Opinion: The post-match QT analysis

by Stephen Tall on November 16, 2007

The post-match blog analysis on the Question Time leadership special has been pretty evenly split, with a tilt towards Chris Huhne having gained the edge overall.

(Paul Walter linked through to the early reaction this morning; more have appeared since – check out the Lib Dem blog aggregator for the latest. And, if you haven’t watched the programme yet, you can see it online here.)

Last night did little to help make up my mind: both candidates, I thought, performed equally well, and displayed almost to the full their respective strengths. Which is why I take with a pinch of salt anyone who says a particular candidate ‘won’ the debate.

Not because I think bloggers – or those commenting on last night’s LDV thread – are somehow spinning for their preferred candidate; but because I think they will have based their verdicts on the personality characteristics they think most important in a leader.

Those who value most Chris’s chief strengths – his sure-footed, articulate, clever, serious and disciplined advocacy – will have seen them on ample display last night, and reckoned Chris trumped Nick.

Those who value most Nick’s chief strengths – his warm, open, articulate, bright and empathetic conversationalism – will have seen them on ample display last night, and reckoned Nick trumped Chris.

The one word I’ve deliberately repeated is ‘articulate’. Both candidates – despite the limitations of the dull questions chosen, and the intrusiveness of the chair – successfully conveyed a distinctive, liberal vision for QT’s viewers. The quality of the debate easily exceeded that on display during the equivalent QT specials for Labour’s deputy leadership (over the summer) and the Tory leadership (back in autumn 2005).

However, I do think it’s fair to say that Chris has won the expectations battle, demonstrating that he can ‘do’ passion and conviction, and voice Liberal Democrat policies clearly and distinctly. Nick did that, too. As expected.

But judged solely on their own merits, I’d call last night a score-draw.

PS: There are, though, some interesting patterns if you trawl through the blogs, and count up who has declared which candidate the winner:

Declared Clegg supporters saying Clegg won: 8
Declared Huhne supporters saying Clegg won: 0
Previously undeclared saying Clegg won: 0

Declared Huhne supporters saying Huhne won: 3
Declared Clegg supporters saying Huhne won: 3
Previously undeclared saying Huhne won: 5

(Figures drawn from blog postings which have appeared to date on LibDem Blogs)

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Clegg is better for the media, Huhne is better for the party. Hard choice lay ahead for you guys…

by leon on November 16, 2007 at 6:18 pm. Reply #

Wouldn’t you use ‘serious’ for both, too?

by Valerie on November 16, 2007 at 7:41 pm. Reply #

“Clegg is better for the media, Huhne is better for the party. Hard choice lay ahead for you guys…”

So we’ve been told repeatedly, but it is obvious from the campaign so far that Huhne is the master of getting the most out of the media for his campaign.

by Paul Walter - feeling a bit of a Huhne buzz on November 16, 2007 at 7:53 pm. Reply #

Huhne seemed to do very well for the media last night. He looked, sounded and articulated like a leader who is more than ready to take on Brown and Cameron in person and in the media.

by rob on November 16, 2007 at 8:45 pm. Reply #

Paul during the contest Nick has managed to get considerably more media hits than Chris. He has also won floating voter panels comfortably (ie on Radio 5 etc). I think we will see the media write up Question Time rather differently to the, slightly insular, perspective of Lib Dem bloggers.

by Matthew on November 16, 2007 at 10:50 pm. Reply #

Of course Nick has got more media hits – they all say “favourite Nick Clegg” because that is who the STUPID media decided would win!

As for the media write-up….The Times online has already said Chris Huhne did well and the likes of Paul Linford have said that Chris “shaded it”….

by Paul Walter on November 16, 2007 at 11:33 pm. Reply #

Matthew said: “He has also won floating voter panels comfortably (ie on Radio 5 etc).”

Not the dreaded Frank Luntz, surely? Keep that man away from this contest, please!

Luntz was dispatched by Cheney et al to propel the previously little-known Cameron into the Tory leadership.

