What we learned from tonight's debate, and how it influenced the campaignby Josh Lowe / April 16, 2015 / Leave a comment
Tonight, Labour’s Ed Miliband went head to head with the other main political parties who are challenging the governing Coalition parties.
Here are the five key things you need to know about what went on.
Ed didn’t crumble The Tories hoped that tonight’s set up would make Ed look weak. With Cameron safely out of the fray, they hoped to see the Labour leader pummelled from the left and right. The Tory line on the debates has focused on the “chaos” of the battle, and how this evening offered voters a taste of the discord and confusion they could expect from any lefty alliance, however informal, between Labour, the SNP or the Greens. In the event, though, Miliband wasn’t seriously challenged on policy. Instead, he had a rare opportunity to look serious, relaxed and competent, even at one point allowing Natalie Bennett to go ahead of him during a heated exchange.
Cameron didn’t escape Miliband used his closing statement to stare straight down the camera and repeat his offer of a head-to-head debate with the Prime Minister—one which he and most voters know has been roundly rejected. It was a well-executed bid to emphasise Cameron’s absence from the proceedings and make the Prime Minister look like he was running scared. “Why is David Cameron not at the debate?” was the second most-asked question on Google during the evening. But the Prime Minister’s lack of a platform will have damaged him for another reason—not having the government represented allowed all five leaders to band together in demolishing its record. During an exchange on housing, for example, the average viewer would have been left with the impression that the current government barely builds anything at all. A Conservative email to journalists claiming that “council house starts are at their highest for 23 years” won’t have done as much to change that as Cameron making that point onstage would have.
Sturgeon set out her stall In contrast to her performance at the last debate, which was all about introducing the SNP message to the wider British public, tonight Nicola Sturgeon made her pitch to Ed Miliband for a post-election deal. In some ways, she showed journalists and other close observers the weakness of her position—she’s ruled out doing anything…