The Leadership Debates

Last night I watched David Cameron, Gordon Brown, and Nick Clegg fight it out live on air. It was really very interesting, made all the more so by watching it with my uncle T, and A (A was driving me to Birmingham, we’d arrived in Birmingham just in time for the debates, he stuck around, we had a lovely evening).

Also there was fruit and nut mix in the larder so I put out a bowlful of it and my uncle picked out most of the nuts and ate them. Never mind.

I came away feeling that  David Cameron looked like the weakest of the three, very obviously on the defensive and really not doing to well at that; his policies didn’t seem particularly strong to me, and, well, to be fair, I was never going to be that keen. Gordon Brown really warmed up in the course of the debates, smiling and confident and to be honest he was the one putting David Cameron on the defensive. He’s obviously a very bright and conscientious man in a way that didn’t ring true in the other two candidates. I have to say I really like him, and seeing him live in action I like him even more now, just as a person. Whether that’ll convince me to vote for him or not I don’t know, because I didn’t agree with him on all points and in many ways all three parties said very much the same things as one another. Nick Clegg meanwhile seemed to keep repeating himself – his argument at the start of every question seemed to be along the lines of ‘we’ve had a Conservative or a Labour government for 65 years and they keep screwing up and now it’s time for a change’. He did start to sound like a stuck record and although it was a good point, perhaps, he didn’t seem to have many other good points up his sleeve, at least not memorised and pulled out in front of us last night as he should have done. And I don’t feel that it’s a good idea to get rid of Trident – yes, I know it’s sodding expensive, £100bn over the next however many years or whatever the figure was, but as my uncle pointed out that Aneurin Bevan (I think?) once famously said, ‘it’s like going into a conference room…naked’. If we do not have nuclear weapons we are more at risk from more volatile countries and more volatile leaderships who do have them, or who manage to acquire them, and yes, having them means that we need to be prepared to use them, and I really don’t know how I feel about that, but I guess I feel that I hope that by having that nuclear deterrent we will hopefully never have to find out whether we would use it or not.

The other interesting point (although they repeated this time and time again on Newsnight and in the News at 10 afterwards) was that Brown and Cameron kept saying how much they agreed with Nick Clegg on this, that and the other. Were they buttering him up, or buttering us up? I suppose with so many people actively wanting a hung parliament it’s a fair shout. I was also surprised that in the analysis Clegg seemed to come out on top, most popular, most well-argued, and I don’t really feel that he was. We’ll see, I guess.



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28 responses to “The Leadership Debates

  1. Two things.

    1: I LIKE Brown.

    2: I HATE Trident. I think the nuclear deterrent thing is balls; if they were going to be dropped on us, I think it would have happened already. On the other hand, having them, and spending all that money on them only increases the risk that other countries – from fear of us, who have them, and out of that terrified desire to join the nuclear club for self-defence – will get them. And as time goes by, the weapons get bigger, and more powerful, and yes, eventually someone will have them. If they’re going to use a nuclear bomb, they will use it regardless of whether or not the other side has them too, I think. So it just ends up with mutually assured destruction.

    So yeah.


  2. Jenny

    The thing is though that yes although we should be aiming for nuclear disarmament as Cameron and Brown were at pains to point out, we cannot do so by leaving ourselves open, particularly in this political climate. MAD is what is protecting us all at the minute. Us not having nuclear weapons is not going to convince anyone else to get rid of them, nor is it going to sotp other countries from getting them; if anything it could make other countries more keen to develop nuclear weaponry. We’re just not a big enough player. It’s idealistic to think that by getting rid of Trident we will end up convincing everyone else to do the same and I don’t believe it’ll work, not like that. Piecemeal, yes. xxx

