As the spin-room packs up after the only TV debate the PM will take part in, what has really changed? The candidates were prepped for weeks, even Natalie Bennett remembered her talking points, each will have gotten something from the debate. Cameron got to look Prime Ministerial, Miliband looked a lot better than the he does when eating a bacon sandwich, Farage confirmed his Marmite status, fervently liked and disliked, Sturgeon really showed her mettle. Clegg was reasonable, Leanne Wood will have made them proud back in Wales. The spin-doctors will highlight where their candidate won on the issues, satisfied at least that their candidate didn’t screw up.
On the numbers there was a great deal of variation between the pollsters on the key question of who won the debate? Leaving out the also rans of Clegg, Bennett and Wood the pollsters really differed – ICM said Miliband shaded it on 25% and Sturgeon came fourth after Cameron and Farage, YouGov had it in exactly the opposite order with Sturgeon first, followed by Farage, Cameron and then Miliband on only 15%. The double digit difference between first and fourth place and the exact reversing of the order does nothing for the collective credibility of pollsters.
In these circumstances is averaging the poll results really meaningful? There was more clarity with the issue based polling which confirmed what we already know; Cameron is a clear winner on the economy, Miliband wins on the NHS and Farage wins on immigration. No news…
Did the TV debate enhance democracy? Last night two-thirds of TV viewers didn’t even care enough to watch the TV show that the political class has obsessed over for months. With only 7 million viewers it had a million fewer viewers than that other exemplar of participatory democracy, The Voice.