ITV Leaders Debate: my instant verdict | Border


Political journalists like me are not ‘normal’ people.
It’s our job to look at the detail, the nuances, to chart the ebbs and flows, the Left turns and the Right turns, the U-turns and the U-U-turns of politics and politicians.

We hope what we do helps inform you about what’s going on and helps you make a judgement at times like this, when there is an election.
But most ‘normal people’ are far too busy getting on with their lives and don’t have the time to get into the detail. Or at least a lot of detail.
That’s not meant to be a disparaging comment, just a statement of fact. It’s life. There are people who look at the detail, of course there are. Who think carefully and consider.

But others just go on what they see, on impressions. Which is why events like the ITV leaders’ debate tonight matter.
It works for us anoraks, who get an idea of the detailed policy positions of the parties, and how they stand up when challenged by others.
But for the public out there what matters is more is how they see the leaders, the way they make their points, as much as the points they are making.

So how might the public judge tonight’s debate? Well, first they will have noticed that Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn decided not to come along.
The Prime Minister said no first and Mr Corbyn followed suit. Draw your own conclusions, great British public.

In the last debate, Nicola Sturgeon was generally credited as the best performer, outshining Ed Miliband and David Cameron.
They’ve gone, she’s still there. And that may – just may – mean that she is less of a revelation to viewers, including those south of the Border.
However, as ever, it was a competent, polished performance from the First Minister.

She got her points across, attacked “Tory austerity” and made her case for strong Scottish voices in Westminster.
Having observed the last debate, the politician who has come on the most is Leanne Wood, the leader of the Welsh nationalist party Plaid Cymru.
She was sparky, articulate, funny and took on UKIP leader Paul Nuttall, despite his calling her ‘Natalie’.

As to Mr Nuttall, all the other parties (parties of the Left in one form or other) made clear their distaste – to put it mildly – of UKIP.

It would be easy then to dismiss Mr Nuttall on the basis of his views, or the fact that some UKIP-ers appear to prefer his predecessor, Nigel Farage.
Whatever your view of Mr Nuttall, he got exposure on national television for two hours and that might have helped his cause.

Don’t forget that although polls suggest UKIP is on the slide, outflanked some say by the Tories, a majority across the UK voted for Mr Nuttall’s key policy of Brexit.

Tim Farron, the leader of the UK Liberal Democrats got his time to make clear his pro-EU view clear but there were groans in the media room when he name-checked various members of his family in telling his political life story.

Again, we should be wary of looking down our noses at this kind of political storytelling. There is some evidence that voters like this kind of thing, for their politicians to be ‘real people’.
Caroline Lucas, the leader of the Green party in England and Wales (separate from their Scottish Greens cousins) has also improved as a debater.

This debate was a huge opportunity for the Greens to get national exposure and she can only have done her cause good.
Overall though, it has to be said that it would have been more interesting if Mrs May and Mr Corbyn had been there.
But they decided not to come along, and we have to judge what we saw tonight.

As a ‘non normal’ person I learned a lot. There were no gaffes or huge soaring rhetorical triumphs.

I hope that the ‘normal people’ who watched learned something and that it helped them make up their minds on June 8.

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