  3. Photolosopher

    Have to say, I’m with Clare on this one – I’m also anti-Trident, and the nuclear deterrent thing just seems like a vicious cycle of “we have to have them in case they get/use them”, with it all escalating pointlessly. But then, I’m a bit of a hippy and think that no-one should have any nuclear weapons at all, and yes, I probably am being idealistic about disarmament. I don’t like the idea of us all sitting around waiting for another country to make the first brave decision to surrender their weapons, but not being prepared to do so ourselves, not just yet – because that’s a situation that leads nowhere. Also, I’d be curious to know what you think *would* work as far as initiating global disarmament goes…? Because I certainly don’t know (as, I’m sure, is obvious!). xxx

  4. Photolosopher – I agree entirely. I like to think I’m not being idealistic about disarmament, even though I know it’ll probably never happen. Although Obama has got some of the way, with the treaty t’other week… Well. Some of the way, being a very little way indeed, but still. It gives me hope.


  5. Interesting you thought Brown came across well. I thought he was by far and away the weakest. He just looked really uncomfortable. Cameron seemed like he was trying too hard. Clegg looked like he cared.

    I think the point about Trident – “its like going into a conference room naked” – is a very good point. Yes long-term we should aspire to get rid of it. Now is not that time. It’s not so much about needing to use it, its about power and prestige, and I believe that in certain parts of the world being a nuclear power does afford more power.

  6. I agree with Dickie, I thought Brown came across as someone repeating himself, exceptionally uncomfortable and sometimes even patronising. There is no doubt he is intelligent, but nobody should be comfortable in power.

    I didn’t see Cameron agreeing with Clegg except on those statements like “we really respect our servicemen” which all politicians say. Brown, however, made a very, very overt attempt to win Clegg’s support publicly.

    Do I like Clegg or Cameron? I liked Clegg’s willingness to contribute but not his policy and I expected Cameron to have more to say than he did. I think he could really have gone for it; instead, he was far too quiet.

    Trident? It should stay, for the reasons you’ve outlined. I like nuclear weapons not one bit, but this isn’t play school any more – believing everyone will just be nice about diplomatic issues is naive. Eventually, hopefully, the various superpowers of this world will reduce their weapons and prevent further proliferation, beyond maintenance of deterrents. I can but hope, I suppose.

  7. My opinion remains that I will certainly NOT be voting Labour come May 6th.

    I am still undecided but as, I admit, someone who was very adamant (lol…Adam Ant) that she would be voting Conservative only a few months ago (sorry, I know I am surrounded by hardcore lefty friends), I am rather swayed by Nick Clegg. I did feel he was by far the strongest of the three. Not related to the debate really but I also feel that the Tories are really hindered by George bloody Osborne. Twat if ever I saw one. I certainly think that Vince Cable has much better plans for the economy (I’m not sure Osborne even has plans) and this may very well push me into voting LibDem. But NEVER sodding Labour.

    But as ever, I cannot make a decision.

  8. Sadly, I realise that these sentiments mean that Eddie Izzard will never sleep with me.

  9. Jenny

    I’m going to watch all the leadership debates for certain, if I can (channel/time availability depending) and before I feel capable of casting a considered vote I will have to do a lot more reading up on, well, everything really.

    Up until quite recently I didn’t think I was massively likely to vote Labour either but I think they’re finally being honest with us to a greater extent than the two other parties. I wouldn’t be capable of voting Conservative, either, I think Cameron is shockingly right wing and more so than he looks. So really I’m picking between Lib Dem and Labour, and then there is the point about hung parliaments (remember 1974 anyone? Not that any of us *actually* do but it was a hung parliament, it lasted less than a year, and was an outright disaster), I don’t think they’re a good idea at all, and as my housemate S pointed out there’s an argument that a vote for the Liberals is in effect a vote for the Conservatives. Not sure to what extent I agree with that but it is worth a thought.


  10. I just can’t justify giving Labour any more chances. They’ve fudged things up over and over. There are certain things they have done that I applaud them for – the reduction of NHS waiting times, for example – but I honestly think the negatives far outweigh the positives. I don’t envy Gordon Brown’s position at all, I really don’t, but I don’t think he’s the right man for the job anymore (if he ever was in the first place).

