A quick initial reaction to tonight’s Channel 4 debate between “the Chancellors”, with a more considered response, possibly, to follow.
Alistair Darling performed about as well as I expected. He got across the “we can get through this if you stick with us” schtick reasonably well. No great blunders, landed a few hits on George Osborne, but wasn’t terribly exciting.
George Osborne performed worse than I expected. Some of his answers were very weak and he had a curiously flat delivery. The only real emotional impact was his reaction to Vince Cable skewering him on his inheritance tax cut for millionaires.
Vince Cable performed better than I expected. (Hooray!) A very good all round performance. Landed solid blows on both Osborne and Darling. He had the highest ratio of directly answering the question and by far the best audience reactions. He also delivered the best, and most political, closing statement.
Vince was clearly the winner, Darling second, and Osborne third.
In terms of substance I offer two observations. First, that banking and reform of the financial services is and will remain a hot political issue. The audience reactions tonight confirm my view that voters are willing to listen and react to debates about what to do with the bankers. While Vince was very good on this, with much the clearer and more authoritative answers, I don’t think that any of the three main political parties have yet exploited this issue as much as they could. This, as they say, will run and run.
Second, a strange and somewhat uncomfortable consensus seems to be developing about the role of the state within the economy. A key moment for me was when, in answer to the student worried about unemployment, George Osborne said something along the lines of “I wish you well in your job search – but the government can help.”. Remember, that’s the Tory shadow chancellor. No Tebbit style “get on your bike” here. The role of government intervention and industrial policy will be a key part of the political agenda over the next decade.
Conclusion? Go Vince!