Thursday, 15 April 2010

1st Election Debate - Live Text

10:51pm Enough. The smug self-satisfaction of all involved is too much for me. Amidst all the talk about who won that the media will subject us to over the next few days, it's worth sparing a thought for the undisputed loser tonight, namely democracy.

Looks like most pundits/polls are agreeing that Clegg won this round. Can't believe Kirsty Wark & Co on Newsnight. A "momentous" night for politics and television apparently. Well, for TV perhaps. It's not every day TV succeeds in stitching up the election after all.

Well, the dust has now settled even as the Icelandic ash remains aloft. My overriding impression is that the whole debate was pretty feeble. The format seemed far too constrictive, and having the questions up front denied us the chance to see the leaders think on their feet, surely a useful trait in a future PM? I can't say I'm looking forward to the next ones to be honest, not sure there is much to be learned from watching Clegg, Cameron and Brown in this sort of format.

Alasdair Stewart wraps things up, in a voice rather like the announcer at a boxing match. If this contest was anything though it was a Haye-Valuev snoozefest. Overall marks out of 10...

Clegg: 7/10 made a good impression, seemed comfortable throughout, struck a consensual note at the end on care for the elderly
Cameron: 5/10 not at his best, got embroiled in a few scraps with Brown at times which did neither of them any favours, seemed ill at ease at times
Brown: 6/10 patchy, clearly more comfortable with some subjects than others, a little bit of humour at the beginning, something the other two failed to inject into the proceedings - what were the odds on saying that beforehand?!

Cameron: repeated attempts to frighten electorate about a Tory government. Hope over fear. Brown shakes his head. The idea that we have to keep wasting money to secure the recovery has been shown to be wrong. Values are as important as policy. If you work hard, I'll be behind you. Raise a family, I'll support you. If you're old and become ill, we'll be there for you. Britain is an amazing country. Needs a government with the right values. He will bring leadership (in which direction?).

Brown: a great opportunity to exchange ideas this evening. We have to make a decision now about how we help the economic recovery. Can't repeat the mistakes of the 30's or 80's. As we reduce the deficit we have to protect funding for the police, healthcare and schools. Cameron can't give the guarantees that Labour can. He looks forward to the next debate. He'll be in a minority of 1 then.

Clegg: thanks for sticking with us this evening! Not all politicians are the same. Reels off the names of the questioners - a bit naff. Labour and Tories have played pass the parcel with government for the last 60 years, making and breaking the same promises. Choose something different. Trust you instincts. Use the force.

Closing statements, 90 seconds each...

Brown: there are 6 million carers in this country. Numbers numbers. Didn't Cameron or Clegg just say 1 million? Too many stats to take in, especially while typing away.

Cameron: 45000 families a year have to sell a home to pay for care. We should help people to have care in their homes for as long as possible. If carers stopped it would cost the country £50 billion a year apparently. They are Britain's unsung heroes. Clegg: echoes this. Give the 1 million carers a week off.

Another reserved question. When will each party introduce a system to care for the elderly so they don't have to dispose of their assets? Cameron: unfair that people who have done the right thing all their lives, saving, buying a house, etc., have to dip into these assets to pay for care. Can't make all care free, but put aside £8000 when you're 65 and you won't have to sell your house to pay for care. Clegg: too big an issue for party politics, we should all come together to find a solution. Also need to look after carers - respite for at least one week a year. Brown: elderly should not have to choose between home and care. Get support at home free of charge. Free care in a residential home after 2 years.

Cameron: I would love to stop tax on first £10000, but we can't afford it. Clegg promises to close loopholes for the rich to exploit. Brown will use NI increase to pay for healthcare and schools. One more question...

Cameron: Tories will make an exception for the NHS. More old people you see. He'll keep increasing NHS spending. Brown: a lady wrote to him saying she wouldn't be alive if Labour hadn't improved speeds at which patients are seen. Cameron comes back with a specific example of a constituent who couldn't get cancer drugs. All a bit unseemly, using ill people for point scoring.

Brown again, saying "David" won't give the same guarantees that Labour will. Cameron's eyes shift uneasily at this. One for the body language experts there. Cameron also bemoans the increase in NHS management. Clegg: judge the NHS by how we are cared for, not by numbers plucked from thin air. Attacks Tory tax breaks for millionaires.

