Euro TV Debates: What each candidate needs to do #EP14

This evening and Tuesday night will be the last real opportunity for the European candidates to address voters and make their case for election to the European parliament. The debates are scheduled to take place on Monday 10:35pm, UTV with all ten candidates, followed by another on Tuesday evening on BBC One also at 10:35pm. I am not sure whether all the candidates have been invited to the Spotlight debate or whether it is just the five main parties.

I thought it would be interesting to get a debate going on Slugger on what each of the candidates need to do in the last few days to garner some momentum going into Thursdays contest. If you were their campaign manager/press officer what would you be advising each of them to do in order to stop mistakes or land a killer blow on their main opponents?

I have attended all but one of the hustings, seeing each of the candidates (apart from Allister) debating up close there are a few things that I think each of them have to keep in mind as they talk to a wider audience.

Martina Anderson

  • Able to quote facts and figures about our membership of the European Union with ease and very few notes.
  • Very polished and disciplined, which works for her in delivering a clear message.
  • She also deals with well criticism over issues like victims when it is put in front of her. Going up against someone like Allister, I would be very surprised if the SPAD bill or victim’s issues did not emerge at some point. If Anderson can keep her cool and respond calmly to any charge put to her then she should have a good night.

Diane Dodds

  • Has gotten a lot better from poor performance in the 2009 TV debates.
  • Like Anderson, she is able to quote figures and facts about Northern Ireland and Europe with relative ease which adds to the sense that she is in control of her brief.
  • One problem that I can see is that when she is put under pressure she tends to fall back into teacher mode and ends up lecturing the audience and the person who is attacking her. If I was advising her, I would stay away from quoting any surveys that show ‘Oh I was the best MEP etc,’ this does not really impress anyone and actually comes across a bit sad.

Jim Nicholson

  • Arguably has the most to lose from this debate. This will be his last chance to really get people out to vote for him and convince possible voters who are planning to stay at home that he is deserving of another five years in Brussels.
  • The only real card he can play is his experience and his contact book in Europe. There will need to be some focus on Attwood as he tries to convince Unionist voters to come out and vote for him or at the very least preference him high enough on Election Day.

Alex Attwood

  • Likewise, this will be an important set of appearances for Attwood as he tries to convince people that he is in striking distance of that third seat. He doesn’t do badly on TV and this could be a critical moment for him to win over more support.
  • Attwood needs to find some way of moving closer to Sinn Fein in order to give them a reason to transfer to him in sufficient numbers. If he can stress common positions on Europe, Irish unity and economic issues I think that could do him some good in improving his chances of election.
  • One negative is for him not to fall into the trap of stressing the European Socialist membership too much. I have canvassed in Euro elections and been at a variety of events and I am yet to hear anybody actually really care what affiliation you have once you get to Brussels. These debates don’t give you much time; don’t waste it continuously stressing irrelevant points to your audience.

Anna Lo

  • These debates will crucial for Anna as her campaign has struggled to get back on track on following her Irish unity interview in March.
  • If it comes up she needs to own the Irish unity comments that she made. I have often felt the kind of downplaying and attempts to bury what she said just adds fuel to the fire. The simple fact is, she supports Irish unity and she just needs to be open about it and not attempt to back track or downplay it.
  • Finally, out of all the candidates, she just needs to leave it all out  there and stop holding back-she is a liberal, Euro loving, shared future enthusiast, who is sympathetic to Irish nationalism, for better or worse that is where she is on the political spectrum.

Jim Allister

  • This really is Allister’s forte and is something that he has likely been preparing for with great enthusiasm. He did really well in the 2009 Euro debates and easily took apart most of the opposition.
  • Allister needs give reasons for his voters to come to the polls and vote for him. To really achieve this, he needs to take the issue of splitting the Unionist vote head on and really bring home to people that a vote for the TUV is not going to be wasted.

Tina McKenzie

  • Tina’s main job is to ensure that she is relevant and that she has some concrete proposals to actually bring to Europe. At some of the debates, she has a habit of bringing everything back to issues like opposition and DUP/Sinn Fein, but this has little to do with CAP or our membership of the European Union.
  • Tina should stress her knowledge of working within the single market and what somebody like her could bring to this role. In addition to this, Tina at the hustings has come across as very aggressive when she critiques some of the other candidates, it really doesn’t work for her and she is at her best when she holds back and sells a positive policy message.

Henry Reilly

  • Reilly will need to use this opportunity to illustrate how UKIP is relevant to life in Northern Ireland. Unlike Farage, Reilly is competing against other parties who have an equally hostile view of the European Union and in this debate it will be harder for him to gain traction.
  • Reilly has to stop making ‘colourful’ references on issues such as Climate Change and the intentions of politicians within the European Union. There are other ways to make a critical argument and if Reilly can take a disciplined approach he might be able to win over some supporters.

Ross Brown

  • Brown’s main task will be to get his voice heard in the debate.
  • His best strategy will be to use his positive demeanour and energy to get the viewers’ attention. The reality is that he has got very little to lose, so he should just be himself, talk about the issues he cares about (trade, energy and climate change) and give people who are that way inclined a reason to vote for him.

Mark Brotherston

  • Likewise, Brotherston will struggle to get his voice heard.
  • At a time when the Conservative government is unpopular in Westminster and locally the NI Secretary is not well liked it will not be easy for him to sell the party message. Brotherston, has got very little to lose in these debates, he should just be himself and talk about the issues he cares about. This is an opportunity for him to sell a positive local Conservative message and I would urge him to focus on how this fits in with our local politics.

