Judge: Tommy Tonner
Winner: Gordon Brown
Scores: Brown 80 | Cameron 76 | Clegg 72
The debate commenced with opening statements, Clegg was anodyne, Cameron looking nervous made a number of strange points notably equating his persona as leader of a conservative party with an Etonian background with radical change. Brown looking surprisingly comfortable made a firm start focussing as expected on the economy but also making good points about public services.
Brown lost the initiative on the first question on immigration, where his points on chefs and care workers seem confused if not downright contradictory. Cameron, who should be on easy ground here focussed on case studies and made few general points. Clegg was clear and appreciated that regional needs differ and that individual skill sets are more important than broad brush generalisations
Cameron was good on law & order, another of his supposed strong suits, though on cross questioning, thank goodness that is still allowed, Brown landed a couple of good punches. Cleggs stand offish approach and the old line about punch and Judy politics was grating in the extreme.
MP’s expenses was an awkward question for all concerned. Clegg introduced some very clear points and, having less ills to defend than the other party leaders came out ahead here.
On health and education, Cameron did OK but relied heavily on folksy anecdotes whereas Brown was able to accurately measure success by dealing with facts not hearsay. Clegg appeared irrelevant.
On defence Brown made a spirited defence of trident, Clegg appeared to contradict his party’s position on the replacement which I marked him down for, though given the stilted format no one could call him on it. Cameron was strong on the Afghan war and the confused nature of the current engagement.
Economy will be Brown’s strong suit and he plays the part of “I’m the man to get you out of this mess .. Err even though I got you into it” very well. Both Cameron and Clegg do not come across as convincing, this is a particular problem for Clegg as his finance spokesman is a master of this brief.
Closing statements were interesting, Clegg at least tried to be interactive here, for the first time in the debate and with the audience not the participants. Cameron with a prepared speech looked much more comfortable than during the debate whereas Brown, knowing he had massively exceeded expectations could hardly help breaking out into a smile.
Close debate, rather poor quality, hampered by a silly format which serves to limit actual debate and almost eliminate audience participation. I have Brown first or second on all questions, and probably ahead on manner though challenged by Clegg. Cameron was better at the prepared parts of the debate and came on to a game when he relaxed late in the game. At least he tried to engage in debate with Brown unlike the sneering and stand offish Clegg who scored a couple of hits but did not come across as a credible alternative to the others.
So a Brown win, a disappointing second for Cameron and a lesson in debate for Clegg.