A Tale of Seven Leaders: The General Election Debate April 2nd 2015

uktv-leader-debate-running-order

The first and most comprehensive of the televised debates gave seven leaders a chance to influence the impact of their parties ahead of the General Election in May.

I planned to follow the two hours of hustings, [20.00-22.00 BST] noting my immediate reactions to the leaders’ performances.

My Front-end loading

Front-end loading or pre-project planning is a term found in project management to anticipate and be prepared for dealing with the inevitable unforeseen events later. My Front-end loading was to structure my observations around the seven candidates, using the locations on the podium.

Luck of the draw

The attempt towards fair treatment of all, resulted in a complex sequence of ‘who goes first’, as shown in the ITV chart above. The main thing to remember is the location of the speakers

For each candidate, I intend to note my expectations, and to comment on anything unexpected, particularly if it relates to leadership style. I also drew on media analyses for my template.

The Candidates [in left to right podium order]

Natalie Bennett (Green Party) will occupy the far left podium, with Nick Clegg (Liberal Democrats), Nigel Farage (UKIP), Ed Miliband (Labour), Leanne Wood (Plaid Cymru), Nicola Sturgeon (Scottish National Party) and finally David Cameron (Conservatives)

Natalie Bennett
Leader of The Green Party

Expectations

Outsider from Australia. Recent v poor TV interview. Can only go in one direction, up. Greens are running behind in polls, well overtaken by UKIP. Will need to find some more assertiveness of style.

Nick Clegg

Leader of Lib Dems, deputy PM in coalition

Expectations

‘Winner’ of debate last time, dreadful change in fortunes since. Has never recovered politically from decline due to breaking promise on tuition fees entering coalition. Will plug the need for Lib Dems to preserve centre ground in next Parliament. Unpopular policy on Europe for electorate.

Nigel Farage

Leader of UKIP

Expectations

The most charismatic and populist of the speakers. Pub-chum style is a strength and possible weakness. Convincing narrative to followers about UKIP as genuine alternative to a failed system, esp on immigration, and Europe. Expected to have good audience impact.

His attacks on govt. economic policy not so salient for his supporters ashes immigration and Anti-EU views

Ed Miliband [EM]

Leader of the Labour Party

Expectations

Will try to reset electorate’s perception of him as weak and rather weird. Tends to do folksy-sincerity, unconvincing according to polls. Emphasis on more human-faced economic probity than Govt. policies and behaviours.

Leanne Wood

Leader of Plaid Cymru [‘Party of Wales’]

A surprise inclusion following negotiations over composition of panel. Main objective is to gain some more credibility for Plaid Cymru in Wales. Modest style may conceal firm resolve?

Nicola Sturgeon

Leader SNP, First Minister, Scotland

Presents as calm and confident. May impress electorate as a fresh and authoritative figure. SNP likely to be powerful force in next Parliament, expected to destroy Labour in Scotland in the Election. Needs only to secure gains of SNP in Scotland.

David Cameron [DC]

Prime Minister, The Conservative party

Expectations

Statesmen like. Message: competence or chaos. Don’t get hooked on immigration or on Europe in ways that might help Nigel Farage. Confirm electorate’s view of him as nice or less nasty than other prominent conservatives. Will deal easily with Posh Boy suggestions.

Leadership team challenge

Leadership students may find it instructive to consider what sort of team might be made of the seven candidates? [The coalition from hell?] Who might emerge as a leader and perhaps Prime Minister. How might subsequent bids for power work out?

Opening statements

Natalie Bennett

austerity not inevitable.  We start with hope.

Nigel Farage

all six support immigration .  Immigration is bad.

Nick Clegg

lib Dems have resilience to complete job started

Nicola Sturgeon

Message to all. Friendship working across UK.  Against austerity and nuclear subs

David Cameron

our plan is working Economy is fastest growing.  Stick with us.

Leanne Wood

Support Plaid Cymru

Ed Miliband

Support Labour, save the health service

Questions 1-4

The one minute format doesn’t quite work. Machine-gun like answers, impossible to evaluate.  Multiple and confusing challenging of one another’s statements.

no obvious winner as yet.  Leane Wood gains applause for objecting to Nigel Farage remark about immigrants and HIV.

This 45 min into debate

Second half of debate

Question on immigration.  Bit of hopping around.  Avoid scapegoating but tighten up. Some clear water.  The greens present themselves as universal  idealists .  Plaid Cymru as  socialist idealists.

Getting a bit boring. Do they have a comfort break? I need one. Back to hear round of applause for David Cameron for labour MPs who used zero hour contracts for employees,

Final  Statements

Nicola Sturgeon

SNP alternative includes abolishing nuclear weapons.

Nick Clegg

Vote for LIB Dems for stability and fairness.

Ed Miliband

Ill reward all people playing by fair rules

Leanne Wood

Austerity is a choice. Give vote for Plaid Cymru

Natalie Bennett

Vote for what you believe in, vote green

Nigel Farage

We believe in patriotism. Let’s do it

David Cameron

Let’s keep security.

Phew! Was it worth it. Yes, just about. And goodnight.

Initial reaction

Not a game changer. Don’t know what winning here means. Minor collateral damage.

On reflection

My view straight after the debate was that the selection of the seven candidates was the result a weak compromise to secure the presence of The Prime Minister.

On reflection, I still think there were different agendas which made the ‘who won’ debate even more futile than usual. However, the alleged million plus tweets suggests that the format engaged the web-based audience and maybe will influence chances of similar format becoming a favoured choice in the future.

But ‘they that were not there will think themselves accursed’ and work harder for a voice next time. These absent voices included the DUP of Northern Ireland, and George Galloway’s The Respect Party. Not clear about a format that might work with even more contributors.

The pointless of seeking a winner

I remain firm in believing that it is pointless reducing the performance to a league table of winningness. Maybe It would just about be possible to look for utter tanking. There wasn’t any person there in my view who failed obviously weakening electoral chances. After May 7th, careful and clever analysis may reveal what impact the debate may have made.

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