Liar Politicians: UK Party Leaders’ Pre-Election Debate 2010

15 April 2010 – 20:30 ITV
audio: BBC Radio 4, LBC 97.3
Granada Studios, Manchester, ITV Studios, Alastair Stewart

Download audio – 128Kbps, 86mb, 1hr32min

First Election Debate: Domestic Affairs

Instant polling after the first debate showed Nick Clegg as the winner, with most showing David Cameron came second and Gordon Brown last:

Results of opinion polls asking voters whom they considered to have won the first debate

  • ITV News/ComRes: 43% for Clegg, 26% for Cameron, 20% for Brown
  • Sky News/Fizzback: 37% for Clegg, 32% for Brown, 31% for Cameron
  • Times/Populus: 61% for Clegg, 22% for Cameron and 17% for Brown
  • Sun/YouGov: 51% for Clegg, 29% for Cameron, 19% for Brown
  • Angus Reid Public Opinion: 49% for Clegg, 20% for Cameron, 18% for Brown

Average viewing figures for the debate were 9.4 million, with a peak of 10.3 million, equivalent to a share of the audience of 37%. The BARB produced audience figures indicated that the total television audience for the event on ITV was 9,679,000 viewers. The debates caused a large, immediate, and unexpected impact on opinion polls in favour of the Liberal Democrats, leading to many headlines regarding a ‘Yellow Surge’.

Commenting on the debates, the leaders of three minor parties who were not invited to participate were disparaging. SNP Leader Alex Salmond said, “You had three Westminster politicians who agree with each other on 99% of issues, and therefore the debate couldn’t really come alive because of that convergence on the things that matter, and also, of course, because the audience weren’t allowed to really participate.” Former UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage said there was not a “single memorable phrase” in the entire debate and Plaid Cymru leader Ieuan Wyn Jones said: “In what was a very sterile debate, not once did we hear the word Wales mentioned by any of the leaders. Indeed much of what they said was irrelevant to our communities.”

Both Gordon Brown and David Cameron agreed that Nick Clegg did well in the debate. Brown said Clegg had been “introducing himself in many ways to the public, in a mass way, for the first time. I think he’ll be rightly pleased with his performance. I think at the end of the day… when all the dust settles, when people start sort of examining what are the policies, I don’t think people know much about Liberal policies, and I think they do know more about our policies”. He said he had “enjoyed” the debate, adding: “I think it’s part of the debate we should have in Britain. I think it’s energised the campaign.”

Cameron said, “I think he had a good debate but I must say I just enjoyed being able to talk to people at home, to address the questions that I think are the big questions at this election like immigration and the economy and crime.” His colleague Michael Gove told Sky News that Clegg could “play the role of the sparky and feisty outsider.”
Clegg said it had been an “important moment in this campaign” while one of his predecessors, Lord Ashdown, said the debate was “potentially a game changer.” BBC political editor Nick Robinson said the emergence of Clegg as a serious player would be the most significant development. He added that, amid predictions of a hung parliament in which Clegg’s party could hold the balance of power, the Lib Dems would be “wooed, attacked and scrutinised with renewed vigour.” The body language expert for Sky News Dr. Peter Collet revealed that Clegg had been the strongest as he looked down the lens, he also revealed that Cameron had been weaker than suspected as he stepped away from his podium.

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