Tag Archives: TVdebates


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.

2.Strong opening

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.

3.Eye contact

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.


4.Body language.

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 . 

5. Humour.

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.

9. Likability

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.

  Energy_square new for web.qxd

When words are not enough!

The second of the debates confirmed they are here to stay and that they have changed forever old-style political campaigning.  Although all three are stomping  the country, wives in hand (Brown and Cameron), speaking in this photogenic ward, or school or factory, the impact of these staged news events is diminished. 

Newspapers are finding it hard to cope with this marginalising of their role. Their forte has been the ‘forensic’ dissection of the prepared speeches, reporting, and embellishing, to  the whim of their editors/publishers. Assessments of debates that we have all seen, and judged already, can make them look stupid. Take these two headlines on Friday morning.


It is not just political bias that is the issue.  It is the nature of these live debates and the way we the viewers are responding to them.  The papers are devoting acres of newsprint to tell us their views on how the candidates did. Who said precisely what on this, that or the other policy. Who said it right. Who said it wrong.

 The trouble is we have already decided who won and we are not deciding on who said what and on the content in isolation.


If we were responding to the words on their own  Cameron could well be winning.  And on radio Brown, who has a reassuring warm tone, could be ahead. (As was Nixon against Kennedy). Unfortunately for both it is Clegg  who “by force of his televisual appeal is making political realignment a genuine possibility.”(Times) 

 However hard they try Cameron and Brown cannot as Clegg does “look directly into the camera and connect viscerally to people’s desires.” (MOS)

Instead, what they both do is talk at rather than talk to the voters. Not so appealing!