Well that was… interesting.
For those of you who live on the Moon, ITV aired a seven-party Leaders’ Debate last night. As expected the whole thing was a bit of a chaotic mess.
With five broadly left wing parties to two parties of the Right, the debate was often in danger of becoming a bit of a lefty-love in. There were many denouncements of “Tory cuts,” “austerity” and the dreaded “bedroom tax”; not to mention outrage over NHS “privatisation” and “profits” in general.
Lots of promises to spend more money but very little mention of where that money would actually come from.
And of course, young Jonny Tudor (and his suit!) became an instant Twitter celebrity.
If you’re still struggling to make any sense of it all, here’s a quick and dirty run-down of some of the key points from each leader.
David Cameron (Conservatives)
The Prime Minister gave a calm and measured performance, holding off attacks from all six other leaders and a heckler, but failing to land any killer blows himself.
Central to the Tory message was the recovering economy. Strong economic growth, more people in work, and higher living standards all got a mention. Cameron successfully presented himself as an experienced statesman amongst opportunists, incompetents and jokers.
The message Cameron wanted people to take out of this was one of competence. The Conservatives have made great progress towards fixing the mess Labour left in 2010. The plan is working. Now it’s time to finish the job.
Ed Miliband (Labour)
The Leader of the Opposition gave a better performance than usual, but still had all the charisma of a limp handshake. Attacks on zero hour contracts, promises to raise the minimum wage and cut tuition fees fell flat. Red Ed’s selling point to his core voters is his socialism, and he was very much outflanked on the left by the Greens, SNP and Plaid Cymru in that respect.
Nigel Farage (Ukip)
Animated, bombastic and punchy, Farage scored some decent points by highlighting the UK’s twin ticking time bombs: the national debt and mass immigration. Farage successfully presented Ukip as an alternative to consensus politics on the EU and open-door immigration.
But the Ukip leader focused far too much on immigration, and what ought to have been a sensible point about health tourism turned into a Twitter storm about HIV-positive immigrants.
Nick Clegg (Liberal Democrats)
With his party suffering in the polls, Clegg needed to stand out, as he did in 2010. He failed miserably. His pitch to viewers was unashamedly a loser’s pitch; No one will win the election. The Lib Dems will make sure there are no more “ideological” cuts or tax hikes. The Lib Dem Leader wants us to believe he is a sensible moderate in a field full of extremists. He came across instead as a man without principles, desperate to cling onto power.
Natalie Bennett (Greens)
For all her protestations that the Greens represent something new in British politics, Ms Bennett sounded like just another student union leftist. If you want left wing Labour on steroids – bash the rich, end austerity, keep the NHS public at all costs, and cripple the economy to “save the planet” – then vote Green.
In a field full of left wingers, Bennett was easily the most sanctimonious and irritating. Deficit reduction? A horrible idea, let’s pretend there’s an unlimited pot of money to spend and impose swingeing green taxes instead. Welfare? More money. Immigration? Throw open the borders and let’s all sing kumbaya hand-in-hand.
Her constant references to Tory/Ukip “fearmongering” was a bit jarring considering her party’s entire philosophy can be boiled down to ‘vote for us or the planet gets it.’
Nicola Sturgeon (SNP)
The first of the pork-barrel candidates. Sturgeon delivered a confident, measured performance that ought to rattle anyone who believes the United Kingdom is better together. Delivery aside, her message was much the same as the other left wingers – repeated attacks on “austerity,” “privatisation” and “profit”. Sturgeon wants a new deal for Scotland and a ‘progressive’ alliance in Westminster.
Leanne Wood (Plaid Cymru)
Unlike Sturgeon, Wood didn’t even pretend to care about the rest of the United Kingdom. Vote Plaid Cymru if you want more of your money to fund big government in Wales. She might as well not have even bothered to show up.