The Battle For Number Ten: Dave Vs Ed
UK election reporter Liam Bateman reports on the first televised debate.
On March 26th, Ed Miliband of Labour and David Cameron of the Conservative Party appeared before Jeremy Paxman on Channel Four for the first leader’s debate. I am using the word debate loosely as it was nothing like a debate at all. It was more like a Q&A/ interview with each leader on policy, their records and in the case of Ed Miliband, his brother.
David Cameron went first up. Jeremy Paxman wasted no time in holding him to account. He was criticised for the high amount of Brits on zero hour contracts, something Cameron himself said he would never be able to live on, as well as for failing on his promise to cut immigration to levels not seen since the early 90s and for increasing VAT when he had promised not to do so in 2010. Audience members also questioned him over the state of the NHS, which according to many newspaper polls is a very important issue for British voters. From what I saw of Cameron’s debate, despite his best effort to defend the Tories’ record over the past five years, he was unable to get a convincing majority of voters’ support in polls conducted after the debate.
Ed Miliband was second and his time in the chair was somewhat controversial. Many viewers felt Paxman and his co-host Kay Burley were biased towards Cameron due to the kind of questions posed to him. Whilst some questions were posed to him about Labour’s policy, Paxman attacked Labour’s record during the Blair/Brown years and attacked Ed for the betrayal of his brother. Whilst I agree the questions have very little to do with Labour’s plan if it wins in May, I do not think Paxman was biased as his grilling of Cameron was quite harsh as well, though Kay Burley’s comments about Miliband’s family were completely uncalled for.
Despite the attacks, Miliband did quite well. He talked about Labour’s pledge to criminalise zero hour contracts as well as a plan to help the NHS, though many critics attacked him for not talking a lot about immigration, a significant issue for the UK, though some of the solutions proposed to it are way too extreme (looking at you UKIP). He was also said he was thought of as a North London geek. His response, “I honestly don’t care.” When he was asked if he was tough enough to be Prime Minister, “Hell yes, I’m tough enough.” Tonight was a good night for Ed Miliband, despite some tweets saying they would flee the UK in the case of a Labour victory or a one from Rupert Murdoch, whom Ed stood up to during the term.
The snap poll at the end gave the night to David Cameron, though Ed was close behind on 46%. Other statistics are positive for Labour as well with one pollster saying over 50% of undecided voters would vote Labour whereas 36% said they’d put their trust in David Cameron. A response worm also showed Miliband received a better response than David Cameron in the event.
Will this translate to an increase in the polls as it did for Cunliffe last year? Maybe. We need to wait and see. No one knows what can happen between now and May.