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Debate 2: What a difference a week makes

Nick Robinson | 22:08 UK time, Thursday, 22 April 2010

We moved from "I agree with Nick" to "I disagree with Nick" as Gordon Brown and David Cameron attacked Nick Clegg tonight over Trident, immigration and MPs' expenses.

Debate 2

The prime minister was more confident and, above all, more aggressive than last week - he warned that David Cameron was a risk to the economy and Nick Clegg a risk to security. There was more of the passion which his party craved.

Gone were David Cameron's obvious nerves. But if his supporters had been hoping that he would be more aggressive, they were to be disappointed - save for his anger at what he called "scare stories" peddled by Gordon Brown. He was determined, it seemed, to look and sound ready for office, speaking again and again about what he would do "if I were your prime minister".

Nick Clegg could not, of course, repeat the novelty of his first appearance. He appeared to want to add policy detail to the anger he expressed last week.

A week ago, the polls declared that there was one clear winner. So too did most neutral observers. This week, they seem to confirm that we are genuinely now in a three-horse race.


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  • Comment number 1.

    Scare stories indeed from Gordon, especially on nuclear weapons. Developing a replacement for Trident is not going to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons if it wants to. Indeed, the Iranian leadership is pointing the finger at the UK for breaking our commitment to disarm under the Non-Proliferation Treaty. It looks like replacing Trident is actually giving Ahmedinajad a reasonable excuse to justify Iran's nuclear programme - a remarkable own goal.

    If Gordon and David decide to spend 97 billion on new nuclear weapons - not likely to be a popular move when big cuts in spending on local services are forecast - they need to tell us what exactly they will be used for, rather than spinning scare stories about Iran and China. There are enough real threats out there which we need to combat - fundamentalism, energy security, climate change - without wasting a big chunk of the defence budget on nuclear weapons to address undefined future uncertainties.

  • Comment number 2.

    Change of tactics wasnt there? We were spared the Brown/Clegg love in,
    admittedly all from Gordon,that we had to endure last week.That was a
    blessing in itself.

    Didnt Brown look old and tired?

    Clegg not so suave this time.

    Cameron much better,the winner in my book.

  • Comment number 3.

    This comment has been referred for further consideration. Explain.

  • Comment number 4.

    what difference?

    Clegg's still a dangerous EU-fanatic
    Brown's still a spendaholic when the till's ringing up empty
    Cameron's coulddn;t inspire anyone - but he's the least worst.

    Not much choice really.

  • Comment number 5.

    I'm still backing Nick Clegg but I was actually impressed (and surprised) by Gordon Brown finally getting into the debate. Cameron scored no hits on either of his opponents and I would dread to think of someone as pathetic and as shallow as him representing this country abroad. He offered no real change (in fact Gordon Brown seemed more ready to talk about change than Cameron) and lots of empty phrasing.

    Was very interesting to watch the 3-4 times that Clegg challenged both Cameron and Brown on statistics and both of them waffling away from it. Especially on immigration where not only did Clegg seem to have the willingness to discuss the issue but exposed just how much nonsense Cameron and Brown talk about it.

    I was disappointed and surprised that Clegg didn't challenge the other 2 over the illegal war in Iraq and I am curious as to why he was diplomatic about it with them. However his closing statement was by far the best.

    I can understand a staunch Labour voter sticking with Brown; however I am at a loss to understand how any floating voter would consider David Cameron a serious choice. Utterly pathetic. He wouldn't last the whole term in office if he got in (especially if he keeps his promise for a recall option).

  • Comment number 6.

    Gordon Brown is the one who needs to 'get real' if he thinks he's going to win any votes by telling people he wants to spend billions of pounds on new nuclear weapons.

    Nuclear weapons are so 20th century.

  • Comment number 7.

    Interesting to note that Cameron had certainly 'upped' his game but to think that Clegg was outclassed is just ludicrous. Certainly I think the smears in the Telegraph and the Mail have had an effect (which was what they were meant to do, let's face it) but Nick Clegg was just as good as last time and I think spoke to the issues.

    BTW - I note that no one in the MSM are keen to point out the fact that the two journalists leading with the smear stories in their respective newspapers are also friends of Gordon Brown and Damien McBride, respectively.

    Doesn't that speak volumes about the 'elite' wanting to get rid of Clegg because he doesn't want to play ball with them.

    If Nick Clegg only ever manages to bring in PR instead of the patently undemocratic FPTP voting system; then he will have done our country and its people a huge service.

    For that reason alone; I will be voting for the LibDems.

  • Comment number 8.

    I decided to watch this one because although I'm usually working on business in the evenings, we have just got a rehomed cat and so I decided to sit with it and see if we could gain anything from it.

    From an outside politics perspective, this bloggers overall impression, something that I have not really appreciated before, is what a ferociously competitive business it is, at least when the men are involved.

    So, we can probably understand why our politics is essentially adversarial when it is 'the chaps' and it is such a shame that more women are not involved, which could possibly temper that and lead to a more consensual approach to finding political solutions.

    Who won?

    Who cares.

    PS. The cat became animated when Wee 'Eck aka Alex Salmond appeared briefly at the conclusion, maybe the cat thought those cats in Scotland are having their own debate, what about the cats of England?

  • Comment number 9.

    I can't believe how out of touch and behind the times Cameron and Brown are on foreign policy issues. Even Clegg wasn't that inspiring.

    They all seem to be stuck in a Cold War imperialistic rut about how grand the UK is and how we need to replace Trident to show the world our importance.

    Nuclear weapons aren't symbols of status - they are what weak insecure states look for to try to kid themselves that they are moving with the big players. Why do you think North Korea, Pakistan, and Iran attach so much importance to nuclear weapons?

    The fiascos over Iraq and Afghanistan have shown that trying to use brute force and blackmail to achieve foreign policy goals does not work. As the Chinese say, the best way to defend yourself is have no enemies.

  • Comment number 10.

    I thought Mr Cameron was much improved, Mr Brown was much better and Mr Clegg held gained ground, pretty much game on...

  • Comment number 11.

    Thought Cameron needed a clear win and he didn't get it.

    Clegg was cool, young, polished and stylish - much better than Cameron.

