It was a rumbustious political knockabout but neither man came out clearly on topby Theo Bertram / November 20, 2019 / Leave a comment
The YouGov snap poll scored it neck and neck—51 per cent thought Boris Johnson had done better, 49 per cent thought Jeremy Corbyn had. Both sides will be happy with that. Last night was the first ever head-to-head TV election debate between a PM and the leader of the opposition. What did we learn?
Incredibly, Johnson had not learned his lines. For both the opening and closing statement, he kept glancing down to read his pre-prepared remarks. Not only does this look less convincing than someone looking you in the eye and telling you what they believe, it also suggests a degree of complacency. This is the most important job in the country, the least you can do is learn your arguments off by heart.
Time after time, Johnson talked across Julie Etchingham. In rehearsals, his team would have tried to coach this out of him. Doing it once is fine but doing it repeatedly is a bad look. It is the kind of subconscious behaviour that viewers pick up and judge: this man does not think the same rules apply to him as everyone else. Given it is Johnson’s nature to ramble on, I thought Corbyn could have prepared some lines to pick up on that and attack it. After all, failing to meet the deadline is one of his big policy failures.
Normally one would expect the incumbent, especially if they were 10 points ahead in the vote intention polls, to be the one who would rise above the political fray and the challenger, desperate to catch up, to be the one who went most on the attack. However, this time the roles were reversed. Johnson was much more aggressive than Corbyn.
Overall Johnson’s team will feel he came through it unscathed. There were no questions on the alleged affair with Jennifer Arcuri, or about his own children: a bullet dodged.
Initially, Corbyn’s voice seemed a little weak and he appeared tired. The lens in his glasses reflected the glare of the light in the studio in a way that made it hard to see his eyes clearly. This may seem trivial but eye contact is important: it helps you judge whether a stranger is sincere. If it is possible…