    And I’m quite right wing on some issues, so still have a fair amount of support for Dave. I’m not sure though. Am very

    I hate this idea of ‘if you vote LibDem, you’re voting for the main party you DON’T want to get in’. There’s probably a truth to it, but it’s rubbish. I’m not sure if I’ll vote LibDem but if people want to they should vote how they want, but it’s all tactical and poo.

    Yes, poo is a legitimate political term.

  11. I think we should get rid of Trident, and I think there is never going to be a time where ‘the political climate’ is sufficient for some people to want to get rid of it. However, I do think we’re only going to able to get rid of it if we do have some form of bargaining power. I suggest not being terrified of the EC for a start. Naked is far less silly if there are lots of you, and if you have access to trade and other sanctions. I’m pleased that Obama seems to be at least gesturing towards leading dearmament. I hope that the fact that the Americans and Russians are limiting their arms will mean that in the next few years it’ll become fashionable. If the French and Germans start talking about it, I’ll be out there like a shot campaigning for us to reduce ours too.

    I didn’t see the debate. I haven’t had a chance yet. I love how who people seem to think did best at it, thought, seems to fairly accurately reflect who they like best of the three candidates anyway. I have little doubt who I’m going to think did best. I wish it weren’t so deep-seatedly character based, theirs or mine.

    According to whose policies I agree with most, well, I’ve read the appropriate paperwork and a little surprisingly (considering my background, family and past inclinations – public school and a family of staunch Lib Dems) it’s Labour, by a fair stretch. I think the economy’s current mess isn’t nearly as much theirs as some people make out, and they’ve dealt with it far better than the 1992 recession was dealt with. I’m a human rights junkie and they’ve done more for that in the last thirteen years than possibly any other government ever. They’re very pro-Europe. The rich/poor wealth gap has decreased by the greatest amount this century. Even the budget deficit isn’t all that bad in the great design of things, if you factor in population growth and inflation, which of course nobody does.

    Unfortunately, Romsey is a marginal Lib/Con seat and voting Labour will do bugger all. Say what you will about voting Lib Dem being approximately spoiling your vote/voting for the main party you don’t want to get in, first past the post means that isn’t entirely true.

  12. I’d like to turn up to a conference naked. It would be refreshing, and would certainly liven things up.

    I will also reiterate my point about David being a Dr Who villain in disguise.

    You can tell fro this that I have almost no actual Informed political opinions, and yet I know what I believe.

    I’ve realised that my political opinions and my decision on who to vote for this year is largely based – surprisingly, for me – on education policies. Whilst I was miserably unhappy in my (normal, fair-to-middling) state secondary school, I still think the state education system ought to be protected. More than that, it could still be improved, and seeing how far it has come since Labour got into power, I still think they’re the right people for the job.

    Ho hum. More reading of manifestoes for me, I think. Also, I’d like manifest-toes. Wait. I have toes that are manifest.

    Wow. It is far too early for those sorts of puns.


  13. Jenny

    Yes, I need to read the manifest toes. Sadly for me my toes are rather too manifest, being as they are rather painful. But less so by the day (NEW SHOES).

    More informed political stuff: yes. I disagree with Trident. I just think we should be very bloody careful about how we go about nuclear disarmament and now really *isn’t* the time. No time is good but some times are less not-good than others.

    I totally didn’t mean to completely, utterly and heinously bowdlerise the ‘equal/more equal’ cliche there…


  14. “I think the economy’s current mess isn’t nearly as much theirs as some people make out”

    I think it is and it isn’t. The wider crash isn’t all theirs obviously, but if they’d run up less of a deficit in the good years beforehand then we would’ve been better off. Also I’ve read somewhere a good explanation of how government intervention in interest rates basically set the whole thing up, but that’s more a systemic failure than a failure of a single policy.

    Couldn’t let this slide also:

    “I’m a human rights junkie and they’ve done more for that in the last thirteen years than possibly any other government ever.”

    You’re joking right?

  15. Adam

    “I’m a human rights junkie and they’ve done more for that in the last thirteen years than possibly any other government ever.”

