Thursday, 15th April 2010 will go down in history as the first day British Politics opened up to real public scrutiny with the very first of three Prime Ministerial TV debates. Who was the winner? Was it the incumbent Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, and his party of power for the last 13 years? Was it perhaps the front-runner in the polls for the last couple of years, the Old Etonian David Cameron? Or was it the new kid on the block? By a country mile, it was Nick Clegg of the LibDems. But why?
Clegg was the only one of the three leaders who looked at things from our perspective. The other two looked at things from a Party Political standpoint, a standpoint that made them both look quite out of touch. Cameron also looked rather lost, as if he was still trying to work out not what to say, but which face he would look best displaying while he said the vacuous waffle he came out with from time to time. Brown? Clumsy, wooden, and long-winded. No idea of how to connect with real people.
While Cameron and Brown squabbled over whether they would save or spend a billion here or a billion there, Clegg was talking about cutting expenditure by £100 billion. From just one project. Clegg’s proposals were all costed out and listed in the LibDem manifesto, whereas the other two only had no costings in their tomes – and yes, I have read them. Not cover to cover, admittedly, but enough to get a taste of what they were trying to put across. To be honest, if all you do is look at the front cover of each party manifesto, you can quickly see what sort of party they are.
Labour manifesto: brightly coloured, a little too busy perhaps and with soviet style iconography and everything a little messy and chaotic. Just too much detail, and no understanding of what we want to get from them, a real top down style.
Conservative manifesto: blue, inviting you to do all the work, and with no detail. Oh yes, and expensively produced, as if created by a PR guru used to presenting expensive products to big companies. All style, no substance. Well, substance for millionaires, perhaps, but not for ordinary folk.
LibDem manifesto: Clear, concise, honest, simple to understand and completely straightforward. I mean, their four main objectives on the front cover, easy to find, hard to argue with – and exactly on target with what the public want. That’s not my opinion (although I do happen to believe it) – it’s the latest polls.
So what did the immediate post-debate Polls say?
51% – Nick Clegg
29% – David Cameron
19% – Gordon Brown
43% – Nick Clegg
26% – David Cameron
20% – Gordon Brown
The overwhelming feeling I got from the three personalities on test was who they were used to talking to. Gordon Brown was clearly used to telling minions what to do. In the silent posed moments when they had to look in camera, David Cameron tried hard to look like his head should go on a postage stamp in place of the Queen’s – who he is of course related to – and gave us his best 2/3rds profile, neither one thing nor the other. He looked like a little boy playing with his soldiers and telling them how important he was, how bad the naughty Labour man was but not saying anything to make you think he was any better. The only one who really gave any inkling that he not only talked to ordinary people on a regular basis, but that he actually listened to them as well, was Nick Clegg. He really does seem to be the People’s Champion.