Friday 6 December 2019

The Leaders' Debate: Who Won?

It's not been a happy 24 hours for Boris Johnson. He ducked an interview with ITV's Julie Etchingham and has (understandably) ruled out appearing on Andrew Neil, after the latter took the unprecedented leap of issuing a public challenge. Then footage emerged last night of Sally-Ann Hart, Tory candidate in Amber Rudd's old seat, arguing disabled people and those with learning difficulties should be paid less because "they don't understand the value of money". And today has proven no better. Doing the media's job for them, Labour revealed a report about the consequences Johnson's deal will have for Northern Ireland - effectively a tariff wall in the Irish Sea between it and the mainland, and one the PM has previously denied. And last of all, the Brexit counsel in Washington resigned as she was sick of peddling "half-truths" on behalf of a government she could no longer trust. Ouch.

Not the best mood music Johnson could have hoped for prior to this evening's BBC leaders' debate. Given how ill-received the last clash was, at least compared to the praised leaders' Question Time, how did it go?

Drawing on the political savvy for which he is known, Matt Hancock tweeted that this election is a choice between Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn. Well, at least the show established that. Apart from this, while less bad tempered than their last encounter both got their messages out, and so it depends what you're looking for. In line with his manifesto, Johnson promised little beyond clarifying his dishonest maths over his nurses pledge and moved to attack Corbyn wherever possible on Brexit. The absurdity was certainly strong with this one when the answers from everything to John Major refusing to endorse the Tories to the NHS to rampant Islamophobia in his party never deviated from Get Brexit Done. Without a doubt this season's "strong and stable", rare is the occasion he's taken to task for his nonsense.

Well, not so tonight. Corbyn said we had a seven year wait between leaving the EU and striking a deal with the US to look forward to. Getting Brexit done, indeed. He also attacked Johnson for falsely claiming the UK's trading relationship will be unchanged, as well as dismissing the border in the Irish Sea. Johnson can dismiss it all he likes, it's there not just in the documents Labour produced earlier today but in other publicly released papers about his Brexit plan. Why else are the DUP upset with him? Unfortunately, Nick Robinson did not allow for a pressing of the point - which is the reason why these head-to-heads aren't great because the pressure of time for audience questions means charlatans like Johnson can bluster their answers before moving to the next question.

On Corbyn's part, as per Labour's manifesto he talked about the substantive issues. Rightly, defanging nonsense about the party's plan being a road map to full communism he argued that if every pledge was implemented, the UK would only just about meet the level of public service provision of Germany and France - hardly beacons of Bolshevism. Corbyn also laid into Johnson over nursing shortages, observing £9k tuition fees are one of the key factors putting people off from entering the profession. Meanwhile, asked about what would happen if MPs are caught lying Johnson was allowed to waffle some incoherent statement about going on their knees in front of the Commons. Snore.

In all, there were no own goals from either side and both got across the messages they wanted. For Johnson, it was Brexit. For Corbyn, it was life after Brexit. And just like last time, Johnson made the error of reinforcing Labour's message on the second referendum. Obviously, he thinks it can pick him up a few Labour leavers, but it disproportionately helps Labour more in firming up LibDem-facing remain voters behind it. In truth, accomplishing this may turn out to be the sole positive contribution Johnson makes during his otherwise lamentable career.

The question is will it make a difference, and the answer is probably not. For those with their minds made up no unmaking was on the agenda. And for those undecided, it depends very much on their priorities. Those looking at the new askance and are bored with Brexit will find Johnson's simple messaging amenable, assuming they are leave voters. Those looking for more substance are more likely to have their thoughts caught by Labour's big programme, with its pledges to sort out poverty and the innumerable injustices that have accelerated under the Tories. And while YouGov's post-debate poll revisited the eternal, accursed 52/48 ratio in favour of Johnson, as we head into the final weekend there is still everything to play for.

Image Credit


Sam said...

Let's hope everything is still to play for Phil, it's really depressing seeing this country cry out for change and repeatedly backing the status quo or sundry reactionary charletans

theOnlySanePersonOnPlanetEarth said...

Why do you think attacking the ‘weak’, the ‘disabled’, the ‘lazy’, the ‘workshy’, the ‘feckless’ represents a bad week for the Tories? This is the platform they have been elected on numerous times, it is the reason they keep on winning!

It is the reason the right have always gained power, from Hitler to Johnson. To foster anti Semitism (the real kind) in Eastern Europe the Nazi’s promoted the idea of the Jews being work shy and lazy, they also spoke of the weak and disabled being a burden and an impurity. It is ironic that the main Jewish organisations are full square being this hard right party, but then again they are behind that racist settler colonial state called Israel.

These attacks are all manna from heaven for people fed on a diet of Rule Britannia and corporate/state media propaganda.

The mass killing of 130+ god save the queen honest to goodness Brits by the Tories was not some unfortunate accident but simply a manifesto pledge! That these terrorists could be elected again is a provocation.

The big mistake Corbyn has made is that he thinks common decency and being nice is a winning formula, in this sick society that is most definitely not the case, no matter what guff people say to your face.

Tasker Dunham said...

Corbyn gave much more substance than Johnson but you can't change peoples' minds with facts and I fear Johnson's more animated content-free "Brexit done" "get the country moving" "our fantastic programme" stuff will have kept all his voters on board. If he won't be accountable to any serious examination of this (he's even ducking Womens Hour which gave Jo Swinson a tough time yesterday) then Labour needs to go in all teeth and claws attacking the fundamental dishonesty of "Get Brexit Done" and record of austerity. Watch it with the sound turned down and you see shifty side-eyed evasiveness - the greased piglet.

Alan Story said...

To beat Johnson in a tv debate, you need to dent his blustering class confidence.

Sadly Corbyn didn't.

Such debates are not an exercise in policy wonkery. They are about reaching out to undecided voters on a personal / human level.

Sadly Corbyn didn't.

Anonymous said...

Alan Story

But the polling from the debate was mostly good for Corbyn?

Malcolm said...

This debate will not affect many, its a sad state of affairs but elections are one on one or two issues- and the main one is trust
The country will have to decide on a habitual liar or a socialist.
having listened to Boris, I can't believe a word he says, I have disagreed with many Torys, but I always felt they believed in what they said-Boris just makes things up - a poor mans Trump
This election is a media circus, the media is geared up against Corbyn
but I have a feeling the lies, half-truths will not win, despite the opinion polls
It's a shame that public opinion and a distorted media representation of Corbyn is so Hate-filled -
A real socialist government scares the hell out of the ruling elite
but does not surprise me, the debate was good if you wanted to hear labours plans, Boris same old nonsense -and lies
but will people see through it - are we still being conditioned by the ruling classes
a logical outcome would be labour winning
why would any Nurse, health care person, teacher, fireman, council worker hell the list goes on Vote conservative
an exciting article stated that if you earn 85 grade a year, you pay 20 pounds a month - maybe Corbyn should have just said that
which would alleviate some of the social injustices of our society