Floating voter panels are a con. They are manipulated, and deal in matters of marginal relevance, such as whether or not the candidate looks “warm”, or wears the right kind of suit, or you would want him round for tea, etc.

The insurance salesmen, pyramid scheme promoters, PR crooks and ad men always win these contests.

How can voter panels determine who is capable of formulating policy, managing people, negotiating with foreign leaders, handling crises, etc?

The media (and the string-pullers behind them) have decided that Nick Clegg is to be the Lib Dem leader. Why? Because they believe he is more right-wing than other possible candidates, and can be relied upon to do what the string-pullers want when it comes to the crunch. (At least Dimbleby was decent enough to provide a bit of balance.)

So along comes the celebrity routine. He “connects” with ordinary people. Does he really? He is a good communicator. That good? He has charisma. Well, charisma certainly helps you get elected, but it doesn’t make you do the job any better.

Why bother having an election? Why not just ask Rupert Murdoch and Irwin Steltzer to make the decision for us? Plus a floating-voter panel or to to wave the flags and throw the balloons in the air?

You don’t believe me? Well, whence came these thoughtspores that Chris is dull, doesn’t “connect”, lacks “empathy”, is only interested in addressing the party faithful, etc? Who is feeding us this horse manure?

Of course, we could always reclaim our party from the manipulators and make our own decision. Now, that would be a turn-up, would it not?

I say “float” the floating-voter panels back across the Atlantic!

Nick Clegg is undoubtedly an admirable man, but it looks increasingly as though he has been lured into a Mephistopholean pact with forces that he will never be able to control.

by Angus J Huck on November 17, 2007 at 1:30 am. Reply #

I just watched QT online.

As a writer and someone who works in international spin I think Huhne is our man. It’s not about the column inches but how you handle TV, the moment and the crises that come hurtling at you.

Chris has the ability to do that, as he showed last night, in spades.

by Jack on November 17, 2007 at 3:29 am. Reply #

The reason for the “split” is, alas, due in part to the many similiarties between the two candidates. It said a lot when both men could not disagree one bit over the Party’s tax proposals.

I am a Huhne supporter, and whilst I can see why Clegg is the media’s favourite, we must surely be ready to choose a candidate who has more depth and experience. And that man, for me, is Chris Huhne.

QT was not the greatest showcase, not least because of the apparent haste with which Dimbelby tried to trip Clegg up with every supplementary question. I wish Nick Clegg well in the future but cannot see him as party leader just yet.

by Winning Here on November 17, 2007 at 9:49 am. Reply #

Whilst I’m a Huhne supporter I thought I would give Clegg a helping hand. He obviously has a failing memory, even at his young age, as he stated that he couldn’t remember accusing Huhne of opportunism. Well here is your aide memoire Mr Clegg…


To be fair to Clegg though, he might have mis-quoted himself………

by rob on November 17, 2007 at 9:53 am. Reply #

Re 10:- I don’t remember the Guardian article from last time. Interesting to read it now. Far, far more negative about Huhne by Clegg than anything Clegg supporters have complained about from Huhne this time round.

by Lib Dem member on November 17, 2007 at 10:19 am. Reply #

What did people make of Nick Clegg’s saying on the QT debate that he doubted whether any difference could be found between him and Chris Huhne on tax and economic policy? I’m sure it was true, but it also looked to me as though he didn’t want to be compared with Chris on that ground. Which, if we are looking for credibility with the commentariate, is worth noticing.

by R I Moore on November 17, 2007 at 10:39 am. Reply #

@ 12 & 9: Did it really surprise either of you that they were pretty much in agreement on tax policy? The party worked damn hard on our current policy, lots of effort with a major investigation that both were involved with. If either of them had rejected it then they’d be effectively rejecting their own work, and that’d make them look really stupid.

As it is, the policy is sound, costed and clear. It doesn’t push LVT enough for my tastes, but can’t have everything.

by MatGB on November 17, 2007 at 11:14 am. Reply #

The survival of the party may be at stake.
The question has to be, who can hold on to seats and gain new ones, yet these two aims may not be entirely compatable.