    Brown was actually much better on the detail than the other two and actually performed better than everyones expectations. He more than matched Cameron and Clegg.

    All in all this is terrible news for Cameron.

    He hasn't burst Cleggs bubble.

    He hasn't comprehensively beaten Brown.

    Cameron is looking more and more like a poor and risky choice for Prime Minister.

  • Comment number 12.

    I can't help but think that you had that "I disagree with Nick" line already written before tonight's debate, Nick.

    What I'm perplexed - and curious - about is your lack of comment about the laughable SKY coverage of tonight's debate; it really was appalling and has been a talking point all over the web, but not a mention here, Why not? Its a fair and understandable discussion point.

    There is a lot riding on next week's debate, for the Parties, but also for the viewers.

    My headlines tonight: poor show by SKY and by Boulton (as above).

    Brown: inarticulate and stumbling and awkward and evasive as ever, BUT landed a killer blow with "the Big Society at home = Little Britain at home".

    Cameron: Spent the evening apeing Clegg last week; too little, too late. Also, unless I'm mistaken, he was dribbling at the end! You couldn't make it up.

    Clegg: Workmanlike performance, pacing himself for the Final next week,no gaffes. Fantastic honesty in admitting to atheism; best closing statement. Everything to play for.

    As I write this, I'm appalled to see that the BBC on Question Time is toeing the line of a Murdoch-financed YouGov poll showing Cameron as the winner when he evidently wasn't. If anything it was an honourable draw (shaded by Brown and Clegg).

  • Comment number 13.

    Cameron looked very weak on the issue of Europe.

    Clegg and Brown both highlighted just how dangerous it would be for this country to stand on the sidelines like Cameron suggests.

    Also the fact that Cameron is in league with fascists and homophobes in Europe was brought up and showed up the Tory policy in Europe - they are isolated in the European parliament and forced to talk to the nutters and thats what will happen to Britain if Cameron becomes PM.

  • Comment number 14.

    I wonder if the Conservative politicians who are peddling the line of ‘you must vote for us otherwise you will get GB’ ever stop to consider the absolute moral bankruptcy of their argument.
    Think about it in another way and see if it still sounds the same.
    We, the Conservative party, having spent the majority of the last 50 years in power, have fixed the electoral system in such a way that you are not be able to vote for what you believe but have to vote in fear about what might happen if you do not vote for us.
    If you vote not to spend £100 billion on a trident defense system that many, even in the defense staff, believe we don’t need – we will make sure you get Trident anyway, because we have decided that it is right.
    If you want regulation of the banks and bankers bonuses, and vote for the party that has been consistent and clear on it, then we will make sure that you don’t get it. Because we have fixed the system to make sure that, while we pretend you have choice, in fact you do not.
    This works for other parties too. See what happens if UKIP start to come up in the polls. ‘If you want to leave the EU you cannot vote for UKIP because we have fixed the system and that might let Labour’ win – you don’t want that do you?'
    I suspect that if we had seen these arguments in the USSR or under Saddam we might not have been surprised but for politicians in the UK to be telling us the same things is just a depth of moral behavior that I never believed I would see.
    The fact is that politicians should work for us. If we tell them that NONE of them are good enough to govern on their own then they need to grow up and get on with it. Manage the country and the economy as best they can.
    I work with a lot of people. Some I like and agree with, others I do not. I don’t get to choose I just have to make it work as best as I can. In the end I have to talk, listen, understand and compromise, because whether I like them or not we all sink or swim together and I am not going to spite my employers and my fellow workers by just letting it fail.
    I had hoped that politicians had leant from the expenses saga. Clearly some have not. Put forward your policies and ask people to vote FOR them. If you have no policy crawl back under a stone and stay there, it is where you belong. If a lot of people vote for you then you will have moral voice in the new parliament. Use it to promote what people voted for but listen, with humility, to the majority of the electorate who did not vote for the party you are in (no party will get more than 30-40% of the vote). Understand people who think differently to you and be prepared to compromise to make it work.
    Maybe Ken Clarke will be proved to be right, maybe the IMF will need to arrive and dig us out of a hole. So be it. In the long run, I have had enough and I am not prepared to leave this mess to my children. Politics and politicians need to move on and if I have to endure a few years of problems while that happens then I would rather that then leave it to future generations. After all, they will have enough to worry about paying back our debts for us to leave them with this corrupt and bankrupt politics as well.

  • Comment number 15.

    I always back a lose therefore Cameron will never become PM. Sadly I also back my Country.

  • Comment number 16.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 17.

    #3 skemmite

    What are you talking about?

    Stop trying to attack the BBC and Nick Robinson without justification or explanation.

  • Comment number 18.

    #2 sevenstargreen

    Not in my book.

    Brown was very impressive - as has been borne out in the post debate polls - he's tying with Cameron in one of them and close behind in another.

    Cameron was quite synthetic and the fact that he doesn't look like a Prime Minister must be making people seriously pause before they think about voting.

    Do people really want 5 years of plastic Cameron as PM?

    I've had enough of him after 3 hours. I think, in the end, most people will probably decide the same.

  • Comment number 19.

    I am astounded at the shallow nature of some of the pro-Clegg comments. How can anyone vote for such foolish policies as an amnesty for illegal immigrants... the removal of our nuclear deterrent when unstable states are developing their own... or a tax policy that simply defies belief. Their policies are, quite simply, senseless.

    There is NO place for X-Factor politics in this democracy of ours. A hung parliament will undoubtedly be terrible for the country and to consciously vote for one on the strength of a couple of TV debates is not only foolish in the extreme, but potentially marks us out as a nation of sheep.

  • Comment number 20.

    #12 clacker

    "I'm appalled to see that the BBC on Question Time is toeing the line of a Murdoch-financed YouGov poll showing Cameron as the winner when he evidently wasn't. If anything it was an honourable draw (shaded by Brown and Clegg)."

    To be fair, most of the audience that have spoken have critiscised Camerons performance and his potential as Prime Minister. Very few comments suggesting Cameron convincingly won the debate.

    The papers tomorrow though will try and spin it as though Cameron won.

    Thats because we don't actually have a free press - we have an 85% Tory press.

    So tomorrow expect lots more attacks on Brown and Clegg and lots of phoney waffle about Cameron winning the debate.

