Thursday night’s debate covered a wide range of issues, from government spending to housing to the event of a hung parliament. But the one thing that stood out amongst the sometimes very heated disagreements was a seemingly unanimous condemnation of David Cameron and his coalition. Condemnations that David Cameron was not there to rebuke.
What was supposed to be a one and a half hour opposition debate turned into a one and a half hour character assassination of the Tories. Each party spearheaded their own unique blend on running the country and each party contrasted their answer to the nation’s problems with the Tory-Lib Dem coalition’s failures.
“took a page out of David Cameron’s book”
Ed Miliband seemingly, and justly, took a page out of David Cameron’s book and blamed the Tories for every issue raised. He condemned Cameron for his policy of austerity and held it responsible for nearly all the problems posed by the audience, principally, social housing and public services. He attacked the coalition for its broken promises and as has become a stock answer, on more than one occasion refused to make promises for fear of not being able to deliver. Miliband seemed to really attack the belief of dishonesty amongst politicians, as this election has seen the issue of public trust in their MPs take a centre stage for those considering either not to vote or protest vote. Miliband again continued his campaign to disprove doubts of his character but his performance was noted to be very Blair-esque.
“also had a fair bit of criticism for Ed Miliband”
Leanne Wood once again stood up for Wales and she pushed at every opportunity the damning effects of austerity on the Welsh. She criticised Cameron and the other parties for putting a deadline on cutting the deficit and seemingly conveyed a feeling of abandonment in Wales. However she also had a fair bit of criticism for Ed Miliband and his Labour party, once again attacking their track record and refusal to grant economic parity for Wales with Scotland. Her most notable performance was her defiance of the right to buy scheme in Wales, vowing to allow the Welsh councils the power to overturn the scheme in their constituents. Her performance was strong but one was left with a feeling that her presence was dim in the light of the other opposition leaders.
“I found myself torn between the Greens”
Natalie Bennett, despite being in the centre, could not have been leaning any more left else she’d have fallen over. She criticised David Cameron’s government for its abandonment of the most vulnerable through its austerity measures. In every issue raised she proposed to increase spending, from housing to public service and every issue in between that has suffered austerity, she proposed spending increase. In fact the only thing she seemed to support of the Conservative Party was its current defence spending (minus trident). Bennett championed a truly utopian social revolution which would need to completely reverse nearly all of the Coalition’s policies. However I found myself torn between the Greens, on the one hand I felt sucked in by her espousal of positive social change and support of a fairer, better Britain with a seemingly bright future and the fact that it seems the only way the Greens could ever possibly hope to achieve these goals would be to tax the nation dry.
“She’s confident and controversial, she’s patriotic but has an appeal to those outside Scotland”
Nicola Sturgeon made her disdain for the Conservatives absolutely clear. She championed a policy of modest spending increase and stated that a slower reduction of the deficit was needed to improve overall quality of life in the UK. She labelled Ed Miliband and the Labour party ‘Tory-lite’ and warned that if Miliband allowed Cameron to get into power by not working with the SNP the public would ‘never forgive’ the Labour party. She received large applause for the declaration, as well as her condemnation of the right-to-buy scheme as the ‘worst idea’ for housing and rebuked Nigel Farage and his immigration policies stating the nation needed to be pragmatic not ideological. Sturgeon has become a real dark horse in the General Election campaign, with a growing support base south of ‘Hadrian’s wall’. She’s confident and controversial, she’s patriotic but has an appeal to those outside Scotland. It will be interesting to see how she deals with this growing support across the United Kingdom in the future.
“a refreshing change from his anti-EU rhetoric”
Nigel Farage too hammered the Conservatives. It will shock nobody to find out that his biggest qualms with Cameron was his continued membership of the EU and all the detrimental effects he believes come with it. From the EU he linked all the major issues, public housing, spending, immigration and even the military. His argument for Trident and the military spending increase was perhaps his strongest, not because he didn’t support his other arguments with evidence, but because it was a refreshing change from his anti-EU rhetoric. His call for a brown field revolution and his reform of the Barnett formula were also notable policies he put forward. His supply and demand analysis of the effects of immigration on housing and his critique of the audience however did not go down well and his rebuke from David Dimbleby cast Farage in a very weak shadow. However UKIP’s rise has been the most noted and it would be foolish to cast him aside, something Leanne Wood and Natalie Bennett did at the end of the debate as they ignored him while they all shook hands, which personally came across extremely rude.
To go full circle. there was a lot of cross party examination and picking apart of one another’s policies in sometimes heated manners (Natalie Bennett scaring Miliband from talking offered some comic relief), however the real loser of the debate was David Cameron. Every party picked apart Cameron’s policies and with 4.3 million tuning into watch the debate, the Conservatives left themselves completely defenceless. Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems got off lightly, but then that is perhaps revealing of the Lib Dem’s position in British politics, watching the debate one could be forgiven for forgetting about Clegg and his party and perhaps that goes some way into foreshadowing the election results. With a seemingly unanimous desire to work with the Labour party to stop the Tories getting into power (even UKIP admitting it could have worked with Miliband), the opposition debate was more of a lynching of the Tories and a crucifixion of David Cameron.