Communication Skills: Opposition Debate 2015
SEE ALSO: The first debate with seven leaders. This is the second part.
The second debate. The coalition parties, Conservative and Liberal Democrat declined to take part. So we have five opposition leaders. Is this a wise move? They got roundly criticized for it on the night, but it enabled them to stand aloof, and let everyone have a go at Miliband and Farage.
The Democratic Unionists with 8 MPs and Sinn Fein with 5 MPs are not invited to take part.
The Greens with 1 MP and Plaid Cymru with 3 MPs and the Scottish National Party with 6 MPs are there on the national TV debate. Would you be pissed off if you were Northern Irish? Whether on the right (DU) or left (Sinn Fein)?
As was pointed out, Ed Miliband was the only one on the stage with a snowball’s chance of becoming Prime Minister. Hang on, he was the only actual MP too.
The dinner test: likeability
BUT this is supposed to avoid politics. Just communication skills. We did the “fast test” afterwards. The five opposition leaders. Imagine they have moved in next door. Who would you invite to dinner? We decided none. Drinks and snacks? Yes, we both thought Ed Miliband acceptable. Just, as a person at least. I would have to tell him it’s pronounced “world” not “wold” and “create” not “crate” but otherwise, I could bear speaking to him. Stop. Cameron and Clegg? Dinner would be fine. Not a question of voting intention, simply what it would be like to be stuck next to someone for two hours. Five minutes over a beer in the pub? Well, I could take Farage that long. Sturgeon has admirable tenacity, but is just too unremittingly aggressive for me. I’d walk away. I really disliked Bennett and Wood.
Fascinating. In the seven-way debate all four men followed the perceived rule: dark suits, light shirts, ties. This time we have two men. Miliband followed the rule. Very dark suit, white shirt, silver tie. The tie might be an error, as it makes him look like an usher at a wedding. Or possibly Frankie Vaughan on stage.
Give me the moonlight, take away these girls and I’ll be a Tower of Strength: Ed as Frankie Vaughan
Farage chose to break the rule appearing in a light brownish suit and light coloured shirt. While he didn’t exactly look like a bookie, he did look informal. Say small town estate agent. BUT the effect was to make Miliband appear corporate and even smarmy. You couldn’t have done the Farage rural suit with Cameron and Clegg present, because that would be three looking corporate and smarmy, and Farage would have looked scruffy, but with just Miliband, I think Farage’s sartorial ploy worked.
Is the suits thing played out? Video of presenter David Dimbleby arriving at the studio were without ties, just as Cameron, Obama and Clegg whip off ties at every chance. I wonder because I recently insulted a poor man in a large electrical store by asking him about a kettle. He was wearing a suit and tie on a Saturday afternoon, which made him look like an employee. I would have gone for a casual jacket, nice shirt and no tie if I’d been standing. Even more so if I were Miliband’s age.
The women? Nicola Sturgeon had dropped the power red in favour of a well-cut grey suit and matching top. It was on the extremely formal end of formal. Authority.
Leanne Wood stuck to the red and white of Wales. I was surprised she hadn’t added a green scarf, perhaps with a dragon picture to complete the image.
Natalie Bennett remained green by recycling the same dowdy outfit as last time. Or something much the same.
Interaction and reaction
It was sparkier, not necessarily to Ed Miliband’s advantage as all three women lined up to attack him. He looked particularly weary and irritated on defence. All three ran the swords into ploughshares / anti-Trident nuclear deterrent line. You could see him thinking that he was the only person there who would ever conceivably have to make defence decisions and it was a pain in the arse being bleated at. Leanne Wood comes across as really, well, thick. Wood and Bennett could say how the defence budget should be spent eliminating world poverty instead. Tell that to ISIS. It’s a bit like a talent contest winner wishing for world peace. And Wood thought the defence budget could be increased for Welsh soldiers returning from the wars. Ed Miliband listened, looking pained, and I don’t think he had to act that out. He must have been thinking, why am I listening to two people … Wood and Bennett … with no chance of gaining any power, whining on. I don’t often feel sympathy with politicians. I did with Ed then.
On defence, the unrepresented Ulster Democratic Unionists got to speak afterwards, and pointed out that the 6% of the UK population in Northern Ireland provide 20% of the reserve armed forces.
Ed listens to Leanne: loathing? contempt?
I thought Ed looked on Leanne with a mix of loathing and contempt. Leanne’s annoying whinge came on the NHS. While either Ed or Natalie was pointing out that 40% of NHS staff were immigrants, Leanne went into an odd complaint that EU doctors and nurses didn’t come to Wales, but before immigration was capped they got lots of Indian doctors. Perplexing. One was left with the impression that Indians didn’t mind Wales, but Eastern Europeans avoided it. As any actor will tell you, if you try and do either Welsh or Indian accents they drift into each other.
Nicola Sturgeon: looking decidedly shifty
The Times got a very similar shot – though the colors have really shifted
Sturgeon is a bully, and tried to bully Miliband over an anti-Tory coalition. We all know they’ll speak and deal behind closed doors … that’s the anti-democratic trouble with coalitions … but she wanted him licking her hand on air. Point scoring. It also enrages Labour who point out that she’s been vehemently against them as long as they can remember. I’m not sure she isn’t overplaying her hand. I spoke with an ex-union rep friend who said his first choice was majority Labour. Second choice, majority Conservative. Nightmare scenario for English and Welsh voters: An unelected Nicola Sturgeon telling a minority Labour government what to do.
Farage was as usual, isolated. At the end of the row, doing his straight to camera “stuck record” technique, repeating his anti-EU stance. Farage had the hottest line of the evening, a direct “Stop lying!” to Ed Miliband. There are five politicians there. You expect five lies, but Farage was disputing a Miliband accusation.
Four against one? Farage on the right at the end.
The Guardian got an even better angle
A telling picture. Four of the five shaking hands at the end of the debate. Farage alone. After this screenshot (with an iPad) I missed the last one. Wood and Bennett turned on their heels and walked out. Petty. Sturgeon and Miliband both had the grace to walk over and shake hands with Farage. I think that’s what you do. He might be to their right, but the man isn’t Le Pen. Sturgeon and Miliband are, I think, still the only two who will have any say over the next government.
Nigel Farage: may be light-sensitive. He has a problem with closed eyes on camera.
the Daily Excess obviously likes him.
Partially noted with breaks for loo, tea and going comatose with boredom.
Leanne Wood mentioned the bogey name “Margaret Thatcher” three times. The last election she featured in was a quarter of a century ago. She’s been dead two years. You can’t refight the 1989 election. There are long memories; in 1960, my Welsh Great-Uncle Ben was still outraged by Churchill sending cavalry against unarmed miners in 1926. But things do move faster nowadays In the tired cliché beloved of Tony Blair: Let’s move on. Two “Nicola.”
Nigel Farage used Ed five times, Ed Miliband once. Considered? Deliberately knocking him off his perch?
I don’t think Natalie (centre) likes Ed.
Natalie Bennett used first names for all except Nigel Farage three times, Nigel once.
Nicola Sturgeon used Nigel Farage four times, Nigel once, Ed five times, Natalie, Leanne and an odd back reference to “Tony.” Not many in this election would want to be on first name terms with Tone & Cherie, I think.
Ed Miliband went into Gordon Brown / David Cameron headmaster mode and stuck with first names: Nigel eight times, otherwise Leane, Natalie, Nicola. It reinforced his role as the “serious party” candidate.