Having watched last night’s Leaders’ Debate closely for ninety minutes, it was something of a surprise to me that Nick Clegg – dismissed yesterday as the other guy – has come out top in all the opinion polls. The poll most generous to Labour, for Sky News, puts Clegg on 37, five ahead of Brown and six ahead of Cameron while others have Clegg as high as 61 percent with Cameron on 22 and Brown 17.
Interesting. Like anyone already committed, I pre-judged it and every time Cameron spoke he confirmed that prejudice, while I enjoyed Brown’s performance. Nick Clegg was mostly inoffensive. Take an online survey like Vote Match and it’s no surprise that I agree most with Labour, but the Lib Dems aren’t far behind. But I wouldn’t vote Lib Dem because I know that they have no underpinning vision for Britain; just a few cherry picked policies.
Clegg beat Cameron by stealing his sales pitch – the need for change – and delivering it with far more credibility. Cameron still hasn’t told as what Conservatives would actually change, why and how. Brown put him on the spot and he squirmed. Clegg was so much more confident, relaxed and self-assured than Cameron.
Brown’s willingness to highlight areas of agreement between Labour and the Lib Dems was a nice attempt to build consensus and gang up on the slimy Tory. It backfired because people clearly thought: ‘well if Brown agrees with Clegg, so do I.’
How this all translates into voting intentions is anyone’s guess and it certainly makes the next two debates far more interesting. It’s fair to say that Clegg will get a tougher ride; perhaps Brown will put him on the spot too this time. Brown needs to stop chuckling when Cameron squirms and dump any pre-rehearsed lines like thanking Cameron for the posters of him smiling (it comes across as forced and unnatural). Cameron needs to relax and finally let us know what Conservative change is, as to we uninitiated it sounds like an oxymoron.