Tuesday, March 30, 2010

No Heat, Little Light

I have only seen clips from the Chancellors debate last night and judging from most of the comments I have read, it's not worth my while watching the whole thing! In fact, at 1am last night I tried to but it wasn't available on the Channel 4 website, or if it was I couldn't find it.

Having trawled round a few websites and read the newspapers, it seems that most people thought Vince Cable "won" by a short head. He won the audience by using his usual brand of populism. Incredibly, it seems his own policies didn't come under scrutiny at all. Very few people seem to have thought Alistair Darling did particularly well, which I think was a bit of a surprise.

Michael Crick and talkSport's Sean Dilley both thought George Osborne shaded it, partly because of the gaffe he drew Alistair Darling into making on the so-called Death Tax and partly because he vastly exceeded the Commentariat's low expectations - something even his enemies have grudgingly admitted. Here's the exchange on the Death Tax...

George Osborne: You can just answer a very simple question on the death tax. That’s what we were discussing…is that an option that a Labour Governmentt if elected in 4 or 5 weeks’ time will keep on the table?

Alistair Darling: No it’s not….no…for the next Parliament….(speaking over each other)

GO:.Oh..so it’s now…I have been accused of not agreeing with him and it’s an option he’s now just ruled out….(laughter)

AD: I said ..one of the options being looked at…er.. the er..as it so happens I think there will be an announcement about, about long term care.. what we propose about long term care for the elderly pretty shortly……..(more noise over) (Ask the Chancellors, Channel 4, 29 March 2010)

This comes after months of suggesting it was their preferred option. In addition, Osborne picked Darling up on his misrepresentation of the Tory policy on taking child tax credits away from people earning more than £50k.

Alistair Darling: “George you are proposing taxing tax credits away from people are earning just over £30,000 a year.”

George Osborne: “It’s very important that I correct what Alistair said because it is not a proper representation of Conservative policy. We believe very much in the tax credit system, we will keep the tax credit system but we don’t believe you should pay tax credits to people earning over fifty thousand pounds and we would taper them away from people on forty thousand not thirty like he says. And to claim that somehow taking tax credits, means tested credits, which everyone is paying for, away from people earning over fifty thousand pounds is going to somehow damage the fight against child poverty is simply wrong.”

The Tory post match spin maintainted that Darling looked evasive, Vince played to the gallery and George spoke to people at home.

I can't remember where I saw it, but one site had a post match poll which came out 36-32-32 in favour of Cable. From the clips I have seen and the writeups I have read, it was a no score draw. Very little light was shed on anything and I doubt very much whether it changed many votes among the 1.8 million TV audience.


Anonymous said...

Economic policy is complex and subtle. It cannot be understood or comprehended through a medium of three politicans from different parties arguing for one hour.

Given that, the question has to be; what exactly *is* this, that we see? what does it do, what does it tell us, what communication is occurring?

We see that we're watching politicians basically trying to score points off of each other. It reminds me of boxing, only without actual punches. That to me makes it entertainment. People are watching for the entertainment of seeing who can knock the most points off of whom.

Dungeekin said...

The whole thing was a little dull and dry.

OK, it was VERY dull and dry, which is to be expected given the subject matter.

Perhaps future debates need livening up a little?

I commend the idea to the House.


Nigel said...

I was particularly impressed by Mr Clean's closing statement, slipping in a smear when it was no longer possible to challenge him on it.

I'm afraid I fail to see how the slur that the Tories just "wanted another chance to get their noses in their trough to reward their rich backers" is consonant with the kind of politics he claims to espouse.

The studio audience, of course, lapped it up.

Liz said...

If this debate was foretaste of what is to come from the Leaders' debates which will be even more contrived, count me out.
It didn't change my opinion as to whom would be the best Chancellor (Mr Osborne) tho it strengthed that
A biased Lib audience and the sainted (and hugely overexposed) Cable, was given a free ride - who will rid us of this blasted irritant? and Darling (almost) managed to keep the carerpillars under control

Daily Referendum said...

I don't know Iain. I really like the NI policy, it just makes so much sense not to tax jobs in a recovery - I think people will find that very easy to understand and will agree with the Tories.

George may not have cracked any jokes, or received any applause, but he stood his ground against two lefties and put forward some very Conservative policies. Even if George did not win any new voters, I think he did cement some existing ones.

Misty said...

I have just decided to stop reading this blog, as it is a complete waste of time.

Producing an entire article by commenting on journalist comments, on something that you have not even seen is simply not worth reading.

Anonymous said...

Reports say though that the BBC used it as an opportunity to stitch up Osborne. With Stephanie Flanders getting some flack.

Cable showed himself up as just a self publicising name caller.

Alan Douglas said...

St Vince got by far the most applause. Clearly the audience were under the thrall of "popular opinion" that he talks sense. Examine WHAT he says ? Why ?

