And finally a review of ten factors critical to pitch success and who handled them best.
1. Mastery of content
Agree with their policies or not you have to admire the levels of preparation from all three. All were impressively fluent in articulating their policies, responding to anticipated but genuine questions and then entering debate, albeit restricted. A draw.
The first, history-making, debate was ‘made’ by Clegg’s powerful opening. With the element of surprise on his side, his ease in front of the camera and his clever opening statement he set out his different positioning and paved the way for his successful performance.
It may not be fair but some people, and Clegg is one of them, are naturals in front of the camera so we the viewers ‘got’ the eye contact and this gave him the visceral connection, and thus the levels of preference.
In the first debates but less so later Clegg’s easier and more open relaxed body language added to his likeability. Brown’s relentless punching for emphasis was not attractive. Cameron’s strong gestures became less aggressive .
Best advice is not to tell jokes, unless you are a comedian. Brown isn’t. All three were light on showing even a slight sense of humour. The debates were heavygoing. (The temptation to switch over to Have I Got News For You proved too much at one point)
6. Gaffe avoidance
To the bitter disappointment of the media, and most viewers, there was no Richard Nixon moment, if you discount Alastair Stewart’s rather odd shouting in the first debate. (Dimbleby easily won best moderator). Thankfully, good sport Gordon made up for lack of gaffe with Mrs Duffy.
7. Rebuttals and answers
Clegg’s actual answers to the audience were no better than the others. But he really looked as if he was listening and more consciously used the names, so we believed his answers were better. Cameron was stronger when real debate got going in the final session.
8. Pause power.
All three suffered from trying to squeeze too many words in to beat the clock and to show off their grasp of policy. Generally, Clegg resisted this pressure better and used the pause to great effect. By saying less he communicated more.
Brown not surprisingly speaks out at the way personalities are becoming more important than policies. Well personality has always been important. What is now different is the importance of the ‘televisual’ personality. Regan had that. So does Schwartzenegger. So like it or not does Clegg.
In the ‘world’s best selling book’ by Paul Arden is this quote: “ENERGY. It’s 75% of the job. If you haven’t got it be nice”. Clegg may have come across nicer, but Cameron won on the all important energy front. And here is a quote from William Blake.