ITV leaders’ debate was “UK Politics Unplugged” in cacophonous sound and vision…

Election_2015__Who_s_who_in_the_ITV_Leaders__DebateSo, some quick post election debate thoughts:

The sentiment where I was watching was why can’t we have women politicians as articulate and as politically attractive as Leanne Wood and Nicola Sturgeon. Although it was pot luck the Plaid Cymru leader got to perform the takedown on Nigel Farage over foreign HIV patients getting NHS treatment, it was what people will remember her by.

Much as the SNP and Plaid gained profile, it comes at the detriment of Carwin Jones in Wales and Jim Murphy in Scotland. The decision to exclude NI parties (four plus seven would have been farcical) means that ITV not only ‘unvoiced’ Northern Ireland as a constituent part of the United Kingdom, but devolved unionist voices everywhere else.

So Plaid was raised to the voice of Wales status it aspires to, Welsh Labour who are already that (for now) were effectively silenced. It’s a trick of the TV light that can only benefit Plaid at the expense of Labour. And it is this Welsh coup that may prove to be Labour’s five o’clock shadow moment here rather than Scotland which already seems lost.

This exemplifies a issue which Jones (Murdo Fraser has made similar arguments here on Slugger) has been making for some time: ie, that further constitutional reform must continue not simply in the devolved areas, but in London. In effect ITV were grappling with a problem that Westminster has been diligently ignoring, and coming up with similar illogical part answers.

One reason people in England (and Northern Ireland) are purring over politicians they cannot vote for and regretting the poor choices facing them is the unfair mixed of politicians who if elected to power will be responsible for tax raising with those who will mostly spend them. The latter were clear, fearless and mostly policy free, the former technocratic and devoid of resonance.

On the mainstage of UK politics unplugged, the PM lost out because many of the sensible points he made were drowned in the cacophony. Although the Tories will feel they were amply compensated with the damage wrought on Labour in Scotland (and Wales).

Nick Clegg too, came out of his long silence with the only really personalised (if political) attack of the whole game. In the limited game available to his party, that qualifies as a win. He needs that much even to win his own seat in Sheffield Hallam, never mind hold his party’s apparently outsized assets elsewhere.

Nigel Farage will bolster his base, but I suspect having had one gin too many (and just one might have been enough to do it) before curtain up and a debate thick with other (dare I say more attractive) oppositionist voices may have dampened his capacity to appeal to the wider group of voters he needs to turn to take seats rather than just damage the big two.

Biggest loser on the night, I suspect, was Ed Miliband. Not so much through anything he said, what we got to hear was sound enough, but the format effectively mugged Labour to a far greater extent than any other party in the debate.

One important thing to add though is that Miliband himself has been subjected to the most sustained and nasty personal attack (which is also becoming a feature, rather than a bug) imaginable over the four years or so he has been leader of the Labour party, and yet last night he seemed to have cut through all of that.

If it is not too condescending a thing to say, last night he never looked more human since taking over as leader, or more ready for a fight. As one friend put it last night, ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’.

Yes well, we’ll see about that on the seventh of May. Even after that it is clear the UK is on journey of evolving territorial sovereignty. UKIP and Brexit may prove to be the least of unsighted London’s worries.

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  • Zig70

    For me Leanne Wood and more so Nicola Sturgeon where the most articulate. The rest did okay. Did Nick actually say vote Liberal once? Is that not odd? Labour didn’t go the hard sell either. The fact of the matter is that Ed looks goofy and whether you like it or not, it’s a plastic world. Looking weak in the public eye (as opposed to the internal party) isn’t going to help. The consensus among politcos in the US is that negative campaigning does help and it’s a bit too nice in England with only Leanne and that one policy a-hole Farage seemingly willing to cut hard at all opponents. Unionists are seen as Irish, Northern Irish, but Irish none the less. On top of that Northern Irish politics is seen as a one issue politic. No doubt the English couldn’t see what they could possibly have added to the debate. I’d warrant that when the English considered they were Better together with their oil rich neighbour, the troublesome statelet didn’t come into it.

  • Korhomme

    I wonder, would the SNP consider setting up a branch in N Ireland?

