There is no doubt that last night political history was made with the first live television debate between the leaders of the three main parties. Questions were put to them on domestic issues covering education, health, crime and the recovery from an audience hand picked to reflect British society.
So was the debate focused on personality or policy? It was inevitable that every part of the leaders approach to being scrutanised would be analysed, but I certainly felt as if it were an opportunity to see how comfortable each leader was with their new manifesto, as well as gain a further understanding on thier priorities.
Nick Clegg was the man with the most to gain, having equal billing on a playing field in what is often considered a two party system. Sure enough, there is a broad consensus that his performance was by far the strongest, however I felt it was due not only to having this advantage. He was the only leader to look directly into the camera and seemed comfortable with his policies. In addition he also had the advantage in having the ability to talk to the audience about offering to”tidy up the murky world of politics” by trying something different. Gordon Brown utilised his experience by reminding the audience of improvements that had already occurred before focusing on promises for the future, and performed perhaps better than what was expected despite being caught out a little when agreeing with Mr Clegg on the issue of electoral reform, in which Clegg argued he’d been trying to get through Parliament with no support from either party. Cameron, who perhaps had the biggest expectations fell short a little, questions were noticeably avoided, particularly on crime prevention and proposed cuts. Often pressed for a clear response, one notable line came from the Prime Minister “This is not Question Time Mr Cameron; it’s answer time”
With estimated viewing figures around 9 million the debate brought some of the key issues to more people than ever. Although we may be in a generation of personality politics Britian still needs to be aware of the importance of debating these policies, and in that sense the debate was a success, we even witnessed some cross party agreement, particulary on the issue of elderly care.
Were the leaders all too aware of the pressures they faced to portray thier party in a positive light? Inevitably. Did it make a huge difference to the quality of democracy? I’m not sure. But important issues were discussed, and helped spark conversations on the issues that matter, and where the prospective people in power stand on them.
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