The final leadership debate was the best yet with plenty of fiery exchanges and debate. Presented and chaired by veteran political broadcaster David Dimbleby, the BBC’s offering was far more professional and polished than the previous efforts by Sky and ITV. Dimbleby knows his brief well having chaired Question Time for the last 15 years and is an expert at handling the proceedings to keep things ticking over.
There was no doubt who was the winner of the final leadership debate between Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg. With less than a week to go before polling day, this was the last opportunity for the party leaders to present their arguments and convince the public to vote for them. And so it was that David Cameron saved the best till last and came out firing all guns towards a hapless Gordon Brown and increasingly shifty Nick Clegg who looked as though he’d just discovered that you actually need policies to be a credible political party rather than a portfolio of smug expressions and a can of WD40.
From the very beginning when the leaders made their opening statements, Cameron was bang on the money and looked every inch the Prime Minister. In contrast, Clegg once again pushed the tired old argument of change whilst Brown grinned manically through a pathetic opening speech that attempted to position the useless Labour oaf as the only man with the necessary experience to see us through the bad times, ironic given that Brown created them all in the first place.
The main focus of the debate was the economy although immigration also got a look in, no surprise there given Brown’s weaselling apology the day before after having described a loyal Labour voter and widowed pensioner as bigoted when she dared ask him politely about immigration.
So how did all three perform in the last leadership debate before the polls?
There is no doubt that Brown is a dead man walking and he can expect no sympathy from voters after comprehensively wrecking the UK over the last 13 years of LieBour government. Brown’s Big Idea during his woeful performance was to try and convince voters that only he had the necessary experience of guiding the UK through recession. A pretty stupid argument when he’s the one directly responsible for the mess we’re in and presided over the boom and bust that was caused by his own incompetent fiscal policies.
Brown attacked Clegg over the Lib Dems lunatic immigration policy but apart from that, had little ammunition. Arguments were garbled, unconvincing and sought to rest on LieBours "achievements" over the last 13 years of wasteful tax and spend initiatives. Even worse, every time Cameron attacked the Government record, Brown just stood there shaking his head and grinning like an idiot as if the billions LieBour wasted on inane policies was just one big joke.
The other aspect of any interview that Brown gives is his patronising tone that automatically brands the audience as 5 years old who must be taught that 2 plus 2 equals 4, which it doesn’t if you’re a LieBour Chancellor. Throughout the leadership debates, Brown has always talked down to the audience instead of to them and sought to use meaningless statistics to back up his feeble arguments. Using a tone that suggest he knows better than you, Brown was ill-equipped to even answer basic questions on fiscal policy let alone drill down into the details of the economic plan for the next 5 years.
As a final parting shot to perhaps remind everyone why this inept tax and spend Scottish Socialist psychopath should never again hold any public office higher than second grade part time assistant at the local library, Brown finished off his closing speech with yet another weird smirk that was about as genuine as his broken promise on a referendum over the Lisbon Treaty.
After having been far too soft during the previous two debates, Cameron was determined to nail the other parties on their differences in policy. And not only did the Tory leader nail both Clegg and Brown to the mast, he then proceeded to chop the mast down, set fire to it and bury the ashes in a 10 foot grave before filling it with concrete. From the masterful opening speech that pledged there would be no joining the Euro under a Conservative government to the honesty over cuts in public spending and a stinging jab to Brown (who stood there and grinned like an idiot) over the whole RBS bailout, Cameron pulled no punches and showed just how much of a political heavyweight he was.
This was a performance from a Prime Minster in waiting with an agenda ready to sort out the problems of the country. Whilst not going into minute detail over Tory policy, because LieBour would promptly nick it and claim it as their own as they have done countless times before, there was enough detail to flesh out what we can expect from a Conservative government and Cameron played that card well, often prefixing his replies with "If I am your Prime Minister …", a move designed to reassure voters that we wasn’t claiming it was in the bag and needed their mandate to make real change happen.
Clegg was ripped apart by Cameron when the subject of immigration and the Euro came up, both topics that the electorate have frequently mentioned as being the top issues after the economy. By perhaps not having used these arguments effectively before, there is a side of me that wonders if this was deliberate so the more damaging ammunition could be saved for the last debate.
Cameron’s arguments were articulate, convincing, made sense and put clear water between the austere policies of the Conservatives and the reckless tax and spend mantra of New LieBour. The closing speech offered hope for real change and focused on the future and what we can expect from a Conservative administration that bore all the hallmarks of a Government ready to hit the floor running.
The veneer and shine deserted Nick Clegg tonight as the crater wide gaps began to appear in the Lib Dem election manifesto. From the beginning, both Brown and Cameron attacked Clegg effectively and nowhere was this more prominent than when the debate turned to concerns over immigration and joining the Euro, both issues that the Lib Dems have utterly bonkers policies for.
Clegg’s old tricks that worked so effectively in previous leadership debates such as addressing the questioners by name and pretending to try and find a person in the audience were old hat now and he couldn’t contribute anything of substance to the debate. With the sole exception of no tax on the first £10k of earnings, and God knows how the Lib Dems will properly pay for that, Clegg’s cupboard was bare and showed how superficial his campaign was.
Unsurprisingly then, Clegg tried to pander to the masses by going for the smiles and hand gestures and concentrating on presentation rather than substance, an accusation that could be levelled at his previous performances but which were overlooked chiefly because the other two leaders hadn’t taken advantage of the holes in the Lib Dem election manifesto.
The Lib Dem leader still did better than Brown but his opening and closing speech and indeed his whole argument seems to be about change for change’ sake with precious little detail about how that would be funded and implemented. Clearly rattled when Brown and Cameron pressed him over policy, Clegg became flustered and was the most visibly uncomfortable of the three leaders under the hot studio lights although he did fight back and won a few points by voicing what the electorate think of the bailed out banks.
Most of the snap polls after this final round of debate placed Cameron in
the lead followed by Clegg although a few had them running neck and neck. What was consistent across all the polls was Brown being dumped firmly into third place where he belongs and by a huge margin. Critically though, the polls have not placed Cameron ahead far enough to avoid a hung parliament although he was up on the previous debate and is widening the gap.
With everything still yet to play for, Cameron has done an enormous amount to get the Tory votes in, as has Clegg. We can expect both parties to go forth and redouble their efforts to win over the electorate whereas we can expect Brown and the rest of the useless spivs in LieBour to be kicked into the grass never to be seen again anywhere near the levers of Government.