ITV Leaders Debate – April 2015

The ITV Leaders’ Debate was like a boardroom scene from The Apprentice, says Elliot Ryder. So who was the most likely PM?

The second televised debates in the run up to the general election had all the makings of re-enacting the Jeremy Kyle show rather than providing the undecided voter with more clarity of who to vote for. With seven British parties being represented in the debate, a two-hour long shouting match was most certainly on the cards.

The debates are a rare opportunity for the parties involved to distinguish themselves, an issue which many of the electorate have to battle when deciding who to vote for. However, the nature of the debates heavily favour the challengers. Those who have the most to be held account to have to be much more careful with whereas smaller parties can use the debate to give their policies much need national attention.

The Channel 4/Sky News debate did not create any real shockwaves to the political battleground with both Miliband and Cameron giving a fair account of themselves. The only real noteworthy performance was an out of sorts Jeremy Paxman who appeared to ridicule Ed Miliband over the idea of being a geek.

In the run up to this highly anticipated event there were many arguments as to who should feature in the line-up. The Conservatives cleverly refused to be involved in any debate without the Green Party with the intention that the Greens will battle with Labour and draw in some of their support. The inclusion, moreover, of the Scottish National Party (SNP) was interesting. In the Tory press the SNP are depicted as an anarchic organisation who have the one goal of splitting the UK in two. The debate was an opportunity for much of the English electorate to get to grips with aims of the SNP free from media influence.

Here is a run through of how each party leader performed on the night:

Natalie Bennett – Green party

The party leader was able to answer all questions throughout the debate without freezing up making the debate an overall success for the Greens. Given the party’s size, the Greens were not under much pressure to deliver a killer blow and so were able to spell out some of their policies to the electorate. Natalie Bennett’s strongest moment came when the debate turned to education. Here she outlined the party’s aim to eradicate tuition fees and student debt, a policy that will play to the tune of the many students stuck with unrepayable debts throughout the UK.

Nick Clegg – Liberal Democrat

The downfall in popularity of the Liberal Democrats can be compared to that of the economic down turn Britain suffered in 2008. For the Liberal Democrats to remain as one of the three major parties after the general election represents a big turnaround in terms of public opinion. Who better for the job than the king of the U-turn, Nick Clegg? As we saw in 2010, Mr Clegg is rather good a portraying himself and his policies on camera, and tonight was no different. Clegg was able to avoid the squabbles between Cameron and Miliband and put forward a centralised alternative to the electorate. Clegg clashed frequently with Ukip leader Nigel Farage over the subject of immigration with the Lib Dem leader eloquently saying that Britain should be “open to business not abuse” from immigrants. For Nick Clegg to recover his support come 07 May the Lib Dems will be hoping that the population is rather forgetful, a potential reasoning for why he is backing the decriminalisation of cannabis.

Nigel Farage – UKIP

During the debate, the Ukip leader struggled to not relate back to immigration as a cause for all issues currently plaguing Britain. However, as sad as it may be, Farage’s words will have been applauded by many of the people watching at home. Aside from the consistent mentioning of immigration, the Ukip leader will have turned the heads of the undecided voter when pledging to pump money saved from leaving the EU back into the NHS. However, the party leader made some quite bizarre remarks regarding immigrants who have contracted HIV, a remark which was received by Plaid Cymru party leader Leanne Wood as “scare mongering” claiming Mr Farage “ought to be ashamed” by his comments.

Ed Miliband – Labour

Tonight’s debate was to be a platform for Ed Miliband to show the public how he should be the person to replace David Cameron as prime minister. Sadly, for Ed, he was over shadowed as the main challenger to Conservatives by SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon. The Labour leader was fine, looking into the camera sincerely at all the right cue points. The main issue for Miliband was a lack of conviction, his points aimed at Cameron were lost in a sea of arguments erupting on the stage – highlighting Cameron’s smart tactics of including as many parties as possible in the debate. The election was not be won or lost here by Labour, however a stronger more aggressive performance from Miliband would have provided crucial momentum to their relatively positive start to the campaign. Can Ed Miliband still become Prime Minister? Hell yes he can.

Leanne Wood – Plaid Cymru

Plaid Cymru, the party of Wales, entered the debate in a similar position to the Greens. Looking to give her policies attention on a national stage, it was much of a speak when spoken to performance from the leader of the Welsh party. Yet, when called upon, Wood provided the necessary answers that the Welsh electorate probably wanted to hear. The party leader was another to come out on top when clashing with Nigel Farage over immigration. Wood gained the upper hand over Farage as well as applause from the audience when smartly pointing out that the recession was not the doing of immigrants in the UK.

Nicola Sturgeon – SNP

Not all the Photoshop skills in the world were able to stop Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP pocketing the win on the night. Plans to fix the deficit over a longer period of time to allow for investment back in to the economy were a number of proposals put forward by the Scottish party leader. It appears that it finally hit home with the public that all the SNP are fighting for is what is best for Scotland, something of which the Conservatives cannot seem to understand. The Scottish first minister acted as the main threat to David Cameron throughout the debate outlining: “you can vote for the same old politics or you can vote for something different, better and more progressive”. Referring to Ed Miliband, Nicola Sturgeon claimed that SNP ministers in the House of Commons will be able to “keep him honest” – a potential nod to the much talked about pact between the Labour Party and the SNP in the event of a hung parliament.

David Cameron – Conservative

Go on, admit it, you actually felt a little bit sorry for the Conservative party leader. The prime minister was faced with the inevitable outcome of being attacked on all fronts during the debate, a situation similar to BBC TV show the Apprentice when the losing “PM” is called back into the boardroom – all fingers were pointing at him. Despite criticism that Cameron hid amongst the arguments that unfolded between the other leaders, the Prime Minister played the hand that he was dealt. Playing to his strengths, David Cameron highlighted the improvement in the economy and the halving of the deficit when possible. Not to mention we were of course reminded of the long term economic plan which is to battle the final waves of the recession and carry Britain to the shores of prosperity. The performance of Cameron, however, will not be the biggest plus point for the Conservative camp; Nicola Sturgeon’s ability to out gun main rival, Ed Miliband, will have evoked the greatest applause from the Tories.

Originally published to Leeds Hacks – April 2015

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