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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6 reader comments

  1. Joy Greenwood says:

    Unfortunately there was very little in last night’s interviews from either side about future manifesto policies. Cameron’s was about his record, Miliband’s about his image. Despite the hype, neither the interviewers nor the audience drew out much elucidation on policy. Much of Miliband’s questioning was irrelevant, eg about his leadership contest and Cameron was not pressed on his central claim that he is a ‘safer’ pair of hands on the economy and will deliver a more solid economic future for the benefit of all than Labour would, given that he hasn’t delivered on his economic claims in this parliament. On balance, Miliband performed much better and the polls need interrogation given that they appeared to reflect preconceptions rather than anything said on the night. Genuine floating voters are left badly served.

  2. Philip Edwards says:


    The whole programme was a cringe-worthy charade of what democracy is supposed to be.

    Paxman lost it over a decade ago when he began to believe his own publicity and constructed the persona of an angry clown. Burley is an empty headed Murdoch lickspittle employee, which tells you all you need to know. Both of them are the kind of tories you meet near closing time in a pub in Beckenham or some other gawd-forsaken hole.

    The format and its “questions” told us next to nothing, except maybe how to waste broadcast time.

    As for Miliband and Cameron…….a pair of bad jokes you wouldn’t trust to run the giant bingo hall this country has become.

    I have no idea who will “win” the general election, except to say whoever it is will turn out to be the same old gang of cowards afraid to get in the face of the crooks who run the capitalist racket. In other words, more of the same with marginal differences and a smattering of engineered “scandals” to get rid of too-obviously corrupt deadwood.

    Democracy is a great idea. It’s just a pity we don’t have it.

  3. H Statton says:

    How many people were genuinely interested in watching the Cameron versus Miliband ‘debate’? Did it come a poor second to Gogglebox, The Mechanic, or Downton Abbey?

    For me, the Conservatives’ boy looked uncomfortable and twitchy. Miliband came across as having more fire in his belly, even though like Cameron, he stumbled on questions as to where the money for funding grand changes is going to come from.

    Numbers and statistics yet again proved difficult; those past, present and future predictions, were inevitably raised regarding immigration.

    There is no hiding something you simply don’t know the answer to. It’s how you deal with the curveball, and I was unimpressed that the immigration numbers weren’t checked out beforehand, they are hardly a curveball. Farage and co have made damn sure that the issue of immigration remains firmly in the public arena.

    The bacon sandwich reared its porcine head, unsurprisingly, as did the question of whether Labour would be viewed more positively if his brother David Miliband (deputising for Gordon Brown on occasion) was running the show. I have contemplated this question myself, and with no disrespect meant towards Ed. Shallow people sometimes like, dare I venture to say, ‘eye candy’.

    Both Cameron and Miliband had to deal with some awkward moments, and I think the latter dealt with it with greater aplomb which was seemingly reflected in the audiences’ overall response. He was frank about past mistakes whereas Cameron seemed to shuffle in seat and stick to the “long term plan” projection.

    Miliband, as Paxman pointed out, did ‘ask his own questions’, and sometimes steadied his ship by slating the other team – an all too common practice in political circles. At some point in any ‘debate’ the inheritance of a poisoned chalice from the previous government is a benchmark excuse for current failings.

    I think that Miliband’s choice of opting to go second paid off. Yes or No…did I think the ‘debate’ was a success – don’t know :-)

  4. David Conroy says:

    David Cameron avoided admitting breaking pledges, especially when asked about his current pledge not to raise VAT when he’d broken a previous pledge not to do so, and used statistics to obscure his government’s failings, eg the increase in use of food banks and the time scale for reducing the deficit – deliberately obscuring the difference between the deficit and national debt. But he does come over with charm and charisma and no doubt hopes these will stand him in good stead when his policies are exposed for the suffering they will bring.

    Ed Miliband comes over as ill at ease with himself although proved more adept at dealing with personal questions than I expected. What policies he enunciated appeared to be more helpful to the more needy section of the population but regretably did not detail sufficient policies to make an informed judgement.

    On balance I believe his policies will be better than Mt Cameron’s. I look forward to the parties manifestos and regret that the two leaders will not be questioned together (or better still debate together) after the manifetos are published. An obvious and quesionable ploy by Mr Cameron which underlines how tricksy he is.

    I believe Mr Miliband will be better for the country.

  5. Andrew Dundas says:

    When Labour is in office inequalities shrink. When Tories or Lib Dems are in office inequalities grow. Always.

    Reasoning is easy. Labour claims to represent ordinary workers, and mostly favours public sector employees. Tories pretend to be egalitarian and say that wide wealth differences are ‘inevitable’ and don’t need rolling back. Lib Dems want complicated and unworkable ‘proportional voting. The SNP are quite clear: they want out of the UK and into the EU as a one percent member.

    For this comfortable pensioner, inequalities are our biggest policy problem that must be solved.

  6. john sear says:

    The Cameron-Miliband TV debate was a staged predictable rehearsed event that told us nothing about either parties policies.

    As a Conservative supporter for many years I was disappointed with the PMs performance ; he seemed unduly nervous and didn’t give the impression he really wanted a second term.

    Ed Milliband I concede did unexpectedly come out on top with Paxman especially in the final few exchanges when Paxman realised that Miliband was not going to crack. I have never seen Paxman unable to get the better of a politician until that Miliband fight back.

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