The LDV Leaders’ Debate Verdict: Nick Clegg the winner #GoNick #leadersdebate #GE2010

I cannot tell you how good it is to be able to type the words, “Nick Clegg was the clear winner”, and know that not only is it my view, but that it’s the public view, too. We’ve already published the two poll results which matter: those showed Nick was judged to have done best by 51%, with Cameron on 29% and Brown on 19% (YouGov), and Nick 46%, Cameron 26%, Brown 20% (ComRes).

Nick Clegg … it’s true, Nick had a couple of advantages going into the debate. He’s the least known, so merely being given equal status is already a win. True, too, expectations were lower for Nick. But even allowing for that, this was an important night for Nick. Those of us who have watched Nick at his town hall meetings will have been familiar enough with the style: natural, conversational, honest, open, personable. Though all were nervous, at least initially, Nick appeared to shrug off the jitters most quickly. His body language, crucial in a debate like this, was engaging, both with the audience in the studio, and the audience at home. What people saw tonight was the Real Nick Clegg. They seem to like him.

Gordon Brown … the Prime Minister started with low expectations, but for a different reason than Nick: most people have already made up their minds that he’s not up to the job. I was relatively (and I stress the word relatively) impressed with Brown’s performance. He was relaxed, confident, and assertive without being overly aggressive. Of course, he cannot cure his own habit of speaking only in statistics, and failing to relate them to voters’ everyday lives; the smile is still a bizarre combination of scary and wooden; and he should never again attempt a joke in public. But, still, I thought he did okay. I suspect that the fact the public has placed him in last place in the instant polls shows more that they have simply turned off from what he has to say.

David Cameron … the Tory leader in some ways did have the toughest job: he had the highest expectations, he is the man still most likely to be the next PM. For my money, he performed least well of the three. He had a couple of good moments, most notably his impassioned answer on crime. But they were the exceptions. For much of the rest of the debate he appeared static, plastic, downbeat, monotonal, nervy. At PMQs, Cameron comes across as the ace debater, but tonight he kept walking into elephant traps, not least repeating how much he loved the Lib Dems’ tax cuts, giving Nick more than one opportunity to spell out what they meant and how they’d be paid for. The polls are currently saying Cameron came second; but I wonder if the narrative will change in the days ahead, as Tory supporters digest that their guy was bested by the Lib Dem leader?

Overall … It was a knackeringly lengthy debate, 30 minutes too long, with no breaks at all. All three leaders looked and sounded tired by the end, and I imagine the studio audience did, too. The debate was much more vigorous and fluid than had been predicted, with plenty of interaction between the leaders. That made it fascinating to watch, but meant there was no real probing of their claim and counter-claim. As a result, almost all the post-match commentary has focused on the leaders’ debating style, rather than the debate content. We will see more policy analysis, more fact-checking, of what the leaders said in the days to come (I suspect all made slips during the programme), but the public will have moved on.

It seems likely the polls in the next few days will give the Lib Dems a poll boost. The challenge now is for the party to maintain and build that growth in the three weeks which remain of the campaign.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • I bet the tories are wishing they never looked for these debates! Nick will be attacked more next time, but that might backfire, Especially if Nick is seen as Mr. Outsider!

  • have I died and gone to heaven? Nick Clegg deserves to be knighted……I cant wait to get our there canvasing again

  • Cllr Robert Bleakley 16th Apr '10 - 12:24am

    Nick was brilliant. tonight the best I’ve ver seen him.

  • Excellent work – pleased to see Nick be himself and tell it straight. Who says we aren’t going to form a government! Its all to play for – I’m waiting for the weekend polls and to see the doorstep reaction in target seats.

  • I’d expect Clegg to be marginalised in the forthcoming debates. His real skill today was dragging Brown and especially Cameron on to his ground. They will be more wary of that in the future.

  • Agreed with all, very pleased with Nick, but I think he can do better, and will have to as the other two realise their mistake is going relatively easy on him.

  • It was most amusing watching the BBC News trying hard not to recognise the results of the live polls.Laura kuensberg desperately pretending that it was only the result of one poll when at least two others had been announced. What have the Llibdems done to this women to make her so anti.

  • Cllr Patrick Smith 16th Apr '10 - 7:56am

    Nick Clegg won this first seminal TV debate on all fronts and was much more assuredly self confident in terms of presentation for real Liberal Democrat change that will make the difference to the lives of ordinary British people on May 6th.2010. He beat Brown and Cameron into a cocked hat!

    Our Leader`s virtuous performance had most honesty and direct contact with the TV audience with Nation hanging onto every syllable of every word on his exposition for real reform on Fairness in Immigration,Expenses,Schools,NHS and Care for our increasing numbers of Elderly and their Home Carers.

    British voters should now feel that Nick Clegg is able to lead the UK out of the deepest recession since WW2.

    All Liberal Democrats will have a new spring in their step today, as they knock on doors, knowing that a new progressive time in British Politics has arrived with Nick Clegg`s human understanding for young people,students,the sick and those crying out for urgent action on necessary reform to clean up politics and someone to at last recognise and help the one million British Carers who spend each day of their lives looking after loved ones.

    Well done Nick Clegg.

  • Paul Walter Paul Walter 16th Apr '10 - 8:28am

    ’40 years of hurt never stopped me dreaming…’

  • Terry Gilbert 16th Apr '10 - 8:48am

    I couldn’t stand it after half an hour, so watched HIGNFY! Is it still on itv-player?

    The post match stuff certainly seems to give it to Nick. As a critic of some of the (savage) positions he has taken, I have to admit he performed well – perhaps a Westminster school education does help presentation. Lets hope it continues next week, especially as the (non Westminster) school gate morning after factor will apply next week (in my area at least). If there is a buzz there, I might start to get excited.

    One wonders what Charles in 2001/5 or Paddy in 1992/7 would have made of this opportunity.

  • Agre with Bernard – same sentiments at my work.

    Someone (jokingly) suggested on the Guardian website that “I agree with Nick” should appear on a t-shirt – I think it’s a great idea! Can anyone do it in time for next week?

  • One suspects that had Paddy had the opportunity he would have made mincemeat out of Kinnock/Blair/Major. Charles I would have been concerned about in 05…

  • David Allen 16th Apr '10 - 1:12pm

    All of us think that Cameron underperformed. He was just a string of Daily Mail style false scare stories, one after the other. Coupled with a powerful bid for the fairies-at-the-bottom-of-the-garden vote, with his claim that the fastest way to cut the deficit will be to give away multiple election bribes to everyone in sight (though especially millionaires!)

    However – There are two elections going on. Labour and Lib Dems are slugging it out for the votes of all the people with a shred of decency, responsibility and common sense. The Tories are – deliberately – going all out for the stupid vote and the Mr Angry-Sad-Loser vote.

    Unfortunately, there are a lot of sad losers around!

  • I only hope this doesn’t lead to an epidemic of candidatitis… !!

  • Liberal Eye 16th Apr '10 - 6:00pm

    Hats off to Nick. He did far better than I had dared hope. I particularly liked the ‘gritty’ tone (as someone desctibed in on the R4’s Lunchtime news) that came through from time to time.

    Just one quibble about when he appeared to say that he didn’t think there was much to be had in the way of savings “on paperclips”. Taken literally this is, of course, perfectly true but did he mean it to be a metaphor for the public sector generally which is what it sounded like? I hope that’s wrong because there are HUGE savings from managing the public sector better – perhaps >30% after ring fencing actual benefits of one sort or another.

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