If you only read five post-debate articles today, make it these five

by Stephen Tall on April 23, 2010

Here’s my pick of today’s best and most insightful post-debate analysis …

Live-Blogging The Second Brit Debate: A Clegg Triumph (Andrew Sullivan)
A fascinating outsider’s perspective from a US-resident English writer who identifies as a political conservative – and has no doubts that Clegg was the victor of last night’s second debate:

Clegg seems able to grasp hot-button issues and present himself as a fresh approach. … A quote for the night: “You can’t deport 900,000 people when you don’t know where they live.” yes, Clegg again, and he pushes Cameron for a specific number for a cap on immigrants. Cameron has no answer. A bad moment for him. I have to say that Clegg is winning this debate, with all the possible consequences that might bring. …

Clegg grasps the change mantle, the Obama message, in a restive and anti-political country. In that sense, I think he won this. And I would not be surprised to see his party emerge – historically – as the leader in this race.


Debates are symptom not cause of Cameron’s problems (Robert Shrimsley, FT.com)

Forget the debates, the real problem for Cameron is that he’s had over four years to convince the voters he’s a PM-in-waiting and has failed. Nick Clegg has claimed the space Cameron could have expected to occupy:

Only Mr Clegg is offering both a vision of change and something approaching comprehensible set of policies which underpin it. Mr Cameron offers the vision without the policies; Mr Brown the policies with the vision. You may not like or agree with the Lib Dem platform but it exists and ticks both boxes.

Five thoughts on the second leadership debate (James Crabtree, Prospect)
Do read this article for all five points, but I’m going to quote his first point in full:

1. Clegg won again. It was a weird moment of deja vu: a bit closer than last time, but Clegg’s was still, in my mind, the superior performance. The post-match polls seemed split: some gave it to him outright, others to the other two. But from the half way point—as I said here—I thought Clegg was ahead. Cameron and Brown didn’t do enough at the end to bring it back. Some of Clegg’s answers were especially eye-catching: his thoughtful response on the visit of the Pope for instance, and his admission that “I am not a man of faith.” After the first debate my argument was “Clegg won, therefore Cameron won.” At some basic level this clearly was wrong—I didn’t expect Clegg’s surge to be as powerful as it has been this week (although, to be fair, neither did anyone else.). This time I think no such clever interpretation is needed: Clegg won, and so he won.

How traditional media has failed the election (John Lloyd, FT.com)
You don’t have to buy into Lloyd’s full thesis – that political personality is irrelevant, and we’d all be much better off taking an internet test to determine who to vote for – to applaud this section:

By any standards, the Daily Mail’s “Nazi slur” was an insult, not just to Clegg but to journalism. Clegg had written that anti-German feeling in the UK was a shame on us, and that was somehow transformed into a suggestion that Clegg had acted like a Nazi, or likened the British to Nazis, or … you work it out. The Daily Telegraph’s allegation that he had money from businessmen paid into his private account seemed to be more solid: but Clegg’s explanation, that it had gone out again to pay for research help, hasn’t been challenged. Indeed, the paper’s associate editor wrote in his blog that “the payments are likely to be evidence of disorganisation, nothing more”. Yet it was bannered across the front page. … Why should “grown up” politics include baseless smears? Why should journalists collude in them? Why should other journalists accept it as normal?


Three’s a crowd: How the unexpected rise of a third contender broke the cosy two-party system (David Marquand, Independent)

A founding member of the SDP offers an historical context to the Lib Dem surge, comparing today’s election with the 1923-24 three-way tussle which saw the Liberals usurped by Labour:

The great liberal issues that seemed quaintly archaic in the 1920s – citizenship rights, the devolution of power, individual freedom – have returned to the centre of the stage. The state-centred collectivism which the rising Labour Party offered in place of liberalism, and to which it still obstinately cleaves, is patently a busted flush, just as liberalism was in the 1920s. And, again like the Liberals of those days, Labour is consumed by personal bickering that means nothing to anyone outside its inner circle. …

Like Labour in the 1920s, only in reverse, [Clegg] has to show that the Liberal Democrats are the heirs of all that was best in the old Labour Party: that there was a libertarian strand in the Labour tradition, as well as a statist one, and that the libertarian strand is encompassed by the Liberal Democrat party of today. I suspect that the success of his project will depend on whether he can do the second as well as he is already doing the first.