, , , , , ,

  • FuturePhysicist

    I wouldn’t leave the PES part out for a few reasons, even if both Labour movements fall on domestic affairs, Atwood has made it clear that the Parliament President may be the PES nominee. I’m sure Anderson in her group would back like minded policies with the PES but a party that is in a region directly connected to the social democratic movement in Europe.

    We talk about constitutional questions, but if that’s not put into the context of debt and deficits, in trade links and co-operation, in terms of cultural exchange and mutual interest, what do these efforts really constitute when it comes to nations?

    Plus if the PES do lead the Parliament, I’ll take it as an SDLP victory even if that party doesn’t win a seat.

  • Charles_Gould

    I would also keep the PES bit in – I would also regard it as a SDLP victory if PES do well. Remember its the totality of the 700 MEPs, not the NI ones, that matter here. SDLP can play its part in securing a big PES mandate in terms of share of the EU vote.

  • megatron

    SF and DUP should nearly agree to stay out of the debate because they so clearly have a seat each.

    Will be interesting to see if Attwood goes for the SF transfers (probably wont be that many) or the soft unionist / alliance / NI21 votes.

    I would say he will pitch for the latter

  • FuturePhysicist

    Sinn Féin are looking for transfers down South (especially the Ireland South constituency), so I’m thinking it wouldn’t harm them to play to SDLP sympathisers down there. 😉 I find it strange Anderson has come out as saying with conviction that she would vote to stay in the EU. Sinn Féin are not usually seen that way, and have been seen to be highly critical of it in the past, particularly the “post-nationalism” of the last MEP to come from Derry (not named Dana).

    I don’t know what Atwood would say to get Sinn Féin transfers, yes you mention unity, but solidarity with the Republic of Ireland is what nationalists will focus upon, particularly the contrast in importance the EU makes to politics in Dublin. So, the SDLP campaign will focus on all-Ireland matters anyway, because all of Ireland is part of Europe, equally effected by CAP, somewhat equally effected by Peace Money, and equally entitled to other funds like Framework 7 and Horizon 2012, as well as addressing the problems of the Eurozone.

    If Anna Lo MBE could show something of a three strand approach i.e highlight the effect Europe has on Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland, Britain and the partnerships between the three for all people here, she could do well.

    With the possible exceptions of the NI Tories and UKIP and NI21 for other reasons, the Northern Unionist MEP candidates want British power in Europe but until there’s that a show of strength they’ll be doing their own “Greening” over CAP … Pun intended i.e. hunkering down with the Irish MEPs and their French allies on this usual as per usual attacking the MEPs from the island of Britain for being the strongest voice calling for CAP cuts and CAP reductions.

  • FuturePhysicist

    SF and DUP should nearly agree to stay out of the debate because they so clearly have a seat each.

    I don’t believe the DUP are fully safe, even some who are voting DUP in the councils might give Jim (either one) or Henry Reilly a first preference, some might even ignore this election. Sinn Féin want a quota on the first count too, I don’t think they would take that quota for granted if 10 candidates raise the turnout.

    Europe is a different ball game Ian Paisley regularly topped the poll while the DUP were in second place within unionism. I think this will be difficult for Diane Dodds.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Will get in my view first, no car crashes, actually quite a good policy debate. First place to Allister, then Anderson, Nicholson, Dodds, Attwood and Lo comes last.

    Still watching the also rans, Reilleys fringe is scaring me, Ross Brown is by far the strongest, Brotherson is actually sounding better than Tina.

  • Charles_Gould

    Thought Attwood was strongest, with Lo and Anderson the weakest.

  • Drumlins Rock

    I had low ( no pun intended ) expectations of Anderson, she spoke with some confidence. On the other hand I expected more of Tina. Ross probably put in best performance overall, but at the end of it all very few voters will be swayed.

  • Zig70

    Deadly dull, did anyone crack a smile? Deffo not a charismatic bunch. What happened to witty put downs? The chair style to restrictive and short.

  • Charles_Gould

    I thought the smaller party debate was better than the large party debate – as perhaps could be expected as the large parties play safe.

    Tina, Mark, Ross, and Henry were all entertaining and interesting in their contributions. If voters watched all through, I think the smaller parties may well have benefited overall from that TV debate show.

  • stewart1

    Thought Nicholson came across quite well on the issues. Anderson knew her stuff & spoke authoritatively. Allister did ok apart from when he tried to drag discussion away from Europe. Dodds & Lo weaker than those above and Attwood very unispiring and dull.

    At least utv stuck to the issues at hand, which makes a change for local tv.

  • iluvni

    That’s what passes as a debate on Europe?

  • MonkDeWallyDeHonk


    I agree with your rankings for the most part.

    Allister was pretty good except for when (as someone has pointed out) he tried to go off topic.

    Anderson surprised me – probably the best public performance I have seen from her.

    Nicholson sensibly played to his strengths and did OK.

    Dodds is never good and this was par for the course.

    Attwood was dull and pretty boring (again par for the course).

    I believe Lo is a good person but she is an awful public performer and this was a perfect example of this.

    I doubt it will have any significant effect – and the bookies who have all 3 incumbents at odds on are very likely to be proved right.

  • Nicholson, Dodds and Anderson all well prepped by their parties.

    Attwood was good and in a longer debate I think he would have come out even stronger.

    Disappointed in Lo, but not as bad as some claim.

    With regards to the smaller parties – Reilly woeful, Brotherston ok, Tina underwhelmed but not a car crash and Brown was the best.

    I agree that the smaller party debate was better. It is a shame not everyone can be heard on the same platform, but I understand why UTV had to do it.

  • Mc Slaggart


    “Disappointed in Lo”

    I though what she said was good but it was hard to make her out.