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#leadersdebate: Remember 1959?

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Paul Mason | 21:58 UK time, Thursday, 15 April 2010

One of my neighbours was a veteran Labour MP. He pointed out to me today that in 1955 the Liberals were "nearly dead" (they had just 6 MPs). He believes, and he was active then, that the mass rollout of TV, combined with televised elections between then and 1964, saved them.

They had 6 MPs in 1959 and 9 in 1964 and rose thereafter. It's just a theory - but if you fast forward to 2010 - to leadership debates plus the internet - my observation is that the more "mass" the media, the better chance the third party has. Clegg seems to be ahead in most of the realtime scoring polls (though Guardian saying a lot of clicks coming from Libdem HQ).


  • Comment number 1.

    Do you mean that maybe some media moguls are losing power? Well, given perhaps the media watched in silence as the bubble got bigger and bigger they should be losing power.

    I've been listening to Amy Goodman in the US recently - what a revelation, in the US of all places!

  • Comment number 2.

    The lib dems have one unique selling point neither the other parties have, the lib dems are not labour or the Tories.

    That is the thing you need to break the status quo, a selling point which does not rely on any understanding or perception of the detail, which causes most people who decide elections to immediately switch off. That coupled with credibility (enter stage left vince cable as oppose to George osbourne)and suddenly there is a chance of change.

    If the tabloids take up the theme, pick up on that dynamic and provide associated coverage to clegg it could snowball and catch the common imagination. The tabloids may start to realise that it could shift some newspapers to be the first to take an alternate popular thread to this election, the lib dems are providing a potential vehicle for that. What if the Sun stated '' we are fed up of this lot, we are switching to clegg''....

    I dont think that would ever turn into a majority but it could secure the hung parliament, which is what most people want anyway.

    It is looking good for my 10 quid bet on a hung parliament at the moment.

    I also have a tenner on the lib dems polling more than 20%.

    I am still waiting for offers from hedge funds though :)

  • Comment number 3.

    I actually thought Gordon Brown answered questions. He is not great in terms of connecting with people but I felt satisfied with his answers. I thought Nick Clegg was combative and striving for the 'we are different' party even though some of his responses made it clear to me there were weaknesses in lib dem policies. Cameron was a bis surprise. He did not answer questions at all and I thought he came across as very shifty. He used far too many anecdotes and I think his constant refrain that the deficit can be brought down by eliminating 6billion of public sector waste is nonsense.

    People need to think about what he didn't say - not how he presents himself. Brown and Clegg were much better at answering questions. Cameron simply didn't answer the questions asked. He is a lightweight and I don't think he or his party have the answers. Clegg and Brown particularly showed him up time and again on his tax cuts for the well off and the inability to show how the conservatives would effectively manage the economy to ensure we don't end up in a double dip recession.

  • Comment number 4.

    I enjoyed the debate, however I do feel that the Post Mortem on Newsnight, yet again showed the BBC's relentless support for the BBC.

    It was very sutble with one presenter at the end of his piece setting up a mock fight and although his cursor was over Gordon Brown, he moved over to David Cameron. Also I noticed on Newsnight the background was interesting - the three leaders were in a bluish black, with Gordon Brown having a red 'splash' over his picture. Plus the studio chairs were red. This may seem very petty but in a marketing eye, very revealing. This is in addition to the BBC talking to one of the other parties and suddenly stopping the speak in mid-flow to go over to see Gordon Brown arriving at a venue.

    A post these comments with no real commitment to any of the parties. Just a floating voter.

  • Comment number 5.

    Cameron was by far the man that looked like the next British Prime Minister.... he was poised, spoke sense, unlike blustering Nick Clegg who kept repeating himself with no real ideas apart from harping on about
    Trident endlessly...

    Cameron was the winner by far.!

  • Comment number 6.

    In tonight's TV debate, David Cameron looked ready to lead. He was personal, direct and in command. He definately gets my vote!

  • Comment number 7.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 8.

    The Liberal party died when Old Labour came on the scene in teh 1920s. But then, Old Labour Party died when it was subverted by Militant Tendency (working in practice to benefit Thatcher and her state busting) Militant hated state capitalism as much as Thatcher did. On top of that, some of Old Labour defected in the 1980s as the SDP, joining the Liberals to form the current Liberal-Democrats! Vince Cable is at heart, and Old Labourite, that's why he sounds so credible. That he isn't more prominent is because he's bright enough to know the constraints he has to live within. Clegg is just a bright young thing like Cameron (and poodle Blair before him). They are all bright, but they are all powerless.

    This is a vote splitting pantomine Paul. Anything goes, so long as it goes in the direction of undermining socialism. There was, remember, a very expensive USA led Cold War, for decades. It was waged aggressively against socialism all over the globe. Britain was caught in the middle, and for inventing true state run socialism in the best interests of the majority, we are paying for that sin, much as the Catholic Church is.

  • Comment number 9.

    I started getting emails from Nick Clegg a few weeks ago and now it has become an almost daily occurence to find an email from him in my inbox.

    This perplexed me for some time as this was my private email address that I keep for close friends and business colleagues and do not use for, for example, online shopping. Then it twigged with me that I had emailed a friend of mine a few years back who is now is a Liberal Councillor so I guess the Liberals have been pretty active in their use of the World Wide Wibble.

    I thought Brown was very poor in the debate - he reminded me of the Welsh rugby team who have a tendency to not realise that they are playing the game for the first 70 minutes and who then suddenly come alive in the last 20. I guess Brown needs to do an hour debate in his hotel room prior to turning up to the next one so he is firing on all cylinders from the start.