    No Dickie, I don’t think she is joking… They’ve done so so much in order to develop and evolve Human Rights… As opposed to them being absolutes – they’re now much more flexible and for certain people they can be completely ignored!! That’s SURELY what she meant… Right??

    Trident – yes, I can see a reason for renewing it… but why not only renew half of it, thus only spending half the money, still leaving us “safe” and then WE are setting the trend for disarmament…

    The economy – only one party has actually set out any real plans to help the economy. By which I mean they’ve actually used numbers and figures… So why would you even consider voting for a party that says they’ll help the economy, but give no specifics?!?!?

    As for my thoughts on the debate – it currently stands that my vote is going where I thought it was going.. Especially after reading the manifest-toes… I’m not in total agreement on every policy, but they offer more things that I care about than others. However – the debates are still on-going and I’ll wait for May 6th to decide…

  16. …Only a little bit. Perhaps not any government *ever*, but let’s not end up like Belarus, no? Internationally, our human rights are far more protected now. In the workplace, the difference has been incredible. The Equality Act was passed last week, let’s not forget that pre-Labour there were few guidelines against discrimination in the workplace, never mind actual enforceable laws. (Fun fact, did you know that until last week it was totally fine to discriminate against gay men, as long as you’d discriminate against lesbians in the same way? Unintended consequences ftw.) There are fuckups, yes, and some people haven’t had the protection you’d wish on them – control orders for a start. But those have been moderated by procedures put in place under the Human Rights Act – Labour legislation. They’ve been monitored by outside influences in Strasbourg – under Labour legislation. I’m not saying that they’ve got a clean record as far as rights are concerned, far from it, but you could say that about any regime. And honestly, Dickie, without the Quakers being on their back, you find me a British government that’s done more across the board for human rights, especially for the majority of civilians, than the last Labour government.

    As for the interest rates, you’re probably right. How interesting. I’d rather have a bank base rate, though, overall. Makes for a bit more certainty.

  17. Oh Adam, they’ve never been and never will be absolutes, sorry. It’s always a balancing act. Try telling that to the people arguing their right to freedom of expression is absolute next to next door’s right to privacy, to anyone who has to decide whether shooting down a plane is worth it to stop it crashing into a building. The fact is that Labour was the party who put in place access to some form of remedy for breaches of rights. Hell, even the poor bastards in Belmarsh without trial got legal aid and access to the courts. There have been quite a few very shaky decisions of late, yes, especially post 9/11, but there are domestic and international remedies now and far more ways to hold people to account.
    /my degree

  18. “The Equality Act was passed last week”

    So was the Digital Economy Act!!!

    As for “fuckups”, that’s putting it remarkably lightly. Their record on civil liberties is absolutely appalling.

    “only one party has actually set out any real plans to help the economy. By which I mean they’ve actually used numbers and figures”

    Hmm. Dubious as to whether those plans would help the economy. But then none of the parties are particularly strong on that point imo…

    I don’t have a clue where my vote is going. They’re all rotten as far as I can see.

  19. The Digital Economy Bill was an utter travesty of nobody showing up to vote, passing a bill that as I said on my blog everyone from google to the security service have said it is nonsensical.

    I submit you all go over to right now and have a nice little read about how to hide your identify online. It isn’t a perfect system and currently requires a little tech knowledge. I bet it won’t post this bill though.

    The debill is a fuckup. An utter fuckup.

    As for all this equality nonsense, take a look at this article

    Protecting us and ensuring equality? No… dancing around trying to earn commendation from the media. They’re not the only ones guilty of it; cameron has been too and that worries me slightly. I personally suspect they’re all on LSD or have been leading really closeted lives because they’re so out of touch it’s untrue.

    Human rights is a massive load of tosh (sorry Fiona!!). Didn’t the breweries use human rights to justify their right to sell alcohol 24-hours a day? I agree things like Guantanamo Bay are absolute travesties, but really, when in this country are you taken, beaten up and raped for committing a crime? Never and it hasn’t been so for years thanks to a perfectly good existing legal framework – right to haebius corpus etc. It isn’t our needing to enforce human rights on ourselves that is the problem. We need to persuade other countries to treat their people justly. Until the incumbent government started meddling around with terror laws, anyway.

