An immediate reaction to the final leader’s debate

OK, not that I am biased or anything, but Nick Clegg clearly won.

However, to avoid sounding like a sad fan boy, I should say that he didn’t finish as strongly as I had hoped he would. It was a very good performance from Clegg and there were some very strong moments. There was a period of 20 minutes or so in the middle where he was clearly the boss. The bit in particular that had me cheering and punching the air was when he worked in the point about the banks and the Cadburys takeover. But there were no killer moments and some of the narrative about change that I wanted to see in there didn’t appear. Nick Clegg has consolidated the Liberal Democrats current position tonight. But for the record, that position is bloody brilliant, so well done!

The most improved performance I thought was Brown. Despite him looking very ill, he was much more effective than he was in the previous debates. The exception was the closing statement he gave, which was an awful attempt to frighten the voters, and was capped off with that scary smile. That moment just made me feel slightly ill. A better performance, but has he done enough to rescue Labour from the defeat they are heading towards? I think not.

The one with the real problem was Cameron. It wasn’t a bad performance. No real blunders and some good moments. Yet, the Tories are in the hunt for a majority. To secure that he needed to give the appearance tonight of being a credible Prime Minister. He did not achieve that. This was Cameron’s moment. He didn’t rise to it.

Finally, I just want to say I am bored with the issue of immigration now. Can we please have some talk about the environment in the closing days of the campaign?

Charity Commission considers complaint against Esther Rantzen

News reaches me that the Charity Commission, the body that regulates standards in the voluntary sector, is considering a complaint made against independent candidate for Luton South Esther Rantzen.

Apparently Esther has a personal assistant who is part funded by the children’s charity NSPCC. The complaint concerns the possibility that if the PA has worked on Esther’s election campaign, rules regarding the involvement of charities in political campaigning may have been broken.

More on this:

Nick Assinder on Luton South

Journalist Nick Assinder has written a piece on the election campaign in Luton South for ePolitix.  Like much of the coverage the seat has had he concentrates on independent candidate Esther Rantzen almost to the exclusion of everything else. However, he realistically concludes that she is unlikely to win the seat. Indeed his conclusion could be read as hinting at a Liberal Democrat win. The key passage is;

“Now, though, talk to voters going about their shopping in the Mall and market and, while the fury at Moran’s antics is obvious, the way that will be expressed in the ballot box is far less clear.

In 2005 the gap between Labour and the Tories was under 6,000 and between the Conservative candidate and the Liberal Democrat, just over 2,000.

And the Clegg effect appears to be working here, as elsewhere.

Luton South is one of the most reliable “bellwether” constituencies in the land, electing a candidate from the party that wins the election every poll since 1951.

At the start of the campaign that led most in the constituency to believe it would be a straight Lab-Tory fight. Not any more.”

Strange Thoughts enters Wikio blog rankings

I had an email last week letting me know that this blog had entered the Wikio ‘Top Blog rankings’. It is at number 901.

The animated election

There has been some lovely use of animation by parties and other groups during the election. Below I’ve selected some of my favourites. I find it quite reassuring that new technology is boosting, and bringing to a wider audience, one of the oldest forms of political communication, that of the satirical cartoon.

First up is a re-run of the Gorvid Camerown video from the Labservatives:

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The second one is my favourite reaction to the first leader’s debate. If you didn’t watch it, don’t worry, this video will sum it up in 15 seconds:

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Then there is this really rather lovely one from ‘I believe in fairness‘:

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Finally, I rather liked this video of Guardian cartoonist Steve Bell struggling to “get” Nick Clegg. I wonder if his difficulty in being able to caricature Clegg has any greater significance?

A delayed reaction to the second leaders debate

Elections aren’t the easiest of things. I’ve been struggling to deal with the clash between working as part of the Liberal Democrat campaign team in Luton South and attempting to blog about the election. Last week it was the blogging that lost out. Lots to blog about but a lack of time or energy to do so.

One thing I missed out on was my reaction to the second leader’s debate shown on Sky News last Thursday.

I thought there were some extraordinary elements to Sky’s presentation. Other’s have written about how they thought they detected an anti-Clegg bias in aspects of it. But the thing that struck me was how over blown it all was. The woman who presented the post-debate discussion in the “spin room” was verging on the hysterical. Then there were the frequent shots of the images being projected onto the walls of the debate venue, which served no real purpose as far as I could see. It was as if the producers had said “We have spent a lot of time and money on producing these graphics and we are damn well going to show them”.

As to the debate itself, I go along with the general consensus that Brown and Cameron improved on their performances in the first debate and that all three leaders were much more evenly matched. I still thought Nick Clegg won, but only narrowly, and it was a better and more lively debate.

I said after the first debate¬† that Clegg was capable of doing much better and he did. He was much sharper in this debate, less repetitive, and went on the offensive very effectively in defence of tricky Lib Dem policies. Yet I still think there is room improvement. To me it looked like Nick really got into his stride in the last ten minutes or so. I’ve seen people comment on how good his closing statement was. But my favourite moments were in the debate over the immigration question when he first challenged Brown and then challenged Cameron over the weaknesses in their policies. The Liberal Democrats were the ones who were supposed to be on the ropes on this question, yet Nick Clegg seemed to turn it round and make the responses of the other two look shallow.

I know I am being demanding but I want more like that from the Liberal Democrat leader in the third and final debate.

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Martin Bell endorses Joe Hall

It is significant to note that the independent candidate in Luton South being endorsed by former independent MP Martin Bell and the Independent Network he is fronting is Joe Hall not Esther Rantzen.

More on this on the BBC, in the Mail, and in Simon Hoggart’s sketch in the Guardian.

