At last the Great Debate or the Great Bore-a-thon is with us. Guy Bentley has a useful rundown in City AM on the format and the logistics for the night, who stands where, who speaks first etc.
Debate prep and coaching is standard these days – avoiding the gift of the gaffe is the first priority. But how to win? Or will they all just want to survive?
What will the party leaders be thinking about today while they are being coached and during last minute debate prep?
David Cameron’s debate plan?
Cameron would be happiest saying nothing apart from listing the government’s achievements, talking about his “long term economic plan” and then repeating both in his closing statement. He is helped by the fact that he has the last word and his podium position keeps him away from the schoolyard. He will want to keep above the fray sounding like the only grown up amongst the squabbling kids. Cameron’s biggest risk is sounding patronising and only talking about his Government’s quite remarkable achievements and policies and forgetting that policies are only relevant if they improve the lives of people. He should have a little rule – only use the word policy if you have already said the word people 4 times.
Ed Miliband’s difficult debate
Miliband will want to do several things starting with not being called David and not being asked about David. His is the hardest gig tonight – not least by his central podium position that will make him look like the bullied kid in a schoolyard fight. He will try hard to ignore those around him and look straight and earnestly at the camera. Luckily for him, he is not as weird as his opponents paint him but enough to undermine this success strategy. He will want to ignore his dirty texting and pending fling with the SNP which is supposed to be Jolly Top Secret and definitely not spoken about in front of SNP hating Scottish Labour or the Press and the Conservatives who love the sordid affair.
Ed has other issues though. The SNP, the Greens, Plaid and the Lib Dems all need Labour voters and will all be attacking him for not being left enough, not grown up enough, not having had a real job outside Westminster, taking Scottish voters for granted, screwing up the NHS in Wales and being a remote control Union toy (amongst other things) – while his own team will be dreaming of David.
I agree with Nick – or do I?
Nick Clegg will dream of his first debate outing. Now people know him too well. But. He speaks well and sounds reasonable and can do grown-up. One to watch out for. Again.
The Ones who will hate Ed tonight but who will happily sleep with him after the election
The Greens will be the indignant, ideologically pure and socialist and green hybrid trying to steal votes from the Lib Dems and Labour. They risk being snappy and angry and would do better to sound grown up, reasonable and responsible.
Plaid has a huge chance. They will be desperate to make the most of it. But they risk being tea break time for everyone outside Wales.
The SNP will be focused on winning big in Scotland – post-election niceties will be determined by post-election numbers. Nothing nice about tonight.
Farage will try to ignore the carefully selected TV audience of 200, reflecting the UK’s ethnic, age, gender and social make-up, and reach out to the pubs around the country without football on the TV. Knackered from being The UKIP Face and stuck in a heavy suit between Nick and Ed, he also has a problem with sweating under the big TV lights and two hours of studio heat may cause him trouble. He desperately needs grumpy Conservative voters so he may be awfully nice to Ed and just rant loudly at Dave. His position means that this will produce lots of shots of him, Ed and Nick looking at Dave – great images that support the Conservative’s accurate point that if you vote for UKIP or the Lib Dems you get Ed as your Prime Minister.