Mai Mokhsein, Convenor of the 2015 World Universities Debating Championship, analyses the debate.
Winner: Nicola Sturgeon
Second: Ed Milliband
Last: Nigel Farage
Nicola Sturgeon was the winner of the seven-way debate with the tight combo of Ed Miliband and David Cameron behind her. She was the most engaging, relevant and persuasive speaker in the pack due to her sustained conviction and unforgiving (as well as constant) rebuttals of the other speakers.
To be fair, the format of the debate gave no room for one particular individual to excel over the others as any small moment of triumph dissipates as soon as it came; as a result of a chaotic seven-way debate. If there were one person who excelled clearly in their role, I would just as easily name the chairperson who handled the chaos with remarkable grace.
In what was a three-way pack of Sturgeon-Miliband-Cameron carrying the most persuasive material of the debate, Sturgeon stood out by challenging base assumptions of Cameron and Miliband’s case for austerity by refusing to cut spending whilst the two men battled out the means of implementing austerity. Although Sturgeon’s case was not unique in the sense that Natalie Bennett and Leanne Wood took the same stance, the latter two ended up as accessories to the clash when Sturgeon took the lead as the more assertive, clear and articulate of the three.
Miliband and Cameron were almost equally matched with both parties being relentless on the track records of the other. But whilst Cameron’s facts came across as listless and repetitive, Miliband came across as impassioned and inspired. Cameron had allowed Miliband to get away with far more misrepresentations that in effect, instaneously rebukes every fact-check that Cameron had to offer. To his credit, Cameron’s manner was calm and polished but I prefer the conviction of Miliband.
Behind them was Nick Clegg whose case was watered down due to his confusion on whether he supported his coalition with Cameron or if he was sorry that he ever agreed on any policies with the Conservatives. This was in stark contrast with the six other leaders who knew exactly where their loyalties lie and resulted in Clegg’s contributions to be highly bemusing at times. The duo of Wood and Bennett fell behind due to their lacklustre attempts in the spotlight with Bennett falling second-to-last due to her nerve-stricken delivery.
Nigel Farage takes last place due to his unashamed pandering to his base voters that would very clearly alienate any moderate and undecided individual watching the debate – in debating terms the average, reasonable person. This plays a stark difference to Sturgeon who decided on a wider and inclusive narrative beyond her Scottish voters and ultimately, places her as the voice of cooperation in an uncertain coalition.