Leader’s Debate

[picapp align=”center” wrap=”false” link=”term=clegg+cameron+brown&iid=8532824″ src=”9/4/a/b/Britains_PM_Brown_11b5.jpg?adImageId=12492761&imageId=8532824″ width=”380″ height=”253″ /]Last night I watched the first EVER leader’s debate in the UK, which seems so quaint since it’s so old hat in the US and Canada.

According to the ‘instant’ polls, Nick Clegg did the best out of the debate, with Cameron and Brown lagging.

I couldn’t help comparing the debate to the ones I’ve seen in the US; as much as I was interested in the politics being discussed, I found myself giving them presentation advice. One of the key things that they all need to do is not look down so quickly after they finish their piece – maintaining ‘eye contact’ with the camera would make them seem more sincere.

Cameron made a couple of weird ‘whaaaa?’ faces, which made him seem a bit juvenile, whereas Clegg seemed a little too theatrically surprised/disappointed in response to a couple of his opponents statements, which has the same effect. Brown also had a bit of a condescending smile/head shake thing going; without the smile it could have been a solid Obama-like move: ‘let’s be clear’ sort of thing.

The key thing about body language, which they could all learn from their Chancellor-candidates, is the importance of respect. The audience wants to see grown-ups speaking professionally, and passionately, while recognizing that their opponents are representatives for 20-40% or so of the country, and deserve to be treated as such.

That said, it wasn’t a terribly dramatic debate. Overall I would say Clegg was the best presented, being relaxed and phrasing his questions to the other leaders in terms the audience would use; he was definitely calling them out when the audience was thinking the same thing. However, I did think Gordon Brown seemed quite statesmanlike, and didn’t seem to repeat himself as much as the others. It is standard media instruction for politicians to repeat a key message/phrase 3 times so it ‘sticks’, but in something like this debate, Brown came across as having the greatest variety of things to say and the most depth addressing context and frame of reference, whereas Cameron seemed pretty vague and Clegg, while specific, did repeat a few key things to an annoying extent, where it made some of his points seem like non sequiturs.

Brown’s biggest problem in the debate was the excellent and irrefutable point that if his party has all these great ideas, why haven’t they enacted them over the past few years? Clegg’s financial information was the most fleshed out, giving him the ability to make key platform promises about rejigging military spending, increasing the tax-free income, and altering immigration, that had been fully costed. Cameron’s anti-immigration stance seemed popular with the pollees, while the rest of his policies, under attack from Clegg and Brown, made him seem much more pro-rich folk than he had before.

Overall, I was left with the impression that Clegg’s government would be best from a national standpoint, and probably has the best economic policy (because Vince Cable is a smarty) but might have weaknesses in international policy (his wanting to scrap Trident makes sense, but they need to state a strong alternative nuclear defense option to not seem naive about Iran and North Korea), that Labour could be a solid player overall if they would get their finger out and play nice with the Lib Dems to get some solid laws enacted to help the lower and middle classes while recovering from the recession and reducing the deficit slowly, and that under Cameron anyone poor, unemployed, under-employed, or not with middle to upper middle class parents who are still solvent, would be SOL, though they might technically ‘fix’ the deficit more quickly.

Current polls suggest a hung parliament. If Labour and Lib Dems could wrangle a coalition, I think the country could do well. If, however, people are intent on punishing Labour for slacking off, as with the election of Stephen Harper in Canada, it wouldn’t be the end of the world, but a lot of people would be worse off. As much as Conservatives could be a fair party keen on small government, this one is still a party for the wealthy and the corporations.

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