Meanwhile, read "The 'Pin-Striped Scargill' Who Stole Millions for Lib-Dems" over at Guido's for some Fib-Dem truth.

Osborne remained very cool, but there was not much in it, it really was a 0-0 draw.

Alan Douglas

Unsworth said...

Cable was OK-ish. His sense of drama was useful to his score, but at the end he had little in the way of sensible policy to offer. Darling was incredibly dull and disjointed. Osborne was dull but made some solid points. On balance I thought that Osborne had a clearer vision for the future, Cable was full of retrospect and Darling was unable to put up any answers apart from the usual 'the Tories would' do this that and the other and do the old bogey-man (in all senses) routine.

None of them were particularly inspiring but Osborne looked as if with a bit of tweaking he might turn into a reasonably decent Chancellor. Some grey hair would help him. Certainly the Conservative policy looked more credible.

I think Cable is caught between a rock and a hard place, Darling knows he's in trouble and Osborne is seriously worried by the prospect of having to clear up the enormous piles of shit.

Gerry57 said...

Vince Cable said: 'We've got to start with this huge government deficit. We can't avoid it.'.

But on the other hand he's been saying 'we must not cut government spending too soon'.

So which is it ? Starting with the deficit or delaying dealing with the deficit ?

Also they've talked about tax cuts, so how are they going to 'start with the deficit', having ruled out spending cuts this year while at the same time cutting income tax ?

Vince Cable wants to disagree with Labour and the Conservatives so ends up with the usual Liberal fudge.

Anonymous said...

Darling seemed rather nervous and unsure of his ground - perhaps because of advice to say as little as possible.

Osbourne was relaxed and confident. He gave a solid reply to every ball. I was impressed seeing him in public debate for the first time - perhaps because the media has created low expectations.

Cable has become rent a wise man - with a soothsaying comment for every occasion. I think he should retire to the media circuit - perhaps a regular on a revived 'What the Team Think'.

Unsworth said...

@ Misty

See you around, then. Mind how you go.

Enlightened Despot said...

The problem is that Osborne looks too young and over-groomed. The wider public's perception of anything he says is influenced by that. I think they find it difficult to be convinced by him.

Mark Senior said...

None of the 3 bombed but Vince was the outright clear winner by a good margin . Your blinkered verdict through your permanent blue tinted glasses of a no score draw confirms that . The poll you refer to , Iain , was the voodoo one on the Channel 4 website where you were able to vote multiple times if you use Firefox , there were of course Conservative supporters urging their fellow supporters to do so on pb.com .

Treacle said...

All three were asked if the cuts would have to be worse than under Thatcher, and all three said yes. Cable came across as a little man with a grudge against the wicked Tories, harking back to the 1980s all the time; the audience seemed to agree with him on everything. Darling seemed nervous but decent; I got the impression that he would be up to the job if only he did not have Gordon Brown stopping him from doing what needs to be done. Osborne was good, but looked like a school prefect at a minor public school. His hair was very obviouly dyed.

Afterwards the comments on the BBC website "Have your say" were about 90% for Cable. Many of them said that it was arrogant of Osborne to say that the Lib Dems are not going to form the next government, and that for this reason they will not be voting for him. It looked as if most of the comments were orchestrated by the Lib Dems because they were saying exactly the same things.

Anonymous said...

I didn't think the debate was particularly enlightening, but I found the post-debate commentary illuminating. I played a little game with myself, guessing what the various journalists/bloggers would say before reading them. In every case, they said exactly what I expected them to say. They saw what they wanted to see. In some cases I even wondered if I'd watched the same debate!

I thought George Osborne did very well, the most impressive by some distance, but then I've always thought that if you pay attention to what he says and writes, and don't get distracted by the trivia of appearance and delivery, he's extremely sound; so I would think that, wouldn't I!

golden_balls said...

The Tory sheep are in force again
today i see.

Conservative hypocrisy knows no limits what happend to cutting the deficit faster and deeper ?

Gideon looked like a startled rabbit for most of the debate. The look he gave Darling when he was challenged about the NI was priceless. Sullen personified.

@ misty iain is a Tory so did you really expect a non partisan view on this subject. just accept it for what it is and join the fun.

Nigel said...

Is Mrs T's speech therapist (the one who taught her to speak an octave lower) still in business ?

George Osborne should give them a call.

Bartleby said...

By joining Darling to bash Osborne, then siding with Osborne to bash Darling, Cable managed to slip through without any serious probing.

The head to head format already gives the Lib Dems far greater TV exposure than their support merits. The broadcasters need to ensure that they are not inadvertently given such an easy ride.

Two examples where Cable is allowed to play by different rules: Firstly, he has the audacity to smear the Tories for allegedly dodgy donors without any reference being made to his party's biggest donor - money laundering fraudster Michael Brown. Secondly, he is allowed to repeat the wholly untrue statement that he forecasted the credit crunch, when he did nothing of the sort.