    Human Rights is just an I’m-taking-the-moral-highground-holier-than-thou piece of legislation enforced by a bunch of idiots in Brussels who are too busy committing fraud (when have the EU finances been signed off by auditors? they’ve refused to sign it off for the past 13 years or so… corrupt or what?) to care about anything but lining their own pockets.

    I agree, they’re all corrupt.

  20. “Didn’t the breweries use human rights to justify their right to sell alcohol 24-hours a day?”

    Now that’s something I could get behind 😛

    “when in this country are you taken, beaten up and raped for committing a crime? Never”

    No, but this country (under the Labour government) is complicit in sending people who have been accused of crimes to other countries where they can be tortured to find out if they really have committed a crime.

    I do agree with you though; praising Labour on their human rights record is laughable.

  21. “praising Labour on their human rights record is laughable”

    No it’s not. Yes, there have been some fuckups, but overall the state of human rights in this country has improved so much; and if the tories get into power will doubtless deteriorate.

    In addition to which, I think the EU is fundamentally a good thing, and the general brussels-bashing that goes on usually seems to come from people who are uninformed and overangry.

    And finally: “Human Rights is just an I’m-taking-the-moral-highground-holier-than-thou piece of legislation enforced by a bunch of idiots in Brussels who are too busy committing fraud”. What?! No. Just NO.

    But then again, that’s just my opinion. I just personally like a world in which there are international laws to protect the fundamental rights of all people, and to promote fair treatment of all and mutual respect and advocate the right of all to a good education and clean water and suchlike. Or is that just naive of me?

  22. “overall the state of human rights in this country has improved so much”


    “if the tories get into power will doubtless deteriorate.”


  23. they’re kind of opposed to a lot of it, on the grounds of it being “I’m-taking-the-moral-highground-holier-than-thou piece of legislation enforced by a bunch of idiots in Brussels who are too busy committing fraud”, I believe.

    Although maybe that’s my lefty propaganda brain speaking.

  24. Jenny

    As previously mentioned, I know nothing except what I’m getting from current news coverage (it’s basically my recent history that’s a bit lacking, I swear I hibernated through the nineties or something) however Man In A Hutch (he doesn’t post often, he’s Lucy’s J, but what he does say, well, it’s usually the most absorbing and interesting and downright worth reading, well-thought-out, intelligent thing I’ll read in any given day) has this to say about the Human Rights thing you’re all fighting about, and a lot of other good things to say too, and if I was more of a plagiarist I’d just come here and repeat his whole post though perhaps in summary. Definitely worth a read because it seems to have a slightly higher fact content than, well, anything on this comment thread so far :P.


  25. From what I’ve seen, Labour are equally opposed to it.

    I’ve just noted this on J’s blog, but I honestly have no idea how anyone can support Labour. If you examine their policies and look at their past record, they’re by far and away the worst party out of the 3 big ones. I’ve not heard anyone give a good defence of Labour based on facts, it’s usually on “WELL THE TORIES ARE WORSE BECAUSE THEY’RE TOFFS!!!!!1!!1!11”. And sorry, but that’s an appalling reason to support a party.

  26. And in addition, if the economy is The Big Issue leading upto this election, why support the party which have made it worse over the last 13 years?

    Rather pleasingly, I’ve been making this argument for a while now, so it’s pleasing to hear that the IFS agree 😀

  27. Jenny

    OK, on what grounds are they the ‘worst’ party? What, do you think, are their worst prospective policies in their manifesto? Do you deny that they have done things like introduce a minimum wage, supported equality for everyone, women, men, straight, gay, black and white, where such legislation absolutely wasn’t in place before? J isn’t saying they’re a great choice – I mean, yes, look at Iraq, just for starters – but what he is saying is wouldn’t you far rather have them than the Tories?