  • Comment number 21.

    was Sky coverage that bad? I thought it was an improvement on ITV plus I couldnt see any obvious Cameron bias which was surprising considering Murdoch backing... I would be interested to see anyone point out any that I missed

  • Comment number 22.

    #21 rosco_millosco

    Well Boultons question to Clegg about the Telegraphs front page was a bit odd - especially when the Telegraph have got a non-story and are just mud-slinging on behalf of the Tory party.

    I also thought some of his interventions and management of the 3 protagonists wasn't as good as last week - things moved a lot slower and there seemed to be less back and forth debate.

  • Comment number 23.

    #19 shepscape

    You don't agree with his policies - fair enough.

    Doesn't make them shallow - just makes them different policies than ones you believe in

    A hung parliament won't be a disaster - they work fine in most countries and they can work fine here too.

    The Tories suddenly don't like X-Factor politics because their man is no longer the most popular star - well thats a bit tough. The Tories asked for the debate so they reap what they have sown.

    In fact, the very decision to request these debates shows terrible judgement on the part of David Cameron. He agreed to them when he was miles ahead in the polls and now the people have seen what he is like and they don't like him anymore.

    If is judgment is that bad in opposition then do we really want him in government?

  • Comment number 24.

    22 - good point, I was also disappointed Mr Clegg didnt make enough of the Lib dem opposition to the war.

    I think the BeeB will handle it a lot better to be honest.

  • Comment number 25.

    Last week most neutral observers thought clegg was a sanctimonious pratt.

    This week they saw the same thing happen and the media have been unable to get away with their lies.

  • Comment number 26.

    I thought this election was far more enjoyable, it was very close but I felt Brown came out on top.

    The next step is campaigning:-

    How to Electify the Electorate and win this debate --->

  • Comment number 27.

    #20 (Voice of Reason): Yes, you are right; my comment wasn't prompted by the audience's questions, but by Dimbleby introducing the discussion by referring to a Murdoch-sponsored poll. Having said that, Ann Leslie is doing a fine job for the change-agenda in this country (on Question Time) by her thick, patronising and contemptuous presence.

    #21 (rosco_milosco): Boulton interrupted/curtailed Clegg noticeably more than the other two. Murdoch agenda (Murdoch pay-packet).

  • Comment number 28.

    Come on. Trying to say that Gordon was anywhere as good as the other two is nonsense. I understand that the partisan may want to spin it that way but those who are saying that here are really reaching. Gordon is simply not very good at this kind of thing - for those that support Labour this is something you'll have to live with. It was a clear Clegg / Cameron draw, sadly.

  • Comment number 29.

    Wow - I thought I heard during the debate Gordon Brown say that he is the son of the manse.

  • Comment number 30.

    19. At 11:15pm on 22 Apr 2010, shepscape wrote:
    "the removal of our nuclear deterrent when unstable states are developing their own... or a tax policy that simply defies belief. Their policies are, quite simply, senseless."

    What is the capacity of these unstable states and how is the risk comparable to the cold war period?
    The 'deterrent' is disproportionate in the a Warsaw Pact world and in any case, this country simply can't afford it.

    Tax policy that defies belief eh? No, what's really unbelievable is the fact that the tories are putting their faith in a naive inexperienced twit who doesn't have the capability to run a polo club - let alone support his party's spurious savings claims with anything resembling a rational explanation.

  • Comment number 31.

    Last week Clegg was so irritating with his holier than though attitude. This week he seemed to struggle a bit when pressed on points such as Trident and interestingly working within a hung parliament. It became clear in his exchanges with Brown his approach is the SAME as those so called old parties – I smell a large dose of hypocrisy. Brown had moments of strength and then seemed to lose it. Cameron was more combative and was taking advantage of the increasing Liberal/Lobour clashes. All in all a more equal performance from them all this week with marks going to Cameron, Brown, Clegg in that order.

  • Comment number 32.

    Interesting that none of them seemed to want to risk alienating the Roman Catholic vote, so the Pope got a pretty easy time of it despite some of his medieval views. Caledonian Comment

  • Comment number 33.

    27 - what did you think of Mandelson's condemnation of the Torygraph and the other Fox inspired paper media?

  • Comment number 34.

    #28 David

    I'm not trying to spin it how I saw it (though I did think Brown was better than Cameron) but I'm saying that the polls of public opinion were basically a draw between Cameron and Brown.

    You say that Cameron is so good at presentation etc but he still couldn't beat Brown when its not his most natural setting.

    Clegg: 33%
    Brown: 30%
    Cameron: 30%

    Plastic Cameron is losing credibility the longer this election goes on.

  • Comment number 35.

    After we wade through the the superficial statements and comments of tonights show, it will become apparent that only Gordon Brown had anything of substance to say, Clegg and Cameron didnt seem to have any direction in what their plans were for the future of our country. Gordon Brown is not a perfect politician, but he does have a huge political brain and leaves his opposition in his wake. By George, Labour have not delivered on all promises from 1997 but HELP ! I really dont fancy any of the other two in power.

  • Comment number 36.

    25 I have talked to a number of people and have not had anyone say that. Still maybe you have talked to 5 million people this week and they have so you must be right. After all if you say most people felt that way the polls must be wrong and you must be right.

  • Comment number 37.

    I have just looked into Nick Cleggs past,his father is a russian BANKER and his mother is dutch which explains his pro european stance,I don't think he would be good for this country since he is never questioned by the press on any of his policies it seems to be we love clegg week.Gordon Brown did better this week.

  • Comment number 38.

    Clegg: 33%
    Cameron: 29%
    Brown: 29%

    Again - basically a draw. Another disastrous night for Cameron. Why did he allow these debates to happen? The Tories will be regretting that long after election day when the Lib Dems will still be celebrating.

  • Comment number 39.

    Maybe we should just take a lesson from the Football Association and offer the job to Silvio Berlusconi.

  • Comment number 40.

