The first TV debate for the 2017 election was broadcast last night, with mixed reactions – and performances. This is a very important means of sharing party policies and letting the audience: both in the studio and on TV, the main political leaders. However, the two main leaders: Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May both refused to attend this debate. Since all of the other parties represented are minority parties, there was feel of the fourth form taking over assembly without adult/teacher input.
The principle challenge of a debate of this kind is combining engaging the studio audience and also the fellow debaters, with the TV audience. I mention this because more frequently there are similar situations in business, where a conference is online and companies are watching all over the world, or even conference calls where you have to be aware of both the audience in the room with you as well as those watching.
In this debate we had 5 ‘minor’ party leaders who answered questions from the audience as well as gave 1 minute summaries of their political views. It is easiest to briefly critique the 5 speakers individually.
Nicola Sturgeon: SNP. This is a seasoned political animal in action. She knows how to look at the TV camera without looking cheesy but also responds to the other people in the debate. Her messages are clear – yes she only has a couple but the clarity is there. She is totally focused and ready for the killer comment if necessary. I have personally admired Sturgeon as a politician for some time.
Caroline Lucas: Green Party. She comes across as a very authentic, caring person who isn’t playing political games. But she will come in with a killer comment if necessary and knows how to pace herself when she speaks with the most impactful comment at the end.
Tim Farron: Liberal Democrats. He spent the entire time cheesily flirting with the camera. It looked as though he was speaking for a recorded video. He was misadvised and trained. He has genuine clarity with his messages; even if they are wacky.
Paul Nuttall: UKIP. He was completely out of his depth. He looked down at his notes constantly or was addressing the other panellists without being aware of the TV camera. This is the challenge with a debate of this type. As a result, we felt disengaged. Also, BRAVA to Leanne Wood, who had to remind him twice that her name wasn’t Natalie.
Leanne Wood: Plaid Cymru. She had the disadvantage of a fellow panellist calling her by another name. However, she dealt with it well. She looked down at her notes a lot and whilst she sometimes was assertive, there were occasions when her language was slightly weak.