    Please don’t tell me you actually quite like Maggie Thatcher. I’ve a hideous feeling that basically David Cameron is her but with a whole new face. There’s a reason he looks so…rubbery.


  28. It’s my opinion that they’re the worst party on the grounds that I disagree with the vast majority of their policies, I think they’re woefully incompetent (too many examples over the last few years to list, but the link I posted earlier is a particularly good – if costly! – example), and because I think they’re corrupt. In my opinion these three things can be said of other parties to varying degrees, but I reckon Labour are worst for all of them.

    You mention the minimum wage. This is touted as a good thing by lots of people who claim to be liberal, but how many of those people have actually thought about it? About the effect it has on an economy? About whether it will actually do what they say it’ll do? How many people think about where the money to pay for the minimum wage will come from? How many people even think about how wages are set without a minimum wage? (hint: people don’t do something unless they think it’s in their benefit)

    I’m not saying I know all the answers to those questions, and I’m not even saying I’m definitely right in the answers I can give. What I will say though is that the economic theory says that introducing a minimum wage is bad for people with lower skills who can’t warrant a higher wage. Young people, essentially. And if you look at the effect that it’s had, this theory is largely shown to be accurate – it’s been masked during the boom years by overall good employment, but now money is short, we have record youth unemployment. I leave it to you to judge whether or not that is fair.

    You say they’ve “promoted equality”. Personally, I question how effective government can ever really be at this. Equality comes down to people’s attitudes, and that isn’t shaped by government (yet…). But then I’m not a statist (because I believe in individual freedom), so perhaps I would say that.

    Civil liberties has been mentioned a lot in this comment thread, but it’s because it’s another good point. I simply cannot support a party which has introduced laws which erode civil liberties to the extent Labour have. Stop and search, detention without charge (let alone trial!), ID cards, the DNA database, campaigning outside parliament (!), the RIP act (it’s an offence not to hand over the key for encrypted data to the government upon demand!), the Digital Economy act (and the way it was shoehorned through parliament is a particularly disgusting bonus there)… How can anyone who is in favour of a liberal civilized society support these things, or the people who implemented them? Please, someone explain this to me because I’m genuinely at a loss.

    And finally, corruption. Expenses is the tip of the iceberg. Lobbying is particularly distasteful (if you have a lot of money, then you can sway government to do what you want). The bad news though is that, as far as I can see, the three main parties are all as bad as each other for this. But to my mind saying “well they did it too!” is an extraordinarily poor justification for supporting a party.

    I could carry on for a while, but this should suffice cos writing this is making me angry 😛

    Those are some of the reasons why I dislike Labour. I think what they need is a term (or several) out of parliament to reinvent themselves, get rid of the deadwood (although as far as I can tell, the party basically is deadwood, so…) and come back stronger. I don’t get how anyone can vote for Labour as they are, because IMO they are a complete shambles.

    A lot of the arguments against the Tories annoy me. People seem to dislike them because they’re the Conservatives and are therefore obviously toffs, rather than because they dislike their policies or whatnot. I don’t really support the Conservatives (imo they’re marginally better than Labour, but that’s like saying that you prefer the bubonic plague to the ebola virus), but this mentality just pisses me off. My dislike of them is based on a dislike of their policies though, not just Cameron’s rubbery face 😛

    You mention Thatcher, and I don’t really know enough about her to comment. I will say though that from what I’ve read, the economic policies she introduced during her first term were extremely effective for helping the economy recover from the late 70s recession. She seems to have gone a bit batty after a while though. FWIW I think the same can be said of Blair – good in his first term or so, less so thereafter. I think there’s a good case to be made for limiting the number of terms a PM can have (as with the US President).

    I’m fed up of the election because it seems to be a choice between whoever will be least bad. On that note I’d possibly say Liberal Democrats, but even then I think many of their policies are daft (particularly on economics), so I really can’t get excited about them. I think one problem is that people have forgotten what the purpose of government is, but that’s a different topic I suppose.

    It’s all a bit disappointing, really.

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