    The more you see of Cameron the more shallow he appears.
    His basic pitch seems to be 'Make me PM because I should be.'
    The Tories seemed to think this election was their's for the taking because Gordon Brown was so uncharimastic.
    I think that the MPs expenses scandal exposed by the The Telegraph, who concentrated on Labour MPs expenses first, as a Tory paper what else would you expect, has been subject to the Law of Unforeseen Consequences, the public are heartly sick of the self-importance and sense of entitlement of professional politicians. The reaction of the two major parties has been seen as inadequate, the Lib-Dems are benefiting from been seen as not part of their cosy club.
    Callaghan said of the '79 election 'there's a sea change happening', perhaps the 2010 election heralds another sea change in British politics.

  • Comment number 41.

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

  • Comment number 42.

    Is it me or do I detect a smarm factor from young Cleggy? All three had extra lessons in speaking to the telly and quoting names and did you notice a lack of anecdotal stories this week? :)
    Brown was much better this week but comedy is not a weapon he should try to use again... talk about a poor attempt when comparing Cameron/Clegg to his squabbling kids. Too slow, Gordon!
    Cameron had his moments and certainly seized the initiative a little more this time. His attack on Brown's "lies" and on Clegg's 'absurd - but we might do it' policy on NI tax were both very good but he failed to capitalise on those rare bursts.
    For me, though, I felt the varnish was beginning to crack on Cleggy's shiny surface. His polished performance last week was still there but it felt more mechanical than natural and for all his talk of a new type of politics, he seemed just as power-hungry and confrontational as the rest of them. He certainly needs to drop the Holy card before it backfires.
    Cameron edged it but only in the momements.
    Brown much stronger and did well to get policy across
    Clegg... not sure. A solid performance but was that all that it was, a performance?

  • Comment number 43.

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

  • Comment number 44.

    For me this second debate was better than the last. I'm glad we had a presenter who did not constantly interrupt Brown, Clegg or Cameron when they tried to speak

    For me this was further evidence of Clegg's ability and natural charm in front of a camera. I must say he shows far more passion when talking. A key point was the question on the pope you can clearly see how the atrocities that took place for years in the catholic church hit home for him when he answered in a truly deep and meaningful tone. We are learning more and more as each debate takes place about this man who for the moment is looking like the best spoken candidate. I thought he handled the fresh aggression from both Brown and Cameron with dignity and never faltered once.

    Brown gave a much more confident passionate performance from last weeks debate. He seemed more comfortable more tactful and much more willing to attack with good strong reasoning. One could clearly see that he was trying to bring it back to the economy and it is acceptable to expect that as he has probably been briefed to do so. The economy is what he is known for. Out of all 3 I believe he has given the best aggressive Performance.

    Cameron for me showed no more fire than last time. He has attempted to win over the nation by copying Clegg's style which looked unnatural. He comes across as a person of weak position. He does not seem to be aware of his own policies, quick to scrutinize other party policies without having valid alternatives in his manifesto and is always quick to say "the people need to do the work". By far Cameron was the weakest and if I was his advisor or a backbencher of the conservative party I would be very worried at the direction this campaign is taking. Vote for change is his big advertisment campaign when we are seeing all the change coming from Labour and Liberal Democrats.

    In summary I was a sure fire Brown voter now I'm having second thoughts due to Clegg and also due to LibDem's other possible cabinet members Vince Cable being a prime example. Cameron is on the path to meltdown falling in the polls failing to hit points off Brown and Clegg, both of whom are showing key improvements as the debates go along. I give this debate as a draw between Brown and Clegg.

  • Comment number 45.

    All in all I thought the debate was about even in terms of performance. Brown was even more aggresive but did manage to play up his experience as a statesman (although by the reasoning that you should only stick to the guy who has already had to deal with these things we'd never change government at all), Cameron was more passionate and had flashes of fire (although he got a bit flustered by Clegg and Brown ganging up on him over Europe and his party's allegiances there).

    Clegg put in another solid performance, immediately and boldly laying out what I think are likely to be less popular policies of the Lib-Dems, namely the extent of their pro-europeanism and their position on Trident, but he came under much fiercer attack and defended himself well (but the bubble will probably die down after a more even showing, with only a 3-5% bump I'm guessing off the top of my head).

    Brown, as last week, tried more obviously rehearsed put downs to make himself look authoritative and repeated the ridiculous Labour implication that if one of the others sounds good he lacks substance, for such is what he means. I don't think he even needs to given he has performed perfectly well so far style wise, so it just seems like his supporters attempting to spin things before hand so that even if he gives a terrible performance they can try to give people the mental image that bad presentation equals substance.

    Brown will likely do even better in the polls next week with the last debate being on what is seen as his strongest ground (and notice how often he linked things to the economy - Clegg did get a good dig in at both the others banging on about tax credits when the question was about cleaning up politics as a result), and I can't see Cameron poll wise recovering to a position which means a majority for his party seems assured in that one. He's been fairly good, but if Clegg support leads to even just a few percent more votes he is in trouble.

    Looks like 5 more years of Labour, propped up by the Liberals, though I suspect Cameron will still win the popular vote. A good debate, more combative than last time and plenty of substance from all of them (as well as a fair amount of waffling and evasion from each on certain issues), which get people thinking but, unless I am just hopelessly optimistic, do not do more than get people thiking about the issues, when they may later decide on. The coverage brings the policies into focus, that's why the lib dem surge continued even up to today, because while the debate created the interest, it was not the be all and end all deciding things.

  • Comment number 46.

    I can only assume there are lots of labour supporters out there - hence post after post saying Cameron was poor. I really don't know what debate you were watching.
    Last week he was poor, much better this time around. The poll of polls (voted for by people, not the Tory press) showed a dead heat between Cameron and Clegg which is about right.
    They also showed Brown way behind. I thought he was awful tonight. He was Mr Angry and Impatient and Intolerant and came across like a complete idiot. The fact that this guy is our Prime Minister is quite unbelievable. Anyone who thought Brown did well is either blind or Peter Mandelson in disguise.

  • Comment number 47.

    Amusing that Cameron had his phoney anger moment about the free eye tests and prescriptions.

    Makes you wonder, if it was such a big issue of principle for him, why did he have to make up the policy on the spot instead of put it in his manifesto?

  • Comment number 48.