  • Old Mortality

    Did Ms Wood do anything more than bleat vacuous left-wing platitudes? Her decision to appeal to a parochial audience may pay electoral dividends. Ms Wood also lacks the smug conceit that the Munchkin from the North has acquired . She had no inhibitions about pontificating on national affairs. As Mick has pointed out both had the luxury of not needing to explain where the money was coming from to pay for their ‘progressive’ policies. It’s a particularly crass description when your policies represent the long-established orthodoxy of Scottish politics.

  • Barneyt

    My gut tells me that the Torys will do better than expected, and many will tick their box on the day, even if they are currently undecided. The SNP are predicted to increase their Westminster holding by as much as 48 seats? That’s a crazy shift in fortunes, given than Scotland opted to vote unionist in the independence vote.

    The prediction I looked at shows the following:
    Tory = 277, Labour = 268, Libs = 25 and SNP = 54 Other = 22

    Based on this and possible political alliances, there is no way the Tory’s, even with UKIP, DUP and Libs, can cross the line.

    A labour/SNP coalition is not enough either according to the numbers above. They might squeak in if they fold in the Green vote, securing a majority with 323 (which works in practice), but will need the SDLP to perform well I expect. One option is Labour/SNP & DUP….but cant see that.

    We are looking at a multi-party coalition from what I can see. If this new government is to push anything through (assuming they can collectively agree) Labour/Libs & the SNP has to somehow coalesce. Yikes!

    So, how does this minority government thing work again? 🙂

  • Korhomme

    There was a Labour minority government in 1923. Like all such governments, it tottered along until a ‘crisis’, whether or real. Then there’s a confidence vote, and if they loose, another election. I’m already bored with this one, the idea of another in a few months (with the same or similar result) is the stuff of nightmares.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I thought early on Cameron looked diminished and isolated – there was a sense that you rarely get through other media that here is a prime minister who has pushed through an economic approach everyone else rejects – even people in his own coalition. He looked nervous, sweaty and as if he just wanted it all to end. But I don’t think Miliband really led the opposition to him, it was more of an ensemble piece.

    As the debate went on though and moved away from the economy – ironically enough – Cameron recovered and I thought his final statement was pretty well crafted and delivered. So he just about held his own and avoided a melt-down.

    Miliband did OK, made some good points etc, but will still seem I suspect goofy and no less posh than Cameron to most of the country – which isn’t true, but does detract from the power of what he was saying. Standing up for “working families” sounds a whole lot better if you sound like you come from one yourself.

    So overall I don’t think it changes things much either way. Miliband hasn’t been transformed; but he has perhaps assuaged the fears of some who don’t know him that he’s some kind of drooling incompetent. That might count for something in the final frame.

    I think the non-Labour criticisms of Cameron are probably more powerful for undecided voters. They expect Labour to be anti-Tory but when they hear Clegg laying into a policy, or someone who seems sensible but they don’t know, like Nicola Sturgeon, it can make people start to wonder if actually maybe this Cameron guy is peddling a rather odd line, PM or not.

    What I’m getting at with all this, from my own research background, is that undecided voters are often looking to see what the crowd’s going with. And then it’s a case of, “I’ll go along with what the general opinion seems to be”. All these things like who seems to be isolated and who seems to be normal are little clues voters use to see what the wisdom of the crowd is. Polls are too.

    This is why momentum is so important – once undecideds see the “wind changing” in favour one candidate, it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. At the moment, no one has that surge. Hard to see what can bring it. But events, dear boy, events, as they say … who knows what might happen between now and 7th May.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I finished by saying “events” … could this be one?
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/SNP/11514933/Nicola-Sturgeon-secretly-backs-David-Cameron.html

    Really it is no big surprise that the SNP want the Tories to win, because the SNP’s case for an independent Scotland is so much stronger when a pretty much English-only party, and a much hated one at that, is in power. And it’s also a no-brainer that the Tories want the SNP to eat into Labour’s seats in Scotland.

    No party may win an overall majority but what will be crucial will be who is the biggest party. If the Tories are the biggest party, they will most likely have the chance to form a minority government – and would be regarded as having some legitimacy in doing that. So progressive Scottish voters, don’t think you can vote SNP and get a nice result of a Labour government with SNP influence. That’s an illusion. If you’re genuinely SNP through-and-through, vote SNP; but if you’re a floating progressive voter in Scotland, it’s a no-brainer – you should vote Labour.

    That is, if you’ll listen to arguments from an Ulsterman living in England 😉