Mostly heat, very little light. Always a threat to the incumbent but usually an opportunity for the challengers. Love them or hate them, election TV debates are here to stay. In truth TV debates are an exercise where the poll leader tries not to be damaged and the poll challenger tries to land a big punch.
Yesterday evening (Tue 19 Nov) we had our first debate. It was the one Boris and Jezza both wanted; no Jo Swinson or Nicola Sturgeon, despite their pointless High Court antics, just the two potential PMs going head to head. So how did they do?
Well neither of them imploded. But neither of them landed a killer blow. It seems to be being rated as probably a score draw. Which in many ways is a result for Boris as being the incumbent he had most to lose. But at the same time, if you can’t knock out 70 year old, ’can’t think on his feet’ Jezza, then maybe questions should be asked. The flip side of that is that this was Jezza’s chance to land a big blow and start moving the polling dial; and he fluffed it. So, as the instant YouGov poll afterwards showed, it is arguable that Boris got away with it.
In all the debate prep, candidates rehearse their so called ‘zingers’, good one liners that amuse, resonate more widely and score a direct hit. In truth, there were only really two, both of which seemed pre-rehearsed: Corbyn did well with his “needs a bit of improvement” line on how the (post Prince Andrew interview) monarchy is faring right now and Boris quipped that Jezza had not just found a magic money tree but a “whole magic money forest”.
From here on in the debates get messier, including one pointless 7 way leaders’ debate where most likely Boris and Corbyn won’t turn up instead sending a minion.
The TV debates’ role seems to be to tie up an enormous amount of top tier team time and only be relevant if someone really screws up.
We have been asked by several clients to give a presentation in the New Year on the ‘post General Election political landscape’. If this is something that would be useful for your team, please get in touch.