    I suppose I should clarify my earlier post by admitting I thought Cameron did the best in presenting himself as a prospective prime minister (his constant refrain of 'if i was your prime minister' must have worked! My God), and I thought Brown was a tad too combative for my tastes, coming across as a little too close to trying to scare people into voting for him, although it may have shored up a lot of wavering Labout support by being a convincing performance, but I do happen to agree more with Clegg on many Lib Dem policies and liked that he layed out their differences well on those matters (I will also say that on some of their core issues I am uncertain or even against, but no party is perfect I suppose).

  • Comment number 49.

    Voice of Reason

    Nice to hear from you this evening. I can only assume that many other regular posters are spinning else where.

  • Comment number 50.

    9. At 11:03pm on 22 Apr 2010, Bakerstreetify wrote:
    The fiascos over Iraq and Afghanistan have shown that trying to use brute force and blackmail to achieve foreign policy goals does not work. As the Chinese say, the best way to defend yourself is have no enemies.

    The Chinese say lots of things, a bit like Politicians really, but ask them about Tibet, and I wouldn't like tibet you get a straight answer! (Sad, I knowm, but not half as sad as these blogs) - I accidentally caught Liam Fox (I thought Fox hunting was banned ? Well no one told Milliband) Paddy Ashdown and one of the Millibands, the slimmer one!, dear Lord (and I'm an Atheist!) , are we really voting for these people? The Monster Raving Loony party is looking a saner bet by the day.

    "Power grows out of the Barrel of a Gun" - a Chinese man said that too.

    hang on! To have no enemies - yes, there we are, Nuke em all and we'll have no enemies - a perfect argument for even more Tridents.

  • Comment number 51.

    Hardly breathtaking stuff. A lot of spin, a lot of hot air and very, very little substance. It's at times like these I wish I lived in Scotland, and then I would have a real voting option. (Sigh) I suppose it'll have to be Lib Dem, but it's a waste of time - I live near Henley.

  • Comment number 52.

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

  • Comment number 53.

    To comment No 35 from Harry - " will become apparent that only Gordon Brown had anything of substance to say."

    Such a shame for Britain that Brown's actions over the past five years have had no substance whatsoever.

  • Comment number 54.

    I am full of anguish and despair when I read the comments here.
    Most are from people with short memories, or are have never studied history, or perhaps under forty which I think most of you are.
    Please, go back to school and study British history. Spend less time posting here. This is the first time I have. So many of you make a career of this, I can see when I click on your user name.
    Please...... get a life!!

  • Comment number 55.


    In what way was Cameron Better? For me he showed no improvement, was innable to stop the popularity of Clegg and did not put enough hits on Brown considering this next debate will more than likely be a win for Brown/Clegg due to the Conservative Manifesto having next to no details on his "Plans for Change".

    You may say Brown is Mr Angry but if it wasn't for Brown many people would have lost their jobs, lost their homes. We can credit the survival of the Economy due to his intelligent economical and Political Mind. Just because he cant talk the talk like Cameron doesn't mean he is an idiot. He is probably the best politican of all three candidates.

  • Comment number 56.

    @Voice of reason.

    The polls taken as an overall (poll of polls @Sky currently) are giving Clegg and Cameron equal billing with Gordon last - and that's how I see it. However what I'd really like to know is how people who were are genuinely undecided see it. Off course we'll never know that - some of the people on TV who are declared undecided when interviewed are clearly not. Dishonesty runs right through politics to the ground level!!

  • Comment number 57.

    voice @ 13

    "Cameron looked very weak on the issue of Europe.

    Clegg and Brown both highlighted just how dangerous it would be for this country to stand on the sidelines like Cameron suggests"

    remember when blair promised us to control and reform europe from the inside?
    or perhaps you remember the pledge to put it to the people before giving powers away to europe?

    "dangerous" would have stopped the UK taxpayers, at a time of the biggest recession we have been in for the best part of 100 years, paying towards bailing greece out (to the tune of how much, gordon brown still wont tell us) and no doubt paying towards portugal as well in the near future
    "dangerous" would not have given almost 90 of westminster's powers to europe without honouring a clear pledge to the british people
    "standing on the sidelines" would not have got us into an open door immigration policy, which is costing every single one of our public services vast amounts of money as they are over loaded and stretched to breaking point

    factor in the sheer cost to the taxpayer, money which would be far better spent on the people of BRITAIN, and would have resulted in less borrowing during the UK recession, postcode lotteries due to lack of funding on health, education, and the ludicrous position whereby a foreign national can live and work here and be paid child benefits for their children back in their home country!

    how handy of you to completely forget the past 13 years of working and reforming the EU (which is now more unreformed than ever) from being a fully pledged member state, of which we have received very little for the vast amounts (billions)of TAXPAYER's money thats been poured into the eu model.

    you ought to be careful on that high horse of yours, you may fall!

    as for the debate...
    cameron much better than last week
    cleggy did okays, about even i thought
    brown is consistantly looking like he is fading fast

    even on the news bulletins at tea time, a token piece on labour's day came third after conservatives and libdems.

    questions for me - why are the leaders given the questions in advance?
    we saw them all turning pages in order of questions last week, tonights chat, sky revealed they were told of the general topic of the question.
    i dont like the debates, as it tells us nothing of any real difference from each leader's party line.

    id much rather see the leaders facing the public on the street, facing unscripted questions, all the spin is making any real debate sterile and pointless.

  • Comment number 58.

    @47 - Voice of Reason.

    Why do you expect things that are not changing to be in a manifesto? If the Tories (and also Libs / Labs) put in a manifesto every act of parliament, every benefit and every single spending commitment that they are not proposing to change they would be longer and even more dull than they are now.

  • Comment number 59.

    The real problem is this is no "three horse race". Due to the utterly corrupt voting system it would take a landsliide for Clegg to win. We can only hold out for a Lib Dem surge to 100 seats, a hung parliament and therefore P.R. My biggest nightmare is the Lib Dems getting 60 seats, the Tories getting a minority government, cutting and running to a new election with the hope that the electorate will forget Clegg and P.R. They then stitch up the boundaries in their favour, and live high on the hog with their city friends. God help us all!

  • Comment number 60.

    Brown was allot more confident, but made little great impression.l Cameron once again promised nothing to the greater society of the UK outside the entrepreneurs. Unfortunately not everyone is an entrepreneurs, and cutting the life line from government isn't exactly the way to a bright future. At times it felt like the ghost of the undead Lady Thatcher had entered the room.

