“Hell yes, I’m tough enough. I stood up against the Leader of the Free World!”, Labour leader Ed Milliband responded firmly against the allegations that he might not be tough enough to run the UK, referring to his outright disapproval of British involvement in the bombing of Syria. Struggling to properly answer the hosts questions about his economic policy plans – he wants to increase lending but decrease spending – he suddenly becomes very calm and confident when host Jeremy Paxman mentions the public fear that he might not be tough enough, “I’m the best choice to be prime minister.”
Thursday, March 26, both Conservative leader David Cameron and Labour leader Ed Milliband were thoroughly questioned – grilled even, according to some – about their plans for the future of the United Kingdom. For the first time in British history, the UK could witness live US-style general election “debates” on their televisions. Debate between quotation marks, because the two leaders were not actually in a direct debate. They both had to endure an 18-minute Q&A individually. The verdict turned out to be in favour of Cameron, achieving a 54% victory.
Ed Milliband’s self-confidence appeared just a bit too staged.
The General Election Debates are held in preparation for the national elections on May 7. Whereas Cameron was generally perceived as calm and well-prepared, Milliband was judged too chaotic. Still, some eyebrows were raised at Cameron’s refusal for a face-to-face debate and even though Milliband lost the polls, his performance exceeded many expectations. UKIP leader Nigel Farage even awarded Milliband an outright victory, stating that his personality gave him the win.
Admittedly, Milliband did have his strong moment where he could genuinely bring across his conviction of his own leadership skills. Yet, in contrast with his occasional stutters in the more substantial parts of the debate – concerning concrete economic plans – this self-confidence appeared just a bit too staged. Cameron, on the other hand, seemed better able to handle the tough questions of Jeremy Paxman. Nevertheless, the prime minister was brought out of balance when confronted with the immense rise in numbers of foodbanks. Neither were fully convincing but then again, the debates have just started.
Funnily enough, many celebrities and other public figures have declared a very unexpected winner of the debate: host Jeremy Paxman. After a nine-month break of political interviewing, Paxmans performance was described as “bloody, bloody good”. Hopefully we can witness his trademark raised eyebrows and sarcastic comments again in the next round, Thursday, April 2.