It’s very hard to watch a political debate objectively when you’re a partisan supporter of one of the participants in it. ‘No, no,’ you find yourself practicising in your head during the most embarrassing moments ‘when he removed his trousers and ran round the stage proclaiming he was the Rightful King of Greater Abyssinia, he was showing his commitment to an active engagement with African politics.’
So, watching tonight’s debate – sorry, THE FIRST EVER LEADERS’ DEBATE as ITV insisted on billing it – I found myself thinking that Nick Clegg was doing well, but almost second-guessing myself and thinking that while I liked what he said, would the public. Turns out that I am in tune with the public, as UK Polling Report states:
There were two properly conducted instant polls following the debate, carried out by YouGov and ComRes. Both show Nick Clegg winning, Cameron second and Brown last (YouGov has NC51, DC29, GB19. ComRes has NC 46, DC 26, GB 20)
Overused phrase of the night had to be ‘I agree with Nick’ which is something I always like to hear, but it was good to hear the leaders of the the other parties saying. Shame that they never said it in the House of Commons when Nick was proposing a series of reforms to clean up politics – including the ability to recall MPs – but let’s be glad that they’ve finally accepted they were wrong on that, rather than harping on about whatever they did wrong in the past.
Clegg did a great job not only in setting out Liberal Democrat policy, but in showing how we differ from the Labservative consensus. One message we’re continually trying to push is that we’re about doing things differently – not just tinkering around the edges of how the government works, but completely remaking the way this country works.
I was thinking before the debate that this was potentially the most important 90 minutes for the Liberal Democrats in years. Clegg took the opportunity that was offered to him and ran with it, which has the potential to turn this election on its head. I’ve already seen a mention of an Angus Reid poll that says 42% of people are now more likely to vote Lib Dem than they were tomorrow, which could lead to some big changes in the polls over the weekend.
There are still two more debates to go, and it’ll be interesting to see what effect tonight’s ‘result’ has on Brown and Cameron. Do they continue to play the ‘I agree with Nick’ card, or do they go all out to try and knock him down with the risk of them looking hard and nasty as a consequence? The one thing I do know that’s happened as a result of this is that I can’t wait to get out and get delivering and knocking on doors tomorrow – and initial Twitter reaction suggests there are lots of Liberal Democrats feeling the same way.