    I thought Cameron was pretty much as expected - the morning after I can't really recall what he said other than he seemed pretty polite and had a nice suit.

    Clegg was undoubtedly the winner standing back and letting the other two do their usual red and blue exchanges. Clegg did come across, to me anyhow, as someone who understands how dire things are and that we ned to think out of the box. However, his repeated dismissal of Trident, long a Liberal aim, seemed to make the silent audience even quieter - us Brits, as bizarre as it seems, like our bomb.

  • Comment number 10.


    No last laugh - when we are Islamic, laughing will be frowned upon.

  • Comment number 11.

    Watching the debate, it struck me that Cameron's mantra of "change" is playing into Clegg's hands. Tories represent "change back" not "change forward" to many voters.The Tory Big Society stuff looks like a wheeze to avoid responsibility for bad,wasteful and over-powerful governemt in the future. Clegg effectively argued his was the real "change" option, I thought.

    Returning to Quantitative Easing ( you know, the monetary stimulus which was supposed to rescue nominal spending which no-one is mentioning), does anyone know whether the gilts have fallen in value since the Bank of England Asset Purchase Facility Fund Ltd bought them. I just want to know whether the Treasury is keeping tabs on the paper values of those "assets"?

    If there's a bond expert out there, let us know the facts. Cheers.

  • Comment number 12.

    Does anyone else feel totally ripped off due to the paucity of the quesioning, and by the BBC and Newsnight in their analysis?

    I wanted policy not who looks/sounds good

    And what is the policy that counts most?
    Immigration and labour migration.

    But what did we get?
    Apparently someone saying 'Immigration is in chaos' is a winner!?!? Is this the best we can expect in terms of a future policy to address the problems???

    And, then, when the participants talked 'jobs' - a completely separate issue you would think from watching - they were not asked how they would deal with the ONS data that 92% of jobs have gone to foreign workers.

    What a poor performance from the questioning and the analysis side - and none of this is addressed in audiences pressing buttons and wiggly lines. Wrong buttons,wrong wiggly lines.

  • Comment number 13.

    I think all the mass media in the world makes little difference to third party representation, if the system is not built to accommodate it. Just look at the US system. Despite recent elections (presidential as well as non presidential) having huge multimedia advertising budgets along with widespread grassroots representation on Facebook, YouTube etc., it is still rigidly a two party system. It will be interesting to see whether Lib Dems increased exposure will allow for some kind of tipping point within the first-past-the-post voting system resulting in a large jump in the number of their candidates elected, more closely reflecting their share of the vote.

  • Comment number 14.

    Brown's soft underbelly was rarely even just prodded. What has he been doing for the last 13 years?

  • Comment number 15.

    #8 Math ap Mathonwy

    Is socialism a one-party dictatorship or direct democracy?

  • Comment number 16.

    All I Have to say is that the programme about Lagos on BBC2 at 9.00pm was very interesting and informative....all in all I'm glad I chose this option as 3 grey men in suits are not to my taste at all!

  • Comment number 17.

    The program on Lagos showed an appreciation of the skills, intelligence, social organisation and empathy, dignity and resiliance of the dump workers of Lagos, with no hint of patronising.

    How come then its so hard for the BBC and particularly Newsnight, to show the slightest bit of respect and appreciation, in fact anything but contempt, for working class people in the UK?

  • Comment number 18.

    I thought Newsnight's coverage of the debate was appalling. After the breathless intro, and the wander down spin alley (I'd feel safer in a dark alley), we were pounded with some jargon (gamechanger! ugh) before finally the token 'web analysis' including tweets from nobodies saying nothing. I'm sure Charlie Brooker is going to put you all through his grinder.

    This was all the more surprising coming from Newsnight which usually analyses British and foreign government policy with some vigour (I remember the excellent recent report from Sweden re; charter schools). I also find Paul Mason's reports to be thoughtful, challenging, informative and, yes, sometimes funny. He was absent last night; so was Paxman - I think that says a lot (perhaps there were good reasons, I am open to correction).

    Most worrying of all is the unshakable suspicion that the BBC has an interest in hyping these debates, as it will soon host one. That's not really serving the public interest now is it - better would be to offer a balanced critique of the debate and its content; as it stands the media handlers of these politicians will just try to feed this frenzy - the focus on 'gaffes' and polished one liners just keeps the Campbells of this world in a job. I believe it also cheapens political discourse to within an inch of being utterly pointless. What a shame; opportunity lost.

  • Comment number 19.

    Brown won it hands down, he answered the questions and didn't waffle, Cameron blew it and kept on with his mantra of ...'I feel your pain c...p and Nick Clegg was like a young bank manager, all promise and glossing over the small print!

  • Comment number 20.

    Why do we pay for both a BBC and for an Office of National Statistice - both involving many many millions - if one does not deign to make reference to the other???

  • Comment number 21.

    Goldman Sachs accused of Fraud (y'dont say !!)

    Lib Dems getting fair coverage in the media

    Whatever next?

    Fully costed and candid plans for reducing the deficit perhaps??

    SIR Fred Goodwin (and others) publicly stripped of his knighthood for ''services to banking''? getting carried away now.

  • Comment number 22.

    17. At 4:15pm on 16 Apr 2010, stayingcool

    Because most of the newsnight crowd in the studio haven't been anywhere near the working classes for years and years - not since they were kids and went off to Uni. Since the working classes pay a larger proportion of their income to the BBC than the rich do, you'd think the presenters would appreciate the vast salaries....just like the politicians, they've forgotten who pays the wages.


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