“The three leaders began by calling each other by their first names, but as the debate developed Mr Clegg in particular started calling his rivals by their full names when he addressed them.” (BBC online news)
The comments below are on communication skills / use of language and as those maps on aircraft say “of no political significance”.
The debate was scored immediately afterwards by SKY NEWS (who hosted it) as Cameron – 36 / Clegg-32 / Brown – 29 . Twenty minutes later the BBC were scoring it as 30 / 30 / 30. One could add that SKY is part of the Murdoch Media Empire who are supporting Cameron. On the other hand, none of the people in the room with me saw it the BBC’s way, and I wouldn’t argue the gaps but suspect that in communication skills terms, SKY got it about right. I’m not commenting on content at all. I thought Brown was trailing all the way through, but bounced back somewhat with a strong closing statement.
The morning’s newspapers are a worrying example of the partiality of the press. See the longer version of this article under ELT Articles. Scroll down to The Second Debate where there are charts and headlines from the newspapers for the next day.
Brown has unfortunate grimaces when he thinks he’s smiling, which come over badly when the floor producer cuts the camera to him while someone else is talking. The others try to watch the speaker with a serious look on their faces. Brown tends to look down, shake his head or grimace and the producer had realized that and let us see it.
John Humphries on BBC Radio Four in the morning did his full rottweiler on the Lib Dem’s Chris Huhne which was entertaining, even if Huhne fended him off better than most politicians do. The communications skill of reiteration was extended beyond any sensible place by both of them. The Lib Dems love of people with weird name spellings extends from previous leader Menzies Campbell, who pronounced his first name “Mingus” to Mr Huhne. I don’t believe that Menzies Campbell’s choice was a tribute to the great American jazz bass player, Charles Mingus. That’s a shame. It’s a good job he was replaced.
The line up was deliberate, Brown on stage left (which is viewer’s right), Clegg centre, Cameron stage right. In looking at theatre positions “stage” means it’s right or left for the actor. It’s opposite for the audience. The central position in any line up is an advantage. Lead singers in rock bands don’t stand at one side of the stage.
On the names, which is the point here, Clegg was consistent in using the full names David Cameron and Gordon Brown. Brown was consistent in using Nick and David, and also used them a little too often. Cameron seemed as if he’d been told to use Gordon Brown rather than Gordon, and largely did, in spite of his surprised “I agree with Gordon” over nuclear weapons. Noticeably, Cameron used “Gordon Brown” but then “Nick”. I wondered if that was deliberate. It gives the impression of patronizing rather than friendship when used that way round. I thought Brown’s constant use of Nick and David made him look like a headmaster talking about bright but errant sixth formers, and reinforced the fact that he’s older than the other two. The possible plus for him is playing on his “experience”, the negative is that it reinforces the “old politician / time for a change” feeling.
Clothes? Clegg stuck to the yellow / gold tie. Cameron had switched from blue to a royal purple (and kept reinforcing If I was your Prime Minister … I didn’t transcribe it and that’s how BBC Radio Four reported it the next day. I couldn’t watch it again even if you paid me, but maybe someone could check whether it was “If I was …” or “If I were …” . Language has shifted towards “If I was “ and it had not struck me before that “If I was …” sounds less “conditional” and therefore tentative than “If I were …”.
Brown had switched to red with appropriate spots (moving left of his deep pink the previous week), with a pale blue rather than white shirt.