    Once again, there was only one clear leader in Nick Clegg. He was articulate, honest, open, commanding and appeared to be open to ideas, suggestions and a future which isn't the same problems we have been dogged with for the last few decades.

  • Comment number 61.

    Following Clegg's widely-accepted win last week, based almost entirely on distancing himself from what he calls the two 'old parties', this week he was charged with bringing out some substance to back up his impressive speeches. Unfortunately what we got was a performance rich in rhetoric but painfully short of substance.

    In his 90 second closing speech, Clegg spent almost a minute talking about what has happened in the past and the last 30 talking about the need for 'change'. Unfortunately, following a further 90 minutes of debating, the form that this 'change' would take remained as unspecified and vague as ever. So I think it would be fair to say Clegg 'lost' tonight, if winners and losers are to be determined.

    As for Brown - considering the appalling record he has to defend I thought he did reasonably well. He played to his strengths, but unfortunately for him I think all the British people are now deeply sceptical about his statistics and his promises, which sound so similar to the ones that remain ignored or unfulfilled from those made 13 years ago, again 9 years ago and once again 5 years ago. Surely we won't be awarding this government a fourth chance for further deception?

    Cameron's tactics are interesting. Coming into the debates I think the general feeling from the polls was that he had made the point about the need for change, and that was accepted, and reflected in the polls. However, I think people wanted to see more on policy.

    As such, Cameron has approached both of the first two debates focusing almost entirely on what he would do in power, rather than criticising what Labour have done with their past 13 years in power. Now although this is definitely a 'positive' approach, I feel it is letting Gordon off the hook a great deal.

    If Cameron used Brown's economic record and unpopularity against him he could have him backed into a corner, however he has chosen not to use this and although I think he has come over reasonably well, I think it hasn't elevated him much above Brown in popularity in these 90-minute contests.

    What Cameron should have done is been positive in his first answer to each question, sticking very much to his plans and opinions and not criticising others (as he did). However, having done this - by the second time he was able to speak, he should have taken Brown's argument to pieces more by pointing out Labour's track record in government.

    So many times Brown could have been exposed for what has happened over the last 13 years, yet Cameron did not pull him up on it. This is a clear strategy of Cameron's; it must have been decided that it will be more appealing to the electorate if he talks purely about Conservative policies as opposed to disputing Labour's by pulling apart their recent record. However, I do feel that he is over-estimating the electorate a little in doing so.

    I am not saying we are stupid, but I am saying that we need reminding of the mistakes Labour have made, their failing legacy. It is a dangerous game being played by Cameron if he expects us to remember these things as we listen to his future plans. In not challenging Brown enough, therefore Cameron runs the very real risk of a lot of the general public forgetting some of the major failings that ought to be challenged.

    I only hope that we can all remember what was promised to us in 1997 compared with what exactly has been delivered, and the staggering and ongoing cost of such disappointment. The mistakes and deception too.

    Tonight, once again, Brown's put-downs were cringeworthy; so obviously scripted by Mandelson. They were delivered so poorly by the blundering unelected primeminister that this country has supported for the past three years when what was needed was real leadership and real change.

  • Comment number 62.

    Kieran 48 No Party is perfect.

    This is indeed my sentiments. On the economy I'm more in tune with the Tories but not convinced of GO. On Europe more in line with the Lib/Dems and on Trident definately in line with the Lib-Dems. I won't go on but you get my drift. I don't like Brown but not sure of the two alternatives. So it's a bit like pic-n-mix policies and by the sound of it I'm not the only one in the Country that is weighing up the pro and cons. Still 2 weeks to and noone including Brown should be written off.

  • Comment number 63.

    The candidates this time were less nervous, yet there were repetitions from the previous leaders debate which made some of the contributions rather hackneyed.

    How anyone could suggest that David Cameron was impressive is a mystery to me. He came across as a rather insincere peddler of rather bland exhortations implying that if you want change Vote Conservative and his answers to policy issues were rather formulaic. What he failed to do was to elaborate on what this change would really involve and the hints he gave merely suggested a change of personnel and the same old Tory formulas of old. Has he dropped the "Big society" mantra.
    Cameron comes across as someone who is just hungry for power and that's it. He would be a disaster as a Prime Minister.

    Brown was statesmanlike and most of his contributions were rational and demonstrated that he was a man of experience. On Europe he was realistic and showed just how important it is for us to be integrated into Europe in this age of global economics and globalised politics.

    Nick Clegg's style and approach was similar to last weeks but this time we did not have the novelty factor. He held his ground well and consolidated his position as a leader to be listened to and respected.

    All told Clegg and Brown in their different ways came out winners. Cameron is just so unconvincing.

  • Comment number 64.

    "A three-horse race"?

    Clegg and his Lib-dem 'policies' reminds me more of a three-legged horse.

  • Comment number 65.

    I think the Lib Dems immigration policy is utterly ridiculous and completely unworkable and Clegg was left floundering when pushed on it.

    It's just a shame that this election is now being fought on how shiny the leader appears to be on TV rather than concrete policies.

    I think the fact that the Lib Dems have been shunted to the forefront quite as rapidly as they have has even taken them so much by surprise that they haven't really had time to put any meat on the bones of some of their tepid ideas.

    In this latest debate Cameron at least had the manners to let the others have their say without trying to butt in all the time. Clegg just comes across like a silly little school boy at times.

  • Comment number 66.

    25. At 11:39pm on 22 Apr 2010, Graves2002 wrote:
    Last week most neutral observers thought clegg was a sanctimonious pratt.

    Damn, and I was consoling myself that I was unique, still, there's at least two of us neutrals, although maybe I'm not, I'm an 'Anti' I hate them all, just not in equal amounts.

  • Comment number 67.

    Cameron clearly won the debate, and appears to be the only one in touch with reality, and what the majority of the the British public want. Namely:

    1. There is a consensus that over time, the UK will need to cut the enormous deficit that has arisen. The Conservatives have correctly recognized that we need to end inefficient spending by the public sector as a less painful way of making savings. We all know it should be feasible to save one pound in every 100 spent by the government, without causing the UK economy to collapse, as Mr Brown so naively believes. Anyone who has had any experience with a public sector body will know this to be the case. Furthermore Mr Brown does need to get a wider perspective on the economy. Growth in GDP is not the miracle cure to all our problems. We have certainly grown significantly in terms of GDP over the last decade but are we happier as a nation?!!!

