Tony, Anthony, Steve and I took part in a Radio 4 discussion on the final Leaders Debate. We sat in Baddeley Green Working Men Club with researchers and production staff from the news programme “World Tonight” and after the end of the debate were asked our views on how we thought the debate went.
Before the debate started the four of us were profiled. Anthony spoke of the local situation from his club in Baddeley Green. Steve who is an unemployed 18 year old described his search for work. Tony of the problems in the local manufacturing sector from his engineering company. I was interviewed in Leek from the Transition Town project in the Quaker Garden that I work in. I was asked about the failure of the traditional parties to address some of the structual problems in North Staffordshire.
We assembled in the club in good time for the debates started at 8.30pm. I took copious notes as the subject areas as they came up although they were not really used. As the subjects came up, the deficit, the banking crisis,taxation welfare reform, manufacturing sector, immigration and creating a more equal society as well as the others. I was struck by how much more combative the event was compared with the other two debates. The leaders constantly stressed their key themes. Clegg on “fairness” , Cameron ” Change” and Brown ” the fragility of the recovery”.
Both the Labour and Tory Leader zeroed in on Clegg on issues such as immigration and Europe. Brown attacked Cameron with the refrain ” Same Old Tories” especially about the need for cuts. Cameron sometimes sounded more left wing than Brown attacking Brown for sucking up to the banks and for the growing inequality in the country.
I was especially interested in the section on manufacturing. Brown wanted to create 400,000 jobs in the low carbon economy and the need to grow certain areas of the economy in bio technology. Cameron spoke about the need to grow the entrepreneurial spirit. Clegg gave a list of policy commitements on the subjects of building affordable houses and a green economy. I thought that Clegg won this part of the debate.
On the immigration where the politicians became more animated. Clegg came under fire over the amnesty question from both Cameron and Brown. Clegg responded by saying that this was a problem created by the two big parties. He made the intersting point on dealing with organised crime and the trade in people. I would however give this round to Cameron.
Affordable housing. Brown spoke of the need to get the banks starting lending again. Cameron on the need to cahnge the planning laws and the need to reward responsibility and Clegg bringing empty houses back into the market and , hurrah, the need for social housing. I would have given this to Clegg.
Welfare Reform Brown said that there sould be no life on the dole a view that was reiterated by Cameron while Clegg said that work needs to pay by increasing tax thresholds.
I would give this one to Brown.
Social mobility and education. Brown gave a folksy anecdote about his mother, Cameron a rather cheesey thank you to teachers and Clegg on the growing inequalities and stunting life chances. I would have given this to Clegg as well.
After the debate ended we were asked our opinions. I thought that Cameron had scored a hit on Brown over the 10 pence tax issue. The others gave it more clearly to Clegg although overall over the three I think Clegg won. No one rated Brown.
Mean while life went on around us. People played pool, sometimes there were shouts from the TV room were people were watching the Liverpool game and behind us the hum of converation.
However I do think that the debates have galvanised the political process and made people talking about politics and the elections which must surely be a good thing