Brown: various patient guarantees mentioned. More convincing than he's sounded thus far. Cameron thanks the nurse for her service to the NHS, he'll never forget his experiences with the the NHS as they cared for his son. Surprisingly that didn't sound forced either, but rather genuine. Vague answer thereafter about improving the NHS. Clegg: tricky when money is tight. Priorities at the moment all wrong, too many managers. The maternity ward where his son was born last year is threatened with closure. A&Es are closing down. We're wasting money on computers and bureaucracy.

Debates for Scotland, Wales and NI have now been plugged. Q from a hospital nurse: what are the parties visions for the future of healthcare in Britain? How to deal with the cost pressures from an ageing population (haven't populations always been ageing?)?

Enough, it seems like there won't be any adverts. Am I the only one that didn't know that?! I'm off for that beer. They're waffling anyway so I won't miss much.

Clegg wants us to use our know-how and manufacturing expertise to support our troops. Brown: why are we in Afghanistan? A chain of terror starting in the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. How can we get our troops home? Build up the Afghan army and police so they can take over. Cameron: a vital year in Afghanistan, difficult times lie ahead. Fundamental defence review needed of what we spend and what we do. Last review was a decade ago, despite the big events of these years. A good point. Then again the govt delayed the comprehensive spending review earlier this year, so clearly it's not their strong point.

Brown adopts his "serious" voice. Claims to have increased spending on equipment. Has the gall to mention more helicopters for Afghanistan. Brass neck 10/10. Cameron also tries to connect with the audience (a la Clegg earlier) but somehow it seems a bit awkward. Sings the praises of the troops, but doesn't think we do enough for them. Frankly we shouldn't be in the situation we are. Had to fight to stop funding for TA being cut.

Next Q: British troops dying frequently, underequipped and underpaid. Clegg: 8000 mandarins in the MoD, 2 admirals for every warship, etc. £100 billion to renew Trident. Change our priorities and we can treat our forces properly. Quite right.

I can't take much more of this waffle. Too short a time for many of the answers. Alasdair Stewart barking "Nick Clegg", "David Cameron", "Gordon Brown" every 5 seconds doesn't help. It just all feels a bit frantic. I would have lined them up in 3 separate sound-proof booths. Any time they get dull or tedious a little window shuts, sealing them inside. At the end of the show lock the doors and leave them to it. I jest, can you imagine how the country would survive without the three of them...

Clegg: we must come clean (how many women did he claim to have slept with?).

Brown says the rest of the world agrees with him. Brown addresses the audience and nation: we can't take risks with the recovery, don't vote for the Tories, they smell. Or words to that effect. And they do smell by the way.

Clegg says we can't solve all the problems by buying fewer paper clips in Whitehall. Banks should pay the tax payers back (yay!). Mythical savings and waste should not distract us. We should be open with the eletorate about where the savings will come from.

Brown says we can't take £6 billion out of government spending. Equivalent to thousands of jobs being lost he says. Come off it Gordon, you can't seriously be saying we should continue the waste in government. Cut the waste, stop the tax says Cameron.

Nice touch from Clegg, making sure he could see the questioner who was hidden behind a camera. Comfortable in the debate and personal connection, good stuff. Mentions Trident - we can't afford the £100 billion it will cost. Well said.

Next question. How can we deal with debt without damaging economic growth? Cameron: save £6billion this year to avoid the NI increase aka tax on jobs aka economy killer. Mentions business leaders' support to back this up. Remove the dark cloud of the deficit, starting sooner rather than later.

Brown says he is tough. Grrrr.

Clegg has a nice line as Cameron and Brown paw each other. The more they talk the more they sound the same. Indeed. He brings it back to the question. Talks about class sizes as a problem. Make them sit closer together, that's the best solution I ever heard.

A risk too far to let the Tories in says Brown. National insurance increases counters Cameron. Stop the waste in government now.

Cameron talks about contemplation suites and massage rooms. Not sure if we was talking about Swedish schools again there.

When are the adverts?!??! That beer is screaming my name.

Cameron says we treat children like adults and teachers like children. Clegg breaks the rules of the debate asking Cameron a question. I demand the right to recall him!

Brown: we must insist on the highest standards for every school. Continuing to invest is crucial. Cameron says good discipline is essential in schools. 17000 teachers attacked each year.

