the debate. It might persuade people to think that the reason the two are at each other is because they have the best policies.
Cameron began by talking about not reducing the contributions of Labour rule, but then effectively through his time attacked the lack of contribution by Labour. Far different from the concession both Clegg and Brown were willing to make in terms of where their manifestos do agree. That coupled with his inability to pick up the argument after it is attacked made him repetitive in many occasions (his defence of his immigration position and law and order)
It was a pity that the issues of the economy and healthcare got stuck as the broadness of the issue drew all speakers in all directions rather than in engaging the key theme of how can things be managed better irrespective of the money spent, or perhaps because the money is spent. In this situation perhaps corollary sound-bytes for the sub-areas would assist in keeping their message direct and simple.
The tactic Brown used of insisting Cameron was either removing money or having a desire to improve without spending, was not negated enough by Cameron, other than there are mismanagement of the money in the present. Cameron may have served his cause better by pointing out how a change in style in some areas might increase efficiency, not just example after example of sheer waste.
An opportunity was lost in that both Cameron and Brown referred to each other’s approach but left Clegg’s approaches out. Though he made references to them Clegg needed to explain why at a policy level the Liberals have specific plans. I agree it is tough to demand this from Clegg exclusively, but the dynamics of the debate and present realities are driving this demand.
I was impressed by Brown’s tactic to be aggressive in the debate, even if at times he was unfairly intrusive to Cameron. It was good in the military question he went to a policy explanation of Afghanistan before being led to it.
Cameron has to up his response levels in the coming debate if he is to convince people when it comes to direct comparisons of the policies. Round one to Brown.