BBC Opposition Leaders’ debate: A victory for no-one

Last night David Dimbleby, and his fantastic goldfish tie, chaired a debate between the leaders of the Opposition Parties for the upcoming General Election. This meant that it included Plaid Cymru’s Leanne Wood, UKIP’s Nigel Farage, Labour’s Ed Miliband, the SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon and the Green Party’s Natalie Bennett. They each had one minute to introduce themselves and their parties. But the main question to ask is; which leader stood out? The answer is none.

This is a shocking revelation for someone with as strong Labour views as I do. I should be saying, and I want to be shouting from the rooftops, that it was a fantastic, faultless performance by our wonderful leader who I truly think will make an excellent Prime Minister, but I just can’t. I thought that Ed performed well: he successfully differentiated himself from the Conservative party, did not hinder the image of him as a credible Prime Minister in waiting that is slowly but surely developing in the public’s eyes and stood firm on his promises. However, he did not always handle the attacks from Nicola Sturgeon well, especially on a potential coalition. This debate was crucial in convincing Scottish left-wing voters to drift away from the SNP and back towards Labour, and unfortunately I don’t think he was successful. Sturgeon came off better in pretty much all their direct confrontations.

Why then was Nicola Sturgeon not the stand out leader in this debate as the media has claimed she was in the 7-leader debate a few weeks ago? Unfortunately I missed that debate, but obviously couldn’t miss the media fascination with this Scottish terrier, as I have seen her referred to, and thus my expectations of her sky-rocketed and to be honest I was almost disappointed by last night’s performance. She undoubtedly outperformed Leanne Wood, an inevitability due to their predictable similarities and Wood’s lack of power or influence comparative to Sturgeon’s. However, at times Sturgeon just seemed to be chirping along with the Greens and Plaid Cymru. I understand that for her and for the Scottish voters Labour is the main competition, but in terms of Britain as a whole and my commentary on the debate this was insufficient for her to stand apart from the other opposition leaders.

What about the Greens? The Independent notes that Natalie Bennett picked a good political line by saying that they needed more MPs like Caroline Lucas. However for me, this just emphasises that she is not Caroline, who I greatly personally respect, that Natalie herself has no power and that the Greens are pretty much insignificant and little is set to change. Her stable but not especially convincing performance reminded me why I am not a Green but why I voted for them in the European Elections – they are good on certain policies, shockingly some environmental ones, but not all.

Finally, Nigel. Let’s be honest, it was not possible that this debate would convert me to UKIP, I have seen him speak in person 3 times and all it has done is confirm my social democratic values. He knew that the panel would be against him and so he focused on emphasising his difference from them and thus directly appeal to his core supporters and those fringe Eurosceptic Tories. The only way that Nigel could be said to stand out in this debate was because he is right-wing, which hardly counts!

It was an informative debate and I thoroughly enjoyed watching it but if you are expected wonderful, political performances on the level of the US Presidential debates then apologies but you will be disappointed.

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Allie Nawrat

History and Politics Third year. Commentator for Backbench. Champagne Socialist.