Page last updated at 08:18 GMT, Friday, 23 April 2010 09:18 UK

Picking over prime ministerial debate II


Leaders' debate: The highlights

By Finlo Rohrer
BBC News Magazine

The first televised prime ministerial debate was watched by 9.4 million people leading to real anticipation before the sequel.

The leaders clashed over their respective policies on Europe, immigration, foreign affairs, pensions and MPs' expenses, but never mind the policy, what about the way they conducted themselves?

The Magazine has assembled a team of experts to assess the debates from a non-political perspective

There was spice in the second debate, with animated exchanges over free eye tests for pensioners, Europe, and immigration.

We've brought together a panel of experts to rate the leaders and the event itself.


Dr Max Atkinson
NAME: Max Atkinson
EXPERTISE: Public speaking and speechwriting

After the unfamiliar country of the first week, David Cameron and Gordon Brown did not repeat their error of failing to realise they were in a three-cornered debate, says Max Atkinson.

"Brown and Cameron made the mistake of thinking it was a two-party debate with a sideshow. Last week that made it very easy for Clegg."

Mr Clegg built on his success of the previous week by again trying to use phrases laden with imagery such as his line about things collapsing into a game of "political ping pong".

David Cameron was very happy to repeat his key points. One of his highlights was when he said: "What you are hearing from the other two is, frankly, do not trust the people. Do not ask them when you pass powers from Westminster to Brussels."

"He is very good at cranking out the key rhetorical techniques," says Atkinson.

Gordon Brown
Gordon Brown got the biggest laugh of the evening

Despite many pundits' lack of enthusiasm for Mr Brown's "jokes", he did seem to amuse the audience at one point early on with his reference to Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg as being like his children at bathtime.

"It was a major victory for Brown that he got the only laugh."

The only other semi-guffaw was when Mr Cameron said "I agree with Gordon".

Mr Brown's other high point came when he said: "I am afraid David is anti-European, Nick is anti- American. Both of them are out of touch with reality."

The second debate was also notable for the way slangy speech crept in. Gordon Brown told Mr Clegg to "get real" over the threat from Iran and his attitude to Trident. Mr Clegg immediately picked up on it.

Ceril Campbell
NAME:Ceril Campbell
EXPERTISE: Celebrity stylist and personal coach

Ceril Campbell watched the debate with 15 women aged 20-50 from a class she was giving in making the most of first appearances.

The choice of ties was again interesting this week.

"Gordon brown had a red tie on this week. I think he had the red tie because a lot of people said 'why the pink tie last week'. Red is Labour. 'This is who I am'."

Mr Brown was looking better than normal.

"Gordon Brown was sharper in his style. His tie was straight. He still had a pale blue shirt and a navy suit. His hair has been restyled and he looks younger and fresher. Either he had a make-up artist who was much cleverer, who used light reflecting concealer under his eyes. He looked less tired."

The three ties
Messrs Brown and Clegg went with party colours while Mr Cameron went for regal purple

After last week's Conservative-blue tie, Mr Cameron had made a departure.

"Cameron had a purple tie. Purple is always quite regal. Maybe it was a good call."

But his style had been subtly altered to make him seem a little less pristine.

"He always looked very clean cut. He practically looks too clean cut, too groomed. His hair had been cut a bit more modern, untidiness put into it."

Like Mr Brown, Mr Clegg looked sharper in his suit, suggests Campbell.

"It looked more made-to-measure; fitted him better, smarter, more sharp."

The overall effect was that he wanted to be taken seriously.

"All three of them were tweaked in some way or other," says Campbell.

One thing the ladies in her group did not like was the state of the candidates' orthodontistry.

"It was the first time they had noticed Gordon Brown's teeth."

Jason Vit
NAME: Jason Vit
EXPERTISE: ESU debate coach

"For all three the performance was much better than last time," says Jason Vit.

David Cameron seemed to have made a positive change.

