BY Russell Wardrop

DATE: 16 APR 2010


How good was he? By half-way through the first question both Brown and Cameron had tried to agree with him, almost fawning over him. They sensed it was game on from the beginning.

The word afterwards is that Clegg was just new and stylish, which he was. But he was every bit as substantial as Brown and Cameron. And he used facts and figures at least as much. Intuitively he seemed to know when to look at the camera, and was in complete control the entire time. He interacted with the audience in the studio more than the others, and the viewers at home. He seemed to get the last word more often that the other two.

He was the open, straight kinda guy (as he said)… where have you heard that before?

Well paced, measured, confident, enthusiastic, passionate; he really had to make sure though, that he did not seem too eager and he did this well. Looked at the camera better than his rivals.

Masterstroke in saying “these two” right from the off, but only because he nailed it over 90 minutes; this would have seemed merely bravado had he crashed and burned.

Quote that summarises overall theme: “We can do something new, we can do something different.”

Relaxed right from the off. In the first “debating” exchange on immigration he swatted aside Cameron with a line about a potential Manchester United player wanting to come in during the summer, but being unable to because of the quota. It’s not a great line but shows that from early on he is relaxed enough to back himself and speak extemporaneously.

One hand in his pocket? Nice…

Light-ish blue suit and gold tie, off-white shirt. Not terrific, but maybe he was trying to be a bit different.

Quality of Debating
Riposte to Cameron on regional immigration policy was the last word on the subject and Brown never got in at all. This is an entirely new experience for a Lib Dem leader and he loved it.

On immigration, nice link from ID cards to police on the streets (robust right wing point) and then a progressive (left wing) point on the causes of crime. And he got Brown (The Prime Minister!) huffing and puffing in the background.

He was happy to mix it with the perceived big boys and it was not just style, but substance too (though that substance will be examined in the next two debates).

Best Moments
Brought the audience in right from the beginning; made out that he was actually talking after listening, and answering the question. Very strong intro on MPs expenses; what he said chimed exactly with what normal people are thinking. Also absolutely nailed “the other two” by highlighting that reform was stymied due to Labour links with the unions and the Tories triste with Lord Ashcroft. Came across as assured and made the others look a bit shifty.

Made a direct correlation between MPs who have jobs for life, and corruption; again getting right to the heart of the big issue of what the people we elect get up to.

Worst Moments
In his bedroom before he left the house: the gold tie and a suit a few shades too light.

Came back to the “all I want is a bit of honesty and fairness and can’t we all work together” a few times too often, such as in the discussion on the NHS and on care for the elderly. Can’t be doing this too often, even if it is sensible, as it might mitigate against the perception of strong leadership. He will not get away with that so often next time.

Key Moment
There were lots, and his last 90 seconds were great. But let’s take this one: when Brown yet again tried to buddy up with Clegg he was swatted away by the New Boy with ease. Clegg looked right at the camera, not at Brown, and said “what I support is something I have supported all my political life….”

And again, when Brown tried to get consensus from the Lib Dem man on reform, Clegg talked over him and said “you haven’t offered it.”

“I am absolutely dismayed by this…” came at the end of this section, a passionate ending as Clegg again got the last word.

Next Time…

  • More of the same, obviously.
  • A darker suit and a better tie (the hot pink one would be my choice).
  • Will have to know that he will be attacked by both, so will have to have robust defences ready.
  • Will have to mount an articulate and strong defence of any of the so-called “out there” Lib Dem policies.


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