Thursday 15 April 2010

Round One Analysis

That was so intense it was exhausting.

I thought I might be the only one who felt that way, but my fears were allayed when ITV’s Tom Bradby popped up afterwards looking like he’d just swallowed some anti-depressants.

Everyone thought Clegg was in a strong position before hand – but I’ve got to say I didn’t think he’d win by as much as he did.

In the end it was 43% Clegg, 26% Cameron and 20% Brown.

One thing that perpetuated it was Brown’s well thought out strategy of directing heavy fire at Cameron, while allying himself with Clegg.

I lost count of the number of times Brown said he agreed with the Lib Dem leader.

Meanwhile Cameron must have taken a conscious decision not to go on the offensive like he does in the Commons.

His advisors know that when he appears snide voters don’t like it, so he avoided those cutting, articulate attacks which his backbenchers cheer.

The thing is, it meant Clegg gained the support of Brown, which made him look more “right”, while avoiding heavy attacks.

In fairness he also performed well, making original and clear points – on class sizes in the education section of the debate for example.

He was also the first to get into his stride breaking free of the rigid opening speech section almost immediately.

Because of relative expectations some people are calling the score line a win for Clegg, a draw for Brown and a loss for Cameron.

But keep some things in mind – firstly that while this was exciting and captivating, we are not even half way through the debates yet.

Secondly is that while Nick Clegg has a big lead, he also has a huge obstacle to get over in being the third party.

People know that voting on TV has no consequences. That is not the case at the ballot box.

When it comes to the real thing many will still be of the mindset that they should vote for Labour or the Tories if it is a close race.

Thirdly, the crucial question here is the one on the economy, on which Cameron equalled Clegg on 36% to Brown’s 28%.

On immigration Cameron won outright.

I think Clegg will continue to do well. If Brown is serious about winning the election he has to come at least second in these debates.

Cameron has to decide whether it is too big a risk to cut lose his inhibitions and go on the offensive – it could make or break him.

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