The news media, perhaps not unexpectedly, has today devoted plenty of space to last night’s leaders’ debate. What stand’s out to me is their obsession in declaring a winner. But surely in a seven way contest, having 21% of voters in a particular poll say that you won is hardly a victory. After all, 79% of those polled thought there was someone better. What’s more, on the night different polls and different focus groups produced different results
I watched the debate in a group of five people, the youngest of whom was in her 30s and the rest over 50. We agreed that all three women leaders appeared the most sincere. Their anti-austerity message and vision for a better future were well made and welcome. Of the others we thought Clegg looked comfortable but had nothing to say (did he forget he’d been in government with the Tories?). Miliband did well but didn’t always know which camera to look at, whilst Cameron avoided being upstaged by either Clegg or Miliband.
Indeed, although a mix of Labour and Green supporters, we praised Nicola Sturgeon in particular. Ranking the others it was clear that Natalie Bennett and Leanne Wood had also made a big impression, coming a close second and third in our opinion.
And that I think illustrates the problem with finding a winner: It takes no account of other good performances.