    2. Less control by Europe on UK issues. Also the mass immigration from Europe is clearly an issue of public concern that is not being addressed by anyone other then the Conservatives.

    3. A cap on immigration. The only possible counter argument to this is not having a cap, and not a semantical argument on what the cap should be. Not having a cap is so obviously against the opinion of the majority of the british public, that I cannot believe Mr Clegg or Mr Brown continue to debate this. I believe this critical issue singly demonstrates how out of touch with the public Labour and the Lib dems are.

    4. Being tough on crime. Again the majority of the public want tougher sentencing for criminals, and more police on the streets. Again only Mr Cameron has a hand on this.

    The press need to get real. The above issues are the critical ones that concern the majority of the British public, and the Conservatives are unfortunately the only party who appear to have grasped this - so sad then, that in reality we only have a one horse race. The press should cut out the analysis on who appears strong or weak in the debates and stick to the critical policy issues, where the public have an absolute clear consensus on what the country needs.

  • Comment number 68.

    Lets get my views out of the way first as everyone is Biased so I may as well admit it.

    Firstly I hate GB, secondly I used to like the Lib Dems, third now prefer the Tories.

    I for one was impressed with Brown, yes I still don't like him but he did at least come across as seeming to mean what he said, unlike DC who, although I think the Tories are the least worst choice, comes across as weak and PR obsessed. Clegg drives me mad, I used to like the Lib Dems, but Cleggs policy seems to be , 'vote for me I have no governmental baggage'. He constantly attacks people over not having statistics when the lib dems are struggling for real policies. Oh apart from getting rid of nuclear power stations which is an insane policy, pandering to fear and misunderstanding, and not renewing Trident, because I really want gamble my future security......

  • Comment number 69.

    A great debate from Gordon Brown. Whilst clegg and cameron were trying hard with the matey 'let me be your new best friend' approach GB focused on the issues that are going to affect all of us and made the opposition look naive and incompetent. For all those who were thinking of voting for the sake of change I think tonight made it clear just how scary a change to DC or NC might be. Tonight GB spoke as the Prime minister and the demonstration of his superior experience was obvious.

  • Comment number 70.

    Having had two debates now has there been any detailed polls done on some of the marginal seats as I do not remember seeing any recent ones on your blog. I think it would make interesting reading especially as it will be these seats which are the most important and decide this election.

  • Comment number 71.

    re: 5. At 10:48pm on 22 Apr 2010, Limey wrote:

    I'm still backing Nick Clegg but I was actually impressed (and surprised) by Gordon Brown finally getting into the debate. Cameron scored no hits on either of his opponents and I would dread to think of someone as pathetic and as shallow as him representing this country abroad. He offered no real change (in fact Gordon Brown seemed more ready to talk about change than Cameron) and lots of empty phrasing.

    I agree with Limey.

    Plus there should have been better arrangement of this debat-- cutting the (domestic) questions repeating last week and instead allowing longer time for each (foreign policy) question so that they could argue/present more in depth, the details, the dynamics, etc-- it would be much better and more respected than just 'squabbling', repeatedly talking 'I am right and (both of) you are wrong'.

  • Comment number 72.

    A deterrent is only a deterrent if your opponent believes that you will use it. So, to those wanting a renewal/replacement for Trident, I have two questions:

    1. Do you believe that Iran, North Korea or a rogue terrorist group would be deterred by the UK's possession of nuclear weapons?

    2. Do you believe that in the event of an actual nuclear attack on the UK by any of the above, that the UK would actually use its nuclear weapons in response (especially given the US veto over use of such weapons)? (Bear in mind that Russia and China - nuclear states both - have supported Iran and North Korea at various times, and that terrorist groups are very much in the minority despite the scare stories put about by Cheney et al.)

    Unless you can honestly answer "Yes" to both questions, then you have to accept that Trident and other nuclear weapons in the UK are a waste of time and money.

  • Comment number 73.

    Those who don't want Brown as PM (and there are many former Labour supporters who think like this) will, when push comes to shove at the ballot box, vote for Cameron and the Tories. Although Clegg is good at giving the other two a run for their money and providing entertaining viewing, ultimately at the ballot box, he will prove to be too much of a risk. My prediction is that Cameron will win an outright majority. He is the safest bet out of the lot of them.

  • Comment number 74.

    Voice of Reason: I am tired of your incessent pro-Brown propoganda, stop trying to portray other peoples views as misguided or incorrect, they are "views" and as such are as incorrect as your own "view".

    As Gordon Brown said quite well, "get real".

    The real interesting spectre is the post election scenario of Clegg and Cable bargaining for a coalition with Brown. Brown will not give up the PM's role but will ditch Darling, and then all the labour "wannabes" will see their influence being diminished by the LibDems being given senior cabinet roles, Gorden can see this as a way of hanging onto power for another 5 years, he's smarter than his younger labour rivals and far more ruthless!

  • Comment number 75.

    If it wasn't clear before, then it's certainly clear now, that Brown's super dogmatic "I know best" stance doesn't work any more, that's if it ever did.

    No one's frightened of him any more and he proved how he's completely bankrupt of any different ideas about how to put right what he got so wrong in the first place. He keeps on about jobs, but unemployment's now the worst for 16 years and his scare tactics that everyone else would 'mess everything up' don't fool anyone.

    He's a dictator who's got most things so wrong that we're now in the worst debt we've ever had and will be for the next 2 generations. What a downright cheek to ask for another term, when he wasn't even voted in for the last one.

    Cameron at last showed what he shows at PMQ's and Clegg proved he has something to bring to the party, but not as much as last week and he fell short on a lot of issues.

    Hopefully the public will show Brown their disgust at his ineptitude by putting Labour in 3rd place which, from the heady days of 1997, would be some epitaph for a man who thinks he's the only one who understands everything.

    Let's hope his stomach has plenty of room for all the humble pie he's going to have to eat.

  • Comment number 76.

    If we didn't know already - the Conservatives dominate the newspaper press.