Number of candidates in Luton South now reaches 12

This is getting beyond a joke. I’ve heard the news that another independent candidate has entered the race to be the MP for Luton South. I don’t have many details yet as the new person is rather unknown but I believe his name is Faruk Chudury. Who this guy is and what his platform will be I’ve no idea. One thing I do know is that the voter of Luton South aren’t short of choice in this election!

The Guardian quotes this blog

I noticed that today this blog’s story about Esther and the Lib Dem posters has been written up in ‘Tim Dowling’s election diary‘ in the Guardian. That’s the first time something from this blog has reached the national media.

Qurban Hussain’s campaign “an impressive effort” says Newsnight’s Michael Crick

Liberal Democrat candidate Qurban Hussain’s campaign for Luton South is “an impressive effort” according to Newsnight’s political editor Michael Crick.

Crick, who visited Luton earlier in the campaign, made the comment in a post on his blog last Friday. You can read it in full here; ‘Will Lib Dems gain seats on strength of Clegg’s performance?‘.

Esther Rantzen meets the “Lib Dem canvasser”

The video below from the Telegraph shows Esther Rantzen out campaigning on the door steps of Luton South.

However, the real star of the video is the “Lib Dem canvasser” she meets about halfway through. I can reveal that this mystery canvasser is in fact Luton councillor Martin Pantling. Martin being a friendly sort of chap wishes Esther good luck – that is – good luck on her saving her deposit!

Esther and the curious incident of the Lib Dem posters

I am grateful to Liberal Cynic for pointing out, in a comment on my previous post, the curious incident of Esther and the Liberal Democrat posters. Intrigued I followed up on this by asking around our local campaign team to see if they knew anything about it. It turns out they did and this is what was reported back to me;

Last Saturday one of Luton Liberal Democrat’s local activists Haji Abid, a former Mayor of Luton, supplied two posters to a shop run by a supporter of Qurban Hussain the Liberal Democrat candidate for Luton South. These poster were duly placed in the shop’s window.

On the following Monday the shopkeeper got a phone call from independent candidate Esther Rantzen asking if ITN News at Ten could film her there. The shopkeeper, being a friendly chap, said that she could.

Later that day Esther turned up with the ITN film crew in tow. They set up an began filming Esther who started to take down the Liberal Democrat posters and replace them with hers. In the screen shot from the broadcast below you can see one of our posters laying to the side.

Apparently our supportive shopkeeper friend was more than a little shocked at Esther’s cheek. So, when Esther and the film crew had left, he quickly returned our posters to the window.

A minor incident perhaps but a good reminder that, especially during elections, not everything you see on TV is what it seems.

The thing is, I know Clegg can do much better

Liberal Democrats across the country have had a spring in their step since the leaders debate ended last night. I know I’ve found myself spontaneously bursting into song on more than one occassion today. The very positive immediate reaction has been followed by more good news in the headlines and commentary of today’s press.

While there have been a few partisan voices trying to swim against the trend, the overwhelming verdict from the public, the media, and most of the political classes has been that Clegg gave a debate winning performance. Yet a funny thought occurs to me. I have seen Nick Clegg do better.

Thinking back over the debate, and how the various onlne forms of feedback responded to it, it is clear that there was no key moment and no killer line. Instead Clegg’s performance, which was solid and well judged, was succesful because of three elements. Only two of which were in Clegg’s control.

First, as many pundits have been observing, Clegg was very good at reaching out to and engaging with the TV audience. More than the other two he understood what the real game was about that night. He spoke, often direct to camera, with a conversational tone that people watching responded to.

Seccond, it was from the beginning of the debate until the end consistent. There were no spectacular moments. Instead I believe that by being consistently good through the evening his performance allowed people to first take notice, then recognise it, and then move to active support. In this way it built momentum.

Finally, there was the poor performance of the other two. Brown was, well, Gordon Brown. But Cameron was let’s be honest just not very good.

For these reasons Clegg was able to win without putting in a stellar performance.

I saw a comment on Twitter that Clegg ended the debate thinking that he fluffed the first half. Whether that is true or not, and it has the ring of authenticity, there are elements of his performance that can be improved.

Anyone who has seen Nick Clegg do a Q & A at conference, or attended any of his ‘Meet Nick Clegg’ events, or indeed seen his interview with Paxman this week, will know that purely in terms of the business of answering questions and making political points he can do much better.

While we bask in the reflected glow of last night and wait to see what impact it has on the opinion polls, let’s pause and consider what may happen in the remaining two debates. I know I could be tempting fate, but is the best still yet to come?

Full list of candidates for South ward council by-election

I posted yesterday about the other election taking place in Luton South. I’ve now got the full list of the candidates that will be standing in the council by-election in South ward on 6th May. These are:

  • Peter Banks-Smith, Conservative
  • Keir Gale, Labour
  • Richard Hayward, Liberal Democrat
  • Lance Richardson, UKIP
  • Marc Scheimann, Green Party

I agree with Nick

My immediate reaction to the leader’s debate that has just finished on ITV is “whey hey!!!”.

Brown gave a good performance I think but is likely to only reinforce people’s existing views of him.

David Cameron was very poor. A flat, almost amateurish, performance. Surprisingly bad.

Nick Clegg gave the better performance. He was more human, more energised, and gave the clearer answers. Could have been a bit sharper at times and repeated the same points a few too many times – but overal reallly really good.

But more siginificant I think than the individual performances is how this debate will shape the campaign. It is clear that Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats are now in many ways setting the agenda. Not only is the party now inserted into the debate on equal terms with the other two, but is actually forcing the other two to respond. Why else are Gordon and Dave so keen to say “I agree with Nick”?

I am very very excited about our prospects after this. Game on!