The British political scene has suddenly become more interesting after a televised debate between the leaders of the three main parties last week led to a surge in popularity for the Liberal Democrats, who have been out of power since the First World War. It was apparently the first time such a debate had been held, which gave British voters a chance to hear more than the occasional soundbite from the Lib-Dem leader, and most seemed to think he was the clear winner of the first round.
We watched last night’s second round of the debate to see what all the fuss was about.
April 23 (Bloomberg) — Conservative David Cameron failed to derail Nick Clegg in the U.K. campaign’s second debate, four instant polls showed, pointing to a hung parliament with Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s Labour Party as the largest bloc.
In a 90-minute televised debate, Brown, 59, compared his 43-year-old opponents to children “squabbling at bathtime.” Cameron, who led polls until Clegg’s surge after last week’s debate, said a government without a majority would prevent “decisive action” to narrow a record budget deficit. Clegg dismissed such warnings as “ludicrous scare stories.”
Of four surveys released immediately after the event, two showed Clegg won and a pair favored Cameron. That suggests the debate will produce little change in polls on the overall race in coming days. Most since last week show Labour winning a plurality of seats in the May 6 election.
From this distance the thing that was of most interest is foreign policy, and whether a new British government will continue or abandon the war-mongering of the belligerent Mr Blair, who has led Britain into three wars of aggression in the last 13 years.
Nick Clegg was the only one who mentioned the illegal Iraq War, while the other two steered clear of it. David Cameron’s contribution seemed to be mostly vague platitudes and aspirations without saying how these would be achieved. Gordon Brown got specific about things like jobs and recovering from the recession, but was also vague about protecting Britain from terrorism, which the others didn’t challenge him on, though it could be argued that Labour’s support for America’s wars of aggression in the Middle East actually made Britain more vulnerable to terrorism. Brown accused Clegg of being anti-American and Cameron of being anti-European, and implied that his “quiet diplomacy” would have more influence of American policy than Clegg’s promise of a more independent line — which is the kind of thing we used to hear from Thabo Mbeki about his approach to human rights abuses in Zimbabwe.
It will be interesting to see how things develop.