3 Apr 2015

Leaders’ debate: Nicola Sturgeon’s national ‘debut’?

Michael Gove just called Nicola Sturgeon a “debutante” on Radio 4’s Today programme and a “very impressive one” – he’s a man of formidable vocabulary and you can’t help thinking he wanted to goad and big up the First Minister at the same time.through-the-years3
George Osborne’s first responses in the spin room last night included praise for the First Minister. I’m not sure the SNP needs their kind offer of help. After the debate, the SNP team had real-time connection to its own party membership statistics on an iPhone and it was extraordinary to watch the tally click round – 1500+ new members from 8pm onwards.

Read more: General Election 2015 – live blog

In the fog of war last night the YouGov poll of voting intention taken before the debate got slightly lost. It suggested the Tories on 37 per cent and the Labour Party in 35 per cent. At the last election, across the UK as whole, the combined Tory/Labour share of the vote was 29 + 36 = 65. YouGov’s poll for The Sun suggests that could be higher, 69 per cent, if the election had just happened. Worth remembering as well some estimates that we’ve lost 1 million voters largely through the change in registration and that could mean the two main parties getting a bigger joint share from a smaller turn out.

It just reminds you how unpredictable everything still is. Slippage in Nigel Farage’s Ukip was the main driver of the Tory revival according the Ukip poll. That could halt and turn round for a bit after last night but will they slide again?

I’m told the Ukip leader kicked off his pre-debate prep in ITV hospitality with two gins and tonics and a glass of red. Labour’s team were accusing the PM last night of playing for a draw and they were probably on to something. Nick Clegg on the other hand sounds like he thought he might actually score a win. He was overheard leaving the debate saying he thought he’d “under-performed.”

The problem with judging performances last night is that people were often playing to different constituencies – like trying to judge who won when you’re looking at a stadium in which some are playing football, some hockey and some polo.

As for the instant debate polls, One opinion pollster in an unguarded moment once described post debate polls as “to be honest bollocks all bollocks – a way to get our name in the papers.” Apologies to my friends in polling but I can’t believe this is the work of which they are proudest.

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