Where was she? We missed her commanding presence, confident poise, eloquent replies coolness under fire and of course an ease with common people… but Nicola Sturgeon did not turn up for last night’s leaders’ debate.
There was another notable absence too of course and Theresa May dropped points as a result. Jeremy Corbyn on the other hand scored by turning up, but on the night probably dropped points to those fringe players who had very little to lose.
This was a better leader’s debate than the last, which had a bit of a panto feel about it and not much urgency. Since then the fringe players have polished their scripts and sharpened their timing and, with Mr Corbyn now in the ring, there was an added incentive to impress. So how did they do?
Tim Farron: Where was this fight and slick line of patter in the last debate?! Mr Farron went for the TM jugular from the off and his jokey, at times irreverent, jibes cut through the liberal fluff that has been getting in the way of the Lib Dem campaign. He struck a chord with a cheap punch line that got the audience laughs; “The Prime Minister isn’t here tonight. She can’t be bothered. Why should you?” He urged us to turn over to British Bake Off instead!
Angus Robertson, Leanne Woods and Caroline Lucas: The regional party reps and the Greens enjoyed a bit of a bounce in this debate in as much as they were able to sting both the Tories and Labour with some honest home truths that gave voice to what many in the audience were thinking.
Paul Nuttall: Dear oh dear… The high point was probably when the others bundled UKIP and the Tories together as an alternative coalition of chaos. We’re still not laughing with him.
Amber Rudd: The stand-in for Mrs May came with a script that had clearly defined fluro highlights to the sections Mrs May’s Team had wanted emphasising. Jeremy Corbyn’s ‘money Tree’, ‘strong’ and ‘coalition of chaos’ got pronounced airings. A capable performer, Ms Rudd rarely cracks a smile, is a bit shouty and at times last night came across like the assistant head trying to impress the visiting Ofsted panel. Unfortunately, she was surfing the nasty party wave that has been sweeping the Tory ship along since the Dementia Tax debacle. “Judge us on our record,” was the wrong sound bite to reach for to round off her performance. Cue panto boos. Mrs Rudd stood alone, frequently rounded on by the other five (and occasionally Paul Nuttall) and the PM owes her a debt of gratitude for taking one for Mrs May (and her team).
Jeremy Corbyn: By just turning up, Mr Corbyn reinforced the image that has positively grown during this campaign. By now we know his failings… all of them… and so Amber Rudd’s revision notes to ‘attack’ at all times didn’t have the desired effect of flooring him, although still cast lingering doubts. He didn’t soar to presidential heights and his figures do have a touch of the ‘fantasy’ (that Ms Rudd emphasised as if she’d been coached to do so). At times he looked as if he might be suffering the effects of his whistle stop touring and endless rounds of interviews… yes including that one. He came out evens on the night, but he still landed a few populist blows that got the audience clapping. Whatever happens in this election contest, JC has definitely moved from the fringes to the centre stage and he actually looks rather comfortable in the process.
Theresa May: Theresa May was not in Cambridge. She was out talking to ‘people’ in the day and, according to sources close to Number 10, didn’t trouble herself with watching the debate as she was far busier running the country to tune in for a re-run of panto politics. Besides, in her own words while out and about yesterday, “debates where politicians are squabbling amongst themselves does nothing for the process of electioneering.”
Psssst. “He’s behind you!”
Luan de Burgh
Luan de Burgh is a speaker, writer and founder of The de Burgh Group – a specialist business communication training provider dedicated to helping people perform at their highest potential.