Last night, the British public was treated to an amazing spectacle! This was a chance for the leaders of all of the parties to have a vigorous debate about their policies and engage with the Great British electorate. Well, kind of…or not at all. In reality, the ‘debate’ didn’t include much arguing over policy. By the time most of you have read this article there will inevitably be a whole range of opinion polls and surveys revealing who ‘won’ this debate but for now I will have to rely on my own judgement. In reality this was simply a platform for a handful of politicians to spell out their policies on various issues, apart from a rogue heckler towards the end, the whole thing looked extremely contrived, But I must admit that I wasn’t expecting anything else.
So far, the election campaign has been dismal. There has been much talk in the build up to GE2015 of how new forces in politics are going to really shake up the British political system. Yet so far the campaigns have been woefully predictable, both the Conservatives and Labour are championing the same issues they were in 2010. But surely a debate that includes the other parties will be more interesting? Sadly this isn’t the case. Arguably the thing that stood out most from last night’s debate was that each politician was clearly trying to appeal their own crowd and little beyond that. Seemingly there will be no one to mercifully break through Britain’s election dullness.
The first question was somewhat predictably about the economy. The striking thing about the first section of this discussion was how close to the Tories Ed Miliband looked. There was a pretty clear split between the parties that accepted austerity and those that didn’t; with Plaid Cymru, The Greens and the SNP backing the latter. It was noticeable how Ed Miliband spent the rest of this section desperately trying to join the other side to get away from David Cameron. Speaking of David Cameron, it has been noted by others that Cameron’s reason for agreeing to this discussion was that he stood a better chance of doing reasonably well in a room full of people as opposed to a one on one debate. Clearly there had been some strong words with the Conservative leader after his grilling by Jeremy Paxman; Dave seemed to be more comfortable than he did last week.
Next the panel was asked a question about the NHS. On this issue, there was a miserable consensus. From this point onwards it was clear that Nicola Sturgeon was going to be the most charismatic person on the panel and Natalie Bennett has so far avoided a meltdown so at least the discussion was bearable to watch. It was fitting that The SNP’s leader led the charge condemning the ‘privatisation’ of the NHS, the other parties followed suit. Essentially the leaders all took turns to accuse the panellists of not being committed enough to the health service. Despite there being an uncomfortable moment when Nigel Farage said that a foreign family that got HIV here in the UK would be simple ‘unfortunate;’ this section was relatively dull.
I will address the last two questions at the same time because they were essentially a continuation of the same discussion, more so that the first half of the debate. The third question was about immigration and the last was about young people. Really these were just chances for the leaders to address their core vote, no one would be surprised that Nick Clegg sprung into life when tuition fees were brought up and immigration saw Nigel’s most animated moments. I would argue there David Cameron saw his worst instance here when he claimed that by voting for UKIP, people were electing ‘Labour by the backdoor’. I could feel the whole country groaning with me. It was also noticeable that Ed Miliband’s most reliable tactic is his ability to distance himself from New-Labour, I imagine he will continue to deploy this through the election campaign.
To conclude, it was clear by the end of the ‘Leaders Debate’ that Libertarian values will play no part in the upcoming election campaign. Throughout the discussion, there were no references to greater freedom and genuine prosperity at all. But on this issue, I am hardly surprised. I believe that David Cameron’s plan to participate in a little debate as possible during the race to Downing Street has worked remarkably well; I don’t think that his opinion ratings will have been damaged or radically boosted by this debate. As for the minor parties, I don’t think that they will have radically changed their electoral prospects. At the time of writing this article it looks like David Cameron and Ed Miliband have done equally well in Salford. The monotony of the upcoming electoral wrangling hasn’t been made any more thrilling.