The broadcasters need to ensure that this Unchallenged Voice of Reason schtick isn't repeated in the PM debate.

Unknown said...

It was stunningly boring. Vince did come through better, but to be honest, it wasn't that hard - Osborne and Darling were both so determined not to screw up that they hardly dared say anything.

Glad the TalkSport journalist came down on Osborne though - with such heavyweight opinion on his side, how can he fail?

Falco said...

" We believe very much in the tax credit system, we will keep the tax credit system"

No wonder there is so little enthusiasm for a Conservative government, (distinct from even less enthusiasm for Labour). Even ideas that should be entirely natural to the Conservatives seem to be lacking.

Why, in all the seven hells, does the conservative party support taking people's money away, wasting a significant proportion on administration and then returning it. If you wish these people to retain more of their earnings then stop taking so much of their money away. If you applied this idea more generally you could gain even greater support.

Martin S said...

But as I pointed out on my blog this morning, how can anyone trust Vince Cable, now?

He has proven himself to be either deluded or a liar.

Salmondnet said...

The LibDems are predictably convinced that this was a triumph for creepy uncle Vince. All I can say is I wouldn't invite him to my birthday party.

neil craig said...

Nothing approaching a knockout.

Cable scored when he said the Tory's position on ringfencing the NHS was silly because it just means bigger curts elsewhere. It is but was done so as to appear moderate & inoffensice.

Darling made a really silly attack on Osborne saying that cuttinng spending & cutting taxes wouldn't cut the deficit. It won't of itself but it will allow growth which gives the Exchequer more next year & Osborne is quite right to put growth ahead of deficit reduction. Darling's remarks completely undercut his own party's position that we have to keep up government spending rather than cutting the deficit. It leaves the question between the 2 being whether the money should go on the government sector - already over 50% of the economy & producing no actual wealth - or on the private sector which produces all the actual wealth.

I think Osborne knows more than his boss.

neil craig said...

PS the way to take out Vince, or any LibDem, is to take a couple of their official, really stupid policies, particulalrly promising we can keep the lights on with windmills & (in 20 years maybe) carbon capture, both of which will more than double everybody's electeicity bill. Force them to put their bodies in front of that target & they will be helpless. Some of them may even say their policy is silly.

Anonymous said...

Trying to think like the target audience, I'd score it something like 5-6-5 for AD-VC-GO. Noone screwed up, noone really sparkled (because they were trying so hard not to screw up).

It obviously helped that Osborne had come up with something resembling a proper policy earlier in the day. However I suspect the ripostes of "how do you afford it" will have been quite effective in the minds of casual viewers. Not least because Osborne isn't quick enough on his feet to come up with answers like "Gershon told Gordon Brown about this waste in 2005, but Gordon would rather waste people's taxes than take on the unions." Or mentioning in response to Darling's clever multiplication of £6bn over 5 years, that Labour had either delivered or were promising over £1 trillion of unfunded spending.

So the timing of the announcement was wrong, either it needed to be in the debate or some time before, in order to give Osborne time to think through his response to the responses.

It is typical of Osborne though, he seems to have some very good briefers for these big set piece occasions (I've noticed it on Newsnight previously), but the cracks soon start to show as soon as the puppet has to go away from his stringpullers.

If he was a bit more interested in economics, he would have been able to respond to Cable's jibe at the end about blowing our North Sea wealth - North Sea production peaked in October 1999 and this Labour government has had more North Sea revenues than Thatcher.

Unknown said...

Neil Craig, hearing you going on about someone else's "stupid policies" is a bit hard to take from someone who is apparently quite convinced that British Army officers deliberately took part in evil crimes against humanity in Kosovo. Perhaps Iain could take a closer look at your next posting on the subject and decide if it can really be right to offer a platform to such odious views?

neil craig said...

James if you had ever thought that anything I have said about the genocide & dissection of living people in Kosovo was not wholly & completely factually supported you would have disagreed on a blog where I was actually saying it. You clearly know it is all true.

However you are deliberately lying in an attempt to use British soldiers as moral human shields. I have NEVER accused squaddies of involvement nor any officers of more than keeping silent. Soldiers, properly, have to follow orders & it was politicians, with the LibDems most enthusiastic (I suspect you are a LibDem using this as a convenient platform since nobody in that disgraceful group feels able to dispute the facts) who disgustingly decided to go to war, knowingly, to support genocide & appointed the KLA as British "police".

I am quite happy to confirm that while Iain has never expressed agreement or disagreement with any of this that he has shown more true liberalism than virtually everybody in your corrupted "LibDem" party in not practicing censorship.

I take it you have nothing to say about what I actually said here either.

Gerry57 said...

I had to rewind my recording of this programme because I couldn't believe what Alistair Darling had just said:-

'We had to make sure as a country we lived within our means'