    Cameron tried to spin his way to the end, but again, as last time - no substance. They are the same old Conservative party - cut public services, raise VAT and other regressive taxes, and give tax breaks to millionaires.

    As for between Brown and Clegg. I'd have to give it to Brown. Although I think he has made some mistakes I believe he is capable of learning from them and getting better. Cameron is offering change but from studying the Conservative party in detail, it is clear that it is a change for the worse. Much worse.
    I respect Labour to look after our schools and improve the NHS. I don't believe the scare stories from the Torys that they will waste people's money. They are continually conducting reviews into efficiency. So although not exciting, as it isn't change per se, I do feel however that Labour is the progressive party of change. So I do expect new ideas and improvements.
    Then there is the economy. We don't want to be putting in amateurs like Osbourne and Cameron when the country (and the world) is in such a fragile economic situation. They will make the same mistakes all governments do and their effects could be catastrophic. You need experience.

  • Comment number 77.

    Most cringeworthy moment of the evening:

    Cameron and Clegg debating Europe, Brown tries desperately to cut in, perhaps with something worthwhile to say.

    Gordon Brown (sporting prolonged forced grin): "You know know know who these know who these two guys remind me of? ..They remind me of my two boys squabbling at bathtime."

    Nick Clegg: "That's a good line in rehearsal"

    Sky commentator: "I think it's past bathtime now.."

    Gordon Brown wins again for most scripted and poorly delivered line of the night. Mandelson must have had his head in his hands after that one. Even I felt uncomfortable watching it, and I love to see Brown struggle.

  • Comment number 78.

    James (77) These idiots have spent their way into this recession. I find it deeply worrying that you feel their "experience" is going to drag us out of it. And as for "continually conducting reviews into efficiency", well that's been this government in a nutshell hasn't it. Reviews, commitees, paperwork, red tape, quangos. Actually cutting costs? No.

    Labour only know one word when it comes to the economy and always have and that's 'spend'. That's why they always take us into these messes and that's why they're so ill equipped to get us out. Gordon Brown doesn't know the meaning of the word efficiency, which is probably why it's going to take his government a year to make their vast 'efficiency savings' they've been sitting on for the past decade. Apparently it's wrong for the Tories to suggest they consider making them now. What a preposterous notion...

  • Comment number 79.

    Agreed edisperger but the saddo audience laughed at that line ( as the one last week did too).

  • Comment number 80.

    This debate was supposed to be on foreign affairs -right? -yet they were gabbling about eye tests, immigration and home insulation. Pathetic debate, pathetic Sky, pathetic politicians. There was no winner here.

  • Comment number 81.

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

  • Comment number 82.

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

  • Comment number 83.

    I have written a new song. It goes....UKIP UKIP UKIP UKIP UKIP UKIP UKIP etc etc.

  • Comment number 84.

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

  • Comment number 85.

    If Cameron can't pull out a substantial lead over this government he obviously has no worthwhile altenative to offer, and why is he so afraid of "Brown". If / when Labour is returned Brown's backstabbers will soon have him out, and that nice Lord Mandleson will be found a safe seat. Anyone who offered me an English parliament, so I can get the same perks as the Scotts and Welsh would get my vote immediately

  • Comment number 86.

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

  • Comment number 87.

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

  • Comment number 88.

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

  • Comment number 89.

    72- obviously a rational foreign leader wouldn't be threatened by Trident but an irrational madman might!

  • Comment number 90.

    Anyone else beside me not want to see George in number eleven?

  • Comment number 91.

    Cameron got it spot on saying 'electorate wants change'. It looks like a two horse race after last night.

    Now a straight choice between Cameron (change places) and Clegg (change the system). Early bath night for Gordon on 6 May I think.

  • Comment number 92.

    Statesman like from Brown. Came out with the best arguments and the best policies. His warnings about the other two rang true.
    Clegg is doing better than expected, whilst Cameron is doing worse than thought. Close election I think.

  • Comment number 93.

    I thought the most telling moments came after the debate when the media luvvies and the party hacks were in an absolute feeding frenzy in their take on the outcome of the debate.Talk about the Westminster greenhouse being out of touch with the country.
    Gordon Brown reminded us that politics should be about substance over style, the Lib Dems' Paddy Ashdown had a great line about the ugly sisters, and George Osborne showed us the underlying contempt Dave and his Eton cronies have for ordinary people.
    It was all more like West Wing, the lines between reality and TV have become blurred.
    Did I enjoy it? Fascinating stuff, I cant wait for the next episode of the three stooges.

  • Comment number 94.

    I wouldn't vote for any of them.

    If the UK was a business, I would call in the administrators.

  • Comment number 95.

    Morning all, back in England for a few days. Woohoo.

    So, another debate, more demarcation lines being drawn.

    Ask yourselves these questions, can the Conservatives and Lib Dems bridge that gap over Europe? Equally, csn the Lib Dems suppoort Labour when they (the LDs) are in favour of an immediate budget after the elecetion when Labour isn't?

    Who's lying to us?

  • Comment number 96.

    Someone asked me yesterday for my views on a hung Parliament.

    For the record, I think that Parliament should definitely be Hung.

  • Comment number 97.

    #14 you need tp get some facts right, since WW2 its been around 50/50 or 60/40 at most BUT given that labour had the chance to change the voting system BUT have NOT and are only interested when there grip power is going

  • Comment number 98.

    By the way, noone seems to notice cleggs idea is going to cost more money than GB and DC one for trident

  • Comment number 99.

    Happy St Georges Day to one and all.

    There's something about that red cross on a white background

  • Comment number 100.

    What a disaster for Cameron - weak on substance he never really managed to change the game. The conservatives must be puling there hair out, all the pre match spinning does not change the reality, the public does not want an extreme right wing party in power.

    They do blame the bankers they do want strong government interventions. If the election leads to a balanced parliament and does lead to PR the tories will never govern again on there own.

    I roughly agree with the V of R - Brown was better presentationally than last time, Clegg has a certain magic in his communication, Cameron did not look so pink and oily, but the pitch of his voice makes him sound shallow and insubstantial.

    Brown on content especially Trident and Europe he is getting stronger- Clegg because he is Clegg he just won- Cameron will wonder what to do next.


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