Analysis | BBC election 2015 debate

The BBC election debate was like a political Brit Awards, says Eliot Ryder. And not in a good way.

It was the BBC’s turn to play host to a televised general election debate last night, this time only featuring five UK parties. Surprisingly, party leaders David Cameron and Nick Clegg were not part of the proceedings. It was as though the two leaders saw the event as a political Brit Awards while away on tour. All that was missing was a video of Cameron and Clegg telling the audience: “sorry we can’t be there tonight to defend our record in government, thanks for the continued support.”

Before the debate kicked off, the Labour party mocked Cameron by saying: “if you are applying for the job of PM, you should at least turn out for the interview.” However the move from the Prime Minister to not attend may have been well thought out as he was able to avoid being publically ridiculed once more by the other party leaders in front of an impressionable electorate.

Following on from the ITV debate the points being forward by the party leaders appeared to type. Ed Miliband is for the working people, Nicola Sturgeon hates the Tories, Leanne Wood is willing to stand up for Wales, Natalie Bennett offers an alternative to Labour and Nigel Farage mentioned a thing or two about immigration.

The early stages of the debate saw Miliband and Farage go head-to-head, however it seemed apparent that Miliband had been denied a shot at the title fight in the absence of Cameron and so settled for the next best challenger, Farage. The Labour leader tried his best to draw the spotlight on to the absent Cameron, yet failed to do so as he was under attack throughout the majority of the debate from SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon. The nationalist leader accused Miliband of “not being bold enough” and being too similar to Cameron, suggesting that voting Labour would not provide substantial change from the previous government. There was a sense that Bennett, Wood and Sturgeon had accepted that Miliband is to lead a coalition government after 7 May. The three party leaders appeared to make suggestions to Miliband during the debate on how he could run his potential government when the inevitable coalition is formed.

Although Ukip leader, Nigel Farage, may have angered the studio audience when he suggested they sat to the left on the political spectrum, even more so than the BBC, some of the audience at home will have been appeased by his performance. Farage was able to bring up his “HIV health tourism” argument once more, however this time round it was put forward in a less risqué manor. By referring to the NHS as the “international health service” there is no doubt that the Ukip leader will have caught the attention of some undecided voters.

Keen eyed viewers will have been more interested in the relationship of the leaders on stage with the high possibility of a hung parliament after the election. It would appear that the majority of parties are not willing to work with the Conservatives, hindering their chances of forming a coalition. However, at the launch of the Liberal Democrat manifesto, Nick Clegg brought to light the potential danger of “Bluekip”, a Conservative Ukip alliance which seems to be the most obvious route for the Tories to stay in power. Once more Miliband and Sturgeon squabbled throughout the debate with the Scottish first minister emerging victorious. If we are to have a Labour SNP agreement in government it would appear that the marriage is already on the rocks even before the wedding has taken place. If Miliband is to steer the alliance rather than Sturgeon then he needs to deliver a telling blow to the Scottish party in the coming weeks to assert control.

Whist Cameron may have been able to dodge a bullet by keeping out of the third instalment of election debates, the big loser appears to be the Lib Dems who barely received a mention throughout the course of the night. Whilst the debate may not have made it any clearer who will be the next PM, it outlined that it will take a huge swing in public opinion if our next government is to not be a collaborative effort.

Originally published to Leeds Hacks

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