The British Horse Race


Summary of last night's insta-polling from Political Betting, which remind us that the "big question is what this will do to the voting intention polls and we’ll need to wait until Saturday before getting a full range." Labour party partisan Hopi Sen also discounts the post debate polls. Andrew Brown notes how God factored into the latest debate. A bit different than American politics:

Cameron and Brown are both privately devout Christians. Neither mentioned this in the debate; it won't win votes. Clegg is an atheist and said so, presumably because there are some votes in that; but he said it in a very moderate way ("I'm not a man of faith") and balanced it immediately with the information that his wife and children are Catholics.

Michael Tomasky on the TV effect:

[U]ntil Clegg caught fire, Cameron was the handsome young guy. Now, he's like the other middle-aged guy who just isn't quite as old.

You are now fully entering an age American politics entered long ago. Television rules. It's about magnetism, the smile, the tie (a point I think Clegg also won, with the gold). How one stands at a podium. Just remember this: since the advent of television in America, the clearly shorter candidate (more than a couple inches) has won one presidential election, George W. Bush over John Kerry in 2004.

David Blackburn makes the same point:

Despite expectations, television doesn’t come naturally to Cameron. There’s nothing wrong with the content of his statements, but he could express them more clearly (clarity of delivery is Clegg’s premier talent). Equally, Cameron’s stage craft is excruciating – the metronomic looks to and from camera particularly so. Clegg’s direct approach, no matter how sanctimonious, reaches beyond the artificial setting.

Norm Geras:

[T]hat Brown is the wrong leader for Labour is surely now clear to anyone who still harboured any doubts about it. From an electoral point of view he is - it seems irredeemably - a liability. Having watched both of the debates between the three party leaders from beginning to end, I don't think Brown has done at all badly - on the substance, as his supporters keep insisting. Certainly not badly enough to bear out the differential in some of the post-debate polls, where he lags as much as six points behind Cameron and/or Clegg. But, whatever Brown says, he's not going to win in any of those polls, because he just hasn't got it - the likeability, the capacity to present himself and his party as if he weren't performing the task of an undertaker.
Image via Coffee House, which also gets a shot of Brown's notes. Leaflet controversy parsed here. It helps a voter decide her vote:
I don't think I can trust Cameron to bring about real change. He, personally, may be a different kind of politician, but the interests powering his party haven't changed. They belong to the tired old world and are insufficient to the demands of the present.

I feel bad. I think Cameron is probably a well-intentioned and intelligent man; I even believe he might work well with others. But a leader who thinks it is worth wasting time confronting Brown on election leaflets during a national debate on the urgent issues facing our country today cannot win my confidence.

So I have made up my mind. I shall be voting Liberal Democrat.


For the next two weeks, Cameron has to convey the same freshness and urgency as Clegg, all the while suggesting he is the more substantial vehicle for change. There are some signs of encouragement for him in the details of the post-debate polling. Populus for the Times found that Clegg's high scores of a week ago – for example on having the right ideas to take the country forward – fell by some 16 points yesterday. Inevitably the Lib Dem's novelty value is fading, allowing Cameron to reassert himself as the agent of change.

Iain Martin speaks to Clegg:

Your attack on David on Europe, saying he hangs out with nutters in the European parliament, sounded shrill. Dreadful undergraduate stuff. For now, your reputation is Nice Nick. But quite a few people I know suspect that there’s a Nasty Nick too. And your new fans won’t like that side of your personality at all when they see it. Be careful. You’re just the vehicle for this anti-politics movement. Don’t get carried away, thinking that the country loves you.

Andrew Sparrow:

New figures have shown that the economy grew by just 0.2% in the first quarter of 2010. This is weaker than expected. But at least the economy has not slipped back into recession. David Cameron said: "They are disappointing figures for the economy because we have had the very long, very deep recession and we need to get the economy moving." Gordon Brown said the growth figures were what the government predicted in the budget.


There were no particularly startling announcements or arguments, but I thought the debate did give an interesting snap-shot of what global issues matter in the British debate. There were five big questions raised: the European Union, Afghanistan, the war on terror, nuclear deterrence and climate change. Russia, China and India were barely mentioned - even though Britain has had a terrible relationship with Russia in recent years and the rise of China and India is the most important long-term global development. If this debate had taken place in the Bush years, you might have expected an agonised debate about Britain’s relationship with America. As it was, Gordon Brown made a half-hearted attempt to lable Nick Clegg, anti-American. And Clegg responded with a sprited defence of a more independent attitude to the US. But the argument over America never really caught fire.

Massie thought Brown won:

The insta-polls disagree with me of course, splitting the decision between Cameron and Clegg and so I suppose it would be nice if they were right and I am wrong. Perhaps my perspective is too skewed from having watched and participated in hundreds of debates over the years. The chaps at Election Debates also think Brown won. Three give him the win and one plumps for Clegg. Cameron is the unanimous choice for third.

Penny Young:

We have some of the most detailed research on the country's social attitudes. It shows that on only two of the seven key indicators, the Liberal Democrat approach reflects the national mood.

This means that much of their newfound popularity may actually be more of a popularity vote for Nick Clegg in the wake of the first television debate. It may also confirm suspicions that the public are moving towards the Liberal Democrats as a result of the "anti-politics" mood sweeping this country – rather than an endorsement of the party's policies.

Politics Homes' current projection (via Political Betting):



[It] seems to me quite heartening that there are quite a few voters ready to be influenced by what in total will be four and a half hours of reasonably serious political debate between the three leaders. That seems to me, at the least, no worse a basis for deciding how to vote than some others, such as tribal party allegiance, voting the way your dad tells you to, etc: the sort of explanations for political choices that you often hear when talking to voters around the country. And it is certainly better to chose in this way than not to vote at all.

This is not “X-Factor” politics. It is modern democracy. The debates are indeed a Good Thing. And they are a Good Thing regardless of their outcome.

(Image: Conservative Party Leader David Cameron listens to a question during a breakfast meeting with servicemen and women on April 22, 2010 in Exeter, in south-west England. By Adrian Dennis WPA Pool/Getty Images)