What to do to improve education (England only). Brown wants better qualified teachers. Education to be part/full-time until the age of 18 (chronological or mental age I wonder?). We have to be able to compete globally. Cameron talks about opening young (steady now) minds. Education too bureaucratic - 4000 pages of info sent to each school each year. Cameron sent a child to a state school, I did not know that. Poor mite. Clegg compares English curriculum to its Swedish equivalent - 600 pages to 16 apparently. Parrots Cameron's 4000 pages (wasn't he listening?).

Clegg thinks it a bit rich that Labour and Tories are suddenly conversions to his cause. Fair point.

More talk about MPs getting kicked out without having to wait for a General Election. Right of recall seems to find consensus. Hurrah! Feel the love everyone.

Cameron talks more about cutting the number of MPs (no doubt from Scotland/northern England I would think!). I think I'm going to need a beer to get through this, the smoothie just isn't cutting it. When are the ads?

Pub owner asks - how to re-establish credibility of MPs with electorate. Clegg first: talks about flippers not taking responsibility, duck houses, capital gains tax, etc., etc. Need to be honest about what went wrong. Brown was "shocked" and "sickened" by what he saw. No really. Right of recall if your MP is misbehaving. A good idea I'll admit. Referendum on reform of the Lords and Commons (when Gordon, when?!). Cameron was angry too. He was even determined to clean up the moat apparently. Talks about pay cuts for MPs and ministers, cut Whitehall, cut quangos (everyone says that, when will it happen?). Clegg says Labour voted against LibDem proposals to sack dodgy MPs, Tories didn't vote. Betrayals both.

Another reminder for viewers in Scotland and Wales to ignore virtually everything so far!

Cameron invokes his magistrate mother. Brown has another pop at Cameron, mentioning those airbrushed posters. First time I've ever seen Brown give a genuine smile there! Cameron comes back with the huge debt Brown has led us into.

Brown delivers the first gag - he appreciates the Tory posters showing him smiling, thanks Lord Ashcroft for paying for them.

forfar-loon belatedly realises this might work better with updates at the top of the post. Much less scrolling all round :o)

Question 2 about burglary occurring again and again. Cameron first up with a horror story about one ne'er-do-well and the short sentence he received. Clegg has a pop at ID cards - 3000 more polis on the streets if we'd spent the money on that instead he says. Mentions catching troublemakers when they're young. Brown sounds rather wooden, regurgitating a pre-canned answer (all the questions were submitted in advance). Brown talks about parental responsibility, injunctions against the police if you feel they have let you down. Cameron comes back with drugs (if only! That would liven things up a bit!).

Cameron clearly checking on the text here, asks Clegg how you can restrict people to one region of the country. Clegg replies it works elsewhere. Will we see lots of scaremongering headlines about border controls at Berwick and Gretna? I think not.

08:45pm Still on the first question...they weren't kidding when they said this would be slow were they? Clegg name dropping Man City and Utd, perhaps looking to cover his bases in front of the vetted audience. Brown and Cameron jostling for airtime, cutting over each other, neither making much sense. Brown backs Clegg, talks about training young people to lower the need for immigration in future.

08:38pm First question on immigration from a retired toxicologist. Brown sounds somewhat self-important ("I this, I that"). Clegg and Cameron seem more at ease with the whole thing. Clegg has an idea about restricting immigrants to specific regions. Not sure about the practicalities of that...Brown mentions ID cards for foreign nationals so employers can tell if they are legal...wonder if he's had a word with Baroness Scotland (she's a reserved matter despite the name so fair game for this debate).

08:35pm Initial speeches, yawn. David Cameron sounds the most convincing, or at any rate the most comfortable. Even compliments Labour at one point.

08:30pm We're off! Or at least the missus is, scuttling away at the grim 90 mins ahead. Initial impressions: David Cameron standing rigid, arms by his side, gazing up and to his right at some distant prospect.


Anonymous said...

Thanks. I tried to watch it and couldn't make it. It made me to angry the first time Cameron went on about restoring trust--by telling me my vote doesn't count apparently!

forfar-loon said...

Fear not, I'll keep you fully up to speed Anonymous. Clegg just punched Brown, blood everywhere. Cameron has Clegg in a headlock, howling like a baboon on heat. Ugly scenes.