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

April 2, 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.


Diversity and its downside

December 15, 2014

In a Newsnight interview, the Economist Paul Collier sketched out his concerns over diversity and its political implicationsThe Human Development Context: Paul Collier

The BBC Newsnight interview [by Kirsty Wark, Dec 11th 2014] was partly framed by the increased importance being attached to the question of immigration control in the build-up to the General Election next May.

The distinguished economist Sir Paul Collier was introduced as a ‘liberal leaning’ figure who nevertheless had ‘expressed concerns about immigration’ in his work, including his analysis to be found in his recent book Exodus

Unsurprisingly, Sir Paul gently evaded attempts to simplify his ideas into an ‘immigration good or bad’ discussion. He suggested that the economic consequences of immigration were less significant than might be believed from the current narrative. His own concerns were that the consequences could result in a deterioration of socially cohesive factors of generosity, trust, and willingness to collaborate.

Loss of generosity
Loss of trust
Loss of collaboration

Wark suggested that her interviewee had been reported as relying too much on anecdote rather than evidence. Collier pointed out that the use of anecdote in his work was to illustrate the technical evidence, not replace it.

I found the interview a serious contribution to a debate on immigration that has increasingly demonstrated a preference for the glibness of absolute beliefs and evocative anecdotes. The issue is not so much whether immigration is good or bad, but how leadership and citizenship deals tolerance, trust and a willingness to seek collaborative over confrontational actions.


UKIP win sets scene for recognition of political realities beyond the English borders in the omnishambles by-election

November 21, 2014

The voters of Rochester and Strood returned Conservative defector Mark Reckless to parliament as their new UKIP MP

The result is seen as a defining moment in UK politics.. Perhaps, but it certainly was no surprise. Polls had anticipated the result well in advance.

An omnishambles vote?

For the traditional political parties, the episode has seemed another example of an omnishambles. This was the term capturing the political mood of the nation, according to the right-leaning Daily Telegraph.

It captured enough of the mood after its first recorded use in the political satire The thick of things to be voted word of the year in 2012 by the Oxford University Press.

The Conservative omnishambles

The Prime Minister vowed ‘to keep his [Mark Reckess’s ] fat arse out of Westminster’. His instructions to love-bomb the election were apparently treated by his cabinent and MPs to the political practice of obeying the letter of the law while ignoring the spirit of it.

The labour omnishambles

The labour omnishambles included an attempt to change leader in mid-shambles. It ended with the resignation of an MP whose tweet seemed to be a sneering reference to people who vote UKIP, drive white vans, and display Union flags on the front of their modest homes

“Longer term, its labour will suffer” a subscriber to LWD and a student of the political scene told me. “Social media and technology will make it hard for them to keep the old loyalty of voters”

The Liberal omnishambles?

The Liberal Democrat coalition partners in Government won a humiliating 1% of the vote. One rather sympathetic headline among the majority of withering comments suggested they had conserved financial and political capital for the upcoming general election

Beyond the borders

My suspicion is that the voters recognized the failure of those in power to deliver. The single issue dominating was that of immigrants as the primary source of disaffection. If so, the outcome mirrors a mood against the much-reviled EC system within many of its member states. I’m inclined to extend the dissatisfaction to the omnishambles in the American political scene as well.

To be continued

This first-reaction posting replaced the planned post on F1, which will follow shortly.


Dilma Rousseff: Guardian of the people outside the gates

November 16, 2014

Sao Paulo (2)

In a tight electoral contest, Dilma Rousseff is re-elected as President of Brazil. She is the candidate of ‘the people outside the gates’

Dilma Rousseff presides over a gated nation. She has been re-elected by a narrow margin as the candidate of those living ‘outside the gates’. Her people’s party , PT, is committed to reducing the inequality gap.

A personal recollection

A personal image. In a side street in the financial centre of São Paulo, a little girl in a smart dark-blue uniform stands behind the security gates of a large house. As we walk past on our way to the University, a limousine pulls up in front of the house. The gates open, and the little girl gets into the back of the limo. As it drives off, the security gates close again. The image has stayed with me. The bustling streets seemed safe, in the early morning rush-hour. Yet Chris, our host, had insisted on meeting his two visitors from England, and escorting us from our hotel to the nearby lecture rooms. We just saw how the people within the gates protect themselves.

Dilma seen as anti-capitalist

The Economist has predictably seen Rousseff’s re-appointment as a rejection of the modernizing and pro-business policies of the defeated candidate Aecio Neves. The campaign was full of sleazy accusations, but arguably was no different to the balanced-free rants that come from America’s television coverage of the last two presidential campaigns.

Prognosis

The Western Press suggests that Rousseff is unable to introduce needed change to deliver economic and social stability. Her broad policy is considered to be shackled by a sympathetic stance to Latin American solidarity against the United States and supporting the strengthening of trade relationships with China.

To be continued

The story is developing rapidly, and will be continued with the Petrobras scandal this week and the mass demonstrations in São Paulo.

Nov 15th 2014

Bloomberg reports 10,000 demonstrate in streets of São Paulo.

Nov 18th 2014

Grace Foster, head of Petrobras commits to major change in the CSR of the state-owned oil company.


One report on immigration, six different news stories

November 7, 2014

This week saw the publication of research on the economic impact of immigration to the UK. The breaking media reports made me think of six authors in search of a headline

The research was conducted by the Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM) at University College London (UCL) and published by the Royal Economic Society in the Economic Journal.

