27 Mar 2015

Cameron and Miliband face Paxman’s panto villain routine

Ed Miliband will hope to capitalise today on some rare good reviews after last night’s Sky/Channel 4 programme.

The Labour team always had “the debates” in the grid as the moment that Labour would break through as the public got a chance to look at Ed Miliband through fresh eyes.

The “debates” in the sense Labour wanted them are not happening, but Ed Miliband’s team will think they’re still in with a chance of getting a better image of their man across to voters.

In the end the Labour decision to go second served Ed Miliband well. He would be better braced for the full-on panto villain Paxman routine.

As for David Cameron, he was wrong-footed and looked it. Jeremy Paxman portrayed him as a rich kid who breaks every promise he makes. Mr Cameron has for years avoided long-form TV interviews, not least under the advice of Andy Coulson (not sure he’s still quite as rich as Mr Paxman painted him – certainly he’s not as rich as Mr Paxman). Last night the rustiness that comes with hiding from folk like Jeremy Paxman showed.

Andrew Cooper, David Cameron’s former pollster, said the programme would not shift a single swing vote. He knows a thing or two about the TV habits and profile of swing voters.

But Team Cameron will be aware that some polls say there are more “undecideds” than ever around this time round and that if last night built into a sustained series of under-performances, it could start to tarnish their man’s lead on leadership credentials and tighten a contest just as David Cameron thinks he is pulling away in front.

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