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)