The recent detailed poll analysis suggests the tory vote from the last election has remained very firm throughout and is very likely to turn out. Let us be honest; it is very unlikely that they will do worse than last time.

Labour will do worse than last time.
This means that MPs in tight Tory areas are under threat and the best prospect of gains are against Labour. Charles Kennedy’s attempts at de-capitating Tories was embarrassingly unsuccessful [even with a charicature at the Tory helm] and we made more inroads against Labour.

I can’t help believing that it is stark staringly obvious that this situation will be even more acute at the next election.

I sometimes wonder if our sitting MPs choices for leadership are based on the cicumstances they face in their own contest rather than the best long term interests of the party. Am I right in thinking we may be trying to protect our marginals, possibily to no avail, and in doing so limiting our potential?

This is cruel reasoning, I know, but as the third party we are bound to be more tossed about by the tide affecting the other two. When the tide turns and only a fool would think it hasn’t, we cannot stay on our old chartered course regardless without the risk of sinking. I am suggesting that Nick Clegg is the apparently safe, but wrong choice? Yes I am.

by Sal on November 17, 2007 at 2:01 pm. Reply #

Angus – “The media (and the string-pullers behind them) have decided that Nick Clegg is to be the Lib Dem leader. Why? Because they believe he is more right-wing than other possible candidates, and can be relied upon to do what the string-pullers want when it comes to the crunch.”

Erm, like the Guardian leader this morning. That notoriously right-wing rag.

by John on November 17, 2007 at 2:04 pm. Reply #

I second Mat @ 13. That was one of my favourite bits and I think it was a great advert for the party. Poor Dimbleby, he was so disappointed that no argument was going to ensue!

“Do you have any policy differences on tax?”
“Nope” “Doubt it”

That would be because the tax policy was a joint collaboration refined over many months and approved by the whole party in conference, not a series of “pimp my tax policy” tinkerings invented on the way into work.

[preaches to converted, waves flag, bangs drum]

by Alix on November 17, 2007 at 6:29 pm. Reply #

Short memory, John at 15. Do you not recall the Grauniad editorial in February, 1974, adivising readers to vote Tory?

The Grauniad is one of our better newspapers, for sure, but don’t think it is entirely beyond reproach.

Was it not the Grauniad that published that disgraceful hit-piece by the execrable Monbiot attacking the 9/11 Truth Movement and effectively endorsing the White House/Pentagon line? (47-storey buildings that have not been hit by aeroplanes collapse symmetrically into their own footprints in 6.5 seconds.)

Like Monbiot, the Grauniad’s radicalism exists under licence. Only so far can they go. When it comes to the crunch, they play the establishment game like the best of them.

Anyway, why would a newspaper editor wish to influence this party’s choice of leader?

(And John, surely you have to remember the late Peter Jenkins – described by Lord Greaves as a “media Owenite hack” – telling readers to vote for Chris Patten in Bath against Malcolm Dean, and to vote Labour in Bermondsey to get rid of “that frivolous twit, Simon Hughes”?)

by Angus J Huck on November 17, 2007 at 11:37 pm. Reply #

Angus – still running with your conspiracy theory?

Why stop with Dick Cheney and shadowy right-wing figures? Surely it’s actually a conspiracy by inter-planetary forces & the Sith?

lured into a Mephistopholean pact
I see the Devil has been implicated too. That’s a pretty formidable line-up. I can see why you’re worried …

by Dominic on November 18, 2007 at 6:36 am. Reply #

Here’s a funny thing. Immediately after the QT debate I thought that Chris was the winner. He struck me as the more competent of the two in communicating policy.

However, three days later I have largely forgotten most of the comments made by Chris, whereas I remember Nick’s passion and I can recall more of the points that he made.

For me, Nick has won the communication contest from QT, although it was a slow-burn effect. His passion for liberal values has proved more memorable than Chris’s contributions, however intelligent and articulate they may have been at the time.

by Bill M on November 18, 2007 at 4:34 pm. Reply #

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