In its own summary of the work, UCL headlined it as

Positive economic impact of UK immigration from the European Union: new evidence , adding that the report showed that European immigrants to the UK have paid more in taxes than they received in benefits, helping to relieve the fiscal burden on UK-born workers and contributing to the financing of public services.

A political football match starts

The report signaled the kick off at a political football match as national and international media joined the game. The headlines show how a complex report can be reported selectively.

Sky News

The Sky headline selects the main point indicated in the UCL article, that EU migrants pay in more than they take out of the economy

The Guardian

The Guardian touches on the political point that the UK ‘gains £20 billion’ from EU migrants

The BBC

The BBC suggests that New EU migrants add £5bn to UK

Business Week

Business Week notes that EU migrants ‘ add billions to UK public finances

The Telegraph and Daily Mail

The Telegraph and Daily Mail have taken a different approach.

The Telegraph notes that ‘Immigration from outside Europe cost £120 billion’; The Mail that Non-EU migrants are costing £120 billion.

Making sense of the headlines

You have to look at the report to decide which headlines summarize what the authors believe to be the key finding of their report, and which headlines are, shall we say, more selective.


A few reflections on the Scottish Referendum

September 20, 2014

The Scottish Referendum ended with a win for the Better Together campaign and devastation for the devolutionists and its leader Alex Salmond. Here are a few unedited impressions of the end-game

September 18th 2014

An emotional roller-coaster of a final day of campaigning and a night waiting as the results were counted. The process is hailed as a template for democratic elections. The commitment was impressive, the over ninety percent registration, over eighty percent turn-out.

Hope and denial

Hope in bucketfuls from the Independent Scotland ranks. For that dreamed-for freedom.

Freedom from the auld enemy, reborn as ‘the politicians in Whitehall’. Denial in bucketfuls, too. Denial that Scottish leaders were of a similar moral standing and competence to Whitehall’s toffs and scoundrels. The anger of one old-school socialist brought memories of an earlier age of fire-breathing working-class Scottish Union leaders with a long rehearsed loathing of his class enemies.

The pain of loss

The expressions of a lost dream in which a free Scotland would have been free from Trident -that was often mentioned. Free from perceived unjust laws imposed from Whitehall. For some, free from fears of what might happen, for example to the NHS [National Health Service].

From under a duvet

A distraught and inconsolable young caller to a phone-in. Upset after campaigning all day, staying up all night. Polls show the Better Together win. More questioning. She is nineteen. Tearful. In bed. I imagine her curled up, foetal position, under a duvet, clutching her I-phone.

Whitehall. It’s politics as usual

Early morning. A prepared statement from David Cameron confirming concessions to Scotland but also to the other constitutive parts of the [still] United Kingdom. Seized on as an electioneering ploy.

The agony of Alex

Alex Salmond, indefatigable leader of the Yes campaign for two years. Final speech had been as confident as ever. Within hours of the result, he announces he will step down as first Minister of the Scottish Parliament. The mask of command had been wearily taken off.

World reaction

Excellent International review from BBC Scotland.

Local reaction

Just heard two Labour politicians in deeply-divided discussion [BBC Radio 5] much easier for the Better Together camp to seek reconciliation. Sad.


Why Boris is remembered for introducing congestion charges and Boris bikes

August 22, 2014

Charismatic leaders attract myths which help constitute their public persona. A case in point is that of Boris Johnsonboris bikes

I was reminded of the myth-making process phenomenon after a meeting yesterday [August 22nd] with two LWD contributors. We were discussing the final draft for a post about Boris Johnson being planned for the near future.

They seek him here, they seek him there

But how to pin down the Boris effect? One instructive episode at the meeting was when we began listing what Boris was known for. Bendy busses. Public gaffs. Teflon-like survival of public gaffs. Boris Bikes. London’s congestion change.

London’s congestion charge?

Well, no not really, but they were added to the list of Boris’s political achievements. Only later did a little research reveal the historical fact that they were introduced by Ken Livingstone, Boris’s predecessor as Mayor of London.

An explanation?

Charisma operates by inducing a state of suspended disbelief. Boris is believed to do big bold controversial things. The congestion change is a big bold controversial thing. I don’t think Boris has tried to abolish it. We assumed he had invented it.

The Guinness effect

A possibly unrelated effect? Some years ago I attended a meeting at which new ideas were being discussed for the drinks company then known as Guinness. A rather nice idea was suggested by a colleague, someone we will call Susan. The idea was hardly greeted with enthusiasm, but at the end of the meeting two unexpected things happened. The idea was accepted as worth further testing.

“That’s a nice idea you had” one of the Guinness executives told me, to general agreement.

Did I insist Susan got credit for the idea? Not loud enough to make a difference to the myth being built. I could argue that the ‘creative ideas’ meeting was structured so that ideas were deliberately left unclaimed and not associated with any one team member. That is hardly the point. I had accrued the social credit for something I hadn’t done. It happened to fit my (then) social identity as the outsider brought in because of his creative skills.

Susan became known in her own right as a successful creative leader. The idea (which involved a re-branding of a well-known product) was followed through. The incident has remained with us as a reminder of what we think of as The Guinness Effect.

Postscript

Even the Boris Bikes are technically branded as Barclays cycle hire scheme for the moment (but a new sponsor is likely) . And even the Barclays/Boris bikes were proposed by Ken Livingstone and implemented during the reign of king Boris …


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