BY Russell Wardrop

DATE: 16 APR 2010


This was the Gordon Brown we all know, which is fine. And indeed it would have been better than fine if he was debating against the David Cameron we all know. But he wasn’t.

His humour was a plus point, as was his shirt, tie and suit combo, but his smirking, smiling and head-shaking at the wrong times were minuses. I guess this was the performance we expected from him, but we were never going to get fireworks or seminal moments.

Gravitas he has in spades; empathy and rapport he still has to work a bit harder at. And it was all too formulaic at times, and not as flowing and natural as you might like…or as, say, Nick Clegg.

The voice is resonant and deep, well-paced and measured with good emphasis on the right key words. There is a statesmanlike quality, but then he has had lots of practise.

Brown was looking about a lot from side to side, and there was too much body movement at the beginning. He should have been looking at the camera as there were only a few hundred voters in the room. There were also too many messages for only one minute: fairness, double dip recession, protecting services, I am the man who knows what the job is. It needed to be more focussed and simple.

Quote that summarises his overall theme: “I know what this job involves…”

Brown’s suit, shirt and tie combo was the best of the three. Now that is a turn up for the books when you think what he used to look like! His body language was too jerky at times and he must address the head shaking, smirking, smiling and all that.

Quality of Debating
He was pretty aggressive at times with Cameron, and dominated him on occasion. He was insistent and authoritative and spoke over his time and that of the others… no bad thing. He tried to ingratiate himself to Clegg too much and too often, and was embarrassed more than once.

Best Moments
They were badly delivered, but the Ashcroft line about Cameron paying for the posters was a good one and “You can’t airbrush your policies like you airbrush your posters” was laboured and rehearsed, but effective (did the humour intimidate Cameron?).

Worst Moments
Smiling, smirking and head shaking when Cameron and Clegg were talking: he must stop that for the next two debates.

Far too formulaic in his set piece opening statements; usually three points and all a bit boring.

His analogies were trite and small-time, rather than memorable, strategic and visionary (his dad ran a youth club, you know).

Key Moment
When he tried to hug a Lib Dem leader and was swatted away. Not edifying for an incumbent.

Next Time…

  • Needs to emphasise more his, and his party’s, great record over the past decade and more; even Cameron admitted he had done some things right!
  • Has to attack more fiercely in all areas and ram his points home.
  • Needs to be less rigid and formulaic, using the extempore method more and seeming less rehearsed


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