"Cameron looked far more relaxed throughout. He enjoyed himself. As a result he was easier to follow as a speaker."

Opting for the portrayal of himself as a knowledgeable and steady hand on the tiller, Gordon Brown provided some continuity from the first debate.

"Brown carried on with the appeal to personal authority a lot of references to past achievements trying to pin all of his arguments and ideas on the notion of 'I know what's gone on in the past'."

Nick Clegg
Nick Clegg was more aggressive in his approach

Of all the party leader's Mr Clegg had perhaps made the greatest departure from his first week debating style. He chose to interrupt the other leaders on a number of occasions.

"Clegg's style was far more aggressive in terms of debating tactics. He was up for going toe-to-toe. There was always a risk the audience would be put off by the new aggressive Clegg."

After pundits last week picked up on the slew of little anecdotes conjured by the candidates, this week there was less.

"There was far less of I met this person in town X, a lot less of trying to reference individual examples and personal experiences."

With Nick Clegg having ridden high for a week off the back of his performance in the first debate, the other leaders were consciously fine-tuning their debate tactics.

"We didn't have Brown saying I agree with Nick. We had all of the parties trying to lump the other two together."


Dr Harry Witchel
NAME: Harry Witchel
EXPERTISE: Body language and psychobiology

From a body language perspective all three were more confident than last week, says Harry Witchel.

"Cameron came across more statesmanlike. Clegg was more relaxed. Brown became more controlled."

Mr Cameron's improvements in the way he stood and placed his weight were noticeable.

"David Cameron has improved - he was less anxious. His legs were together. His posture was not leaning back. His head was not tilted back. Anything moving away from the audience is disengaging. Judging by his shoulders Cameron was much more confident."

Mr Clegg again showed excellent use of non-verbal communication. He was not derailed by an interruption by the presenter to the allegations over party funding.

The three leaders wait to be called in
Pundits noticed a genuine three-way debate had sprung up

"Within one sentence he had dismissed it and without missing a beat when he looked at the audience he reengaged with the girl who had asked the original question."

Gordon Brown had made improvements but had also allowed bad habits to creep back in, Witchel says.

"He did maintain his serious demeanour but it was undermined by his terrible smile. His grin reappeared whenever he was proud of what he had just said."

Witchel identified Brown's "claw hand" as a problem, a tendency to stiffen his hand like a claw and wave it back and forth while making a point.

Overall though, the three candidates had done well, suggests Witchel.

"There were no body language gaffes."


Anila Baig
NAME: Anila Baig
EXPERTISE: Features writer and former TV reviewer

Slick and smooth. No, not the well rehearsed politicians but the coverage of the TV debate on Sky, says Anila Baig. "When it comes to the all-important question of who won surely the answer was clear - Sky."

There was more of a build up - "a whole day of excitement" in Bristol unfolding in minute detail.

"I was more prepared this time, put the kettle on before the debate started, and settled down for the duration. Then came the dramatic music and the set. It was altogether a more serious affair even though it did more closely resemble X Factor with Adam Boulton the lone judge in front of the three performers."

The three leaders
All three seemed more relaxed to the pundits

Baig, who works for the Sun newspaper, which, with Sky, is owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, suggests that unlike ITV's broadcast, there were no funny camera angles, and no sound problems.

"Okay, so the set did remind me a little of British Airways with red white and blue but the news strapline, the ticker, was yellow at least so included them all."

There were no jokes from Gordon Brown this time, notes Baig. "He was very serious, apart from when he referred to Clegg and Cam as his two kids at bathtime, Nick Clegg did his earnest looking into the camera and repeated: 'Safer together, weaker apart.' At one point they were so together I couldn't tell them apart."

There were shots of the audience and views from the politicians from the back.

"But alas, like last week, I admit I strayed. The clock was very handy but the question on immigration we had last week and I switched over to Have I Got News For You Again where Paul Merton made a joke about the volcano giving us a message on who to vote for in the election: 'Ash down.'

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