Friday, November 04, 2005

 

Dave Vs David

The confrontation between David Davis and David Cameron on Question Time last night was interesting enough to have me hurrying home from the pub; but, as so often with such hyped up bouts, it promised more than it delivered. It was important because:

a) it was the only time most of the voters in the contest- paid up members of the Conservative Party- would get to see the candidates at the same time, engaged in a head to head debate.
b)the voting papers are being sent out today and, as experience from earlier contests suggests that votes come back in almost immediately, it would be fair to assume this debate might prove decisive for many votes- already being cast and posted as I write this posting.
c) as David Davis was running far behind in the polls, this was the chance for him to rectify the perception of him as a bit boring and uninspiring.
d) this debate was a 'first' in British politics and, if successful, would strengthen the case for a US style debate during General Elections.

How did it go? Well, it was decorous, polite and sort of interesting, but it did not grip one's attention and after five minutes I wondered if I'd been mistaken to leave almost a pint of Hydes bitter back in the pub in order to watch. Davis did better than at Blackpool but did not emerge as charismatic. Cameron did maybe less well than his well rehearsed performance at Blackpool. But he made no major gaffes and gave a reasonable account of himself. He was less charismatic simply because he could not know questions in advance and spend time rehearsing his answers. So, because of the different medium, his thespian talents were less in evidence.

Both seemed to agree more than disagree and there was much matiness until close to end of the programme when Davis suddenly showed the trademark steel which some say is both his greatest asset as an attacking politician and disadvantage as a team player. A questioner accused Dave of waffly non specificity on policies and David pounced by decsribing this as the biggest difference between them. Davis maintained vagueness was a Blair characteristic and that this was not the time to ape the hated chameleon in Number Ten. A shrewd blow this as Dave is often dubbed the 'Tory Blair'and David supporters have predicted the 'bubble' of Cameron's shallow popularity would be exposed during the campaign just as Blair's had over the last eight years. Dave answered, perfectly reasonably in my view, that it was too early to go specific and that what Davis seemed to be suggesting smacked even more of Blair's practice of 'new policy a day for each new problem'.

But the blow had struck home, one felt, and so did the audience in the studio. Cameron DOES tend to waffle and rely overmuch on his personable charm and this weakness was hereby nailed in the debate. But Davis, while scoring a blow of sorts here, did nothing much else either right or wrong. Probably his ratings will improve as they will benefit from the 'correction' of his poor showing at the recent conference in Blackpool. I would expect cameron to be still leading in the polls and to go on and win. But the debate certainly reinforced the arguments for something similar between the PM and Opposition leader at our next General Election.

Blunkett Note
Having predicted Cameron will win I have to return to my wrong forecast that Blunkett was not fired but offered his resignation. A report in The Guardian today says Blair decided to fire him shortly after his interview Wednesday morning- so he 'cut the rope' after all, deciding Blunkett had become a liability at a time when he did not need any more liabilities.

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