General Election 2010: Second leaders’ debate – How did it go?

Tonight saw the second live televised leaders’ debate for the General Election 2010, broadcast on Sky News, and what a debate it was, a far better all around experience than the previous leaders’ debate last week. It all looked better from the off as the set was far less distracting than last week’s 70’s quiz show set and David Cameron looked far less like a thunderbird puppet as he had less make-up on.

The first noticeable thing about the debate was that all the leaders were looking directly into the camera a lot more. Nick Clegg manages this very naturally, David Cameron didn’t look as if it came to him quite so easily, while Gordon Brown managed to switch between the camera and looking at the studio audience at ease.

One of the features on the Sky News coverage was a ‘Rate The Leaders’ feature allowing viewers to give an instant reaction to what they were hearing and comparing it with the views of others. This sounded like a great idea but I couldn’t get access for some time as too many people were already using it.

The first good line of the evening at 8:14 pm went to Gordon Brown when he compared the other two leaders’ arguing as being like his two young boys squabbling at bath time. It raised a chuckle in the otherwise restricted studio audience and let them know he meant action. One of the early questions was whether the U.K. would take part in future multi-national operations against terrorists abroad?

Clegg’s response was to say that if soldiers were put into harm’s way it had to be done properly or not at all. Brown’s point was that to keep streets safe in Britain, terrorists have to be tackled wherever they are. Cameron gave a good reply saying that if troops were sent into battle again it shouldn’t be without proper equipment or helicopters.

At 08:24 I managed to take a look at last at ‘Rate the Leader’ and at that time the Lib Dems were well ahead with the Tories and Labour almost tied. Gordon Brown by this point had got into his stride and was looking more assured and relaxed. The debate ebbed and flowed vastly better than the first debate (see our previous story) as Adam Boulton was prepared to sit back and let the leaders talk, rather than Alistair Stewart last week who strutted about the floor shouting loudly which was very distracting.

At 20:34 a pop-up question box appeared on screen on the online coverage of the event asking Who Will You Vote For? The response at this time put the Lib Dems on 48%, Tories on 20% and Labour on 19% with the rest of the vote made up from Green, UKIP and Others. At 20:37 the answer came up as to Who Was Winning? The immediate response at this time was Nick Clegg on 49%, David Cameron on 30% and only 19% going for Gordon Brown. The remainder of the poll was for None of them.

At 20:44 one of the most important questions of the night came, How Do You Plan To Restore Faith in Politics? Nick Clegg looked almost dynamic when he said that the voters were the boss and should have the power to sack their MP’s. Gordon Brown made some general points about reform and sounded emphatic when he told the viewers their vote mattered and to please use it. David Cameron added that they needed to cut the cost of politics.

One of the truly genuine moments of the debate appeared to come from Gordon Brown when he said that he was ashamed of some of the behaviour of MP’s and went on to say that political service should be about serving the public and not yourself. He showed an emotional, almost human side of himself that would have gone down well with the audience.

One of the closing questions was about how to make immigration fairer. Both Clegg and Brown came up with strong answers with Brown saying he wasn’t interested in scoring points. Cameron seemed to be fading a little as the debate drew to a close but retained his composure.

As the closing speeches from each of the leaders ended the debate Brown sounded confident, even though David Cameron then accused him of sounding desperate. Nick Clegg somehow sounded insincere when he spoke of improving the world. I half expected him to start singing “Heal the World”, and for the studio audience to swing their arms in unison.

The final Who’s Winning vote at the closure of the debate made Cameron a somewhat surprising victor on 44%, as Nick Clegg had led most of the way. Clegg polled 41% and Brown was on a miserable 14%. Meanwhile the Who Will You Vote For question put the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats on equal footing with 42% while Labour was a long way down again with a paltry 15%.

The debate was fluid, dynamic and as said before, an enormous improvement on the previous debate. At the end Adam Boulton invited the leaders to step forward and shake hands which they did, however reluctantly. They then proceeded to shake hands with members of the audience while Adam Boulton looked exceedingly satisfied which he was entitled to do.

The only part of these debates that rankles with me is the non-participation of the audience as far as booing, heckling, applauding and cheering is concerned. I feel it makes the debate feel unnatural and sometimes stilted to have nothing in the way of reaction except the odd nervous chuckle and it would be more interesting if they changed the rules for the next General Election debates.

Did you watch the debate? Who did you think came out best and who let themselves down? We’d be interested in hearing your thoughts so why not let us know.

  • http://www.facebook.com/reynolds.darren Darren Reynolds

    Adam Boulton broke the rules.