I stayed up late last night to watch the recorded UK election debate between the leaders of Britain’s top three parties, Gordon Brown (Labour), David Cameron (Conservatives) and Nick Clegg (Liberal Democrats, or Lib Dems).
I had not watched or read the commentaries about the debate before I watched it, but less than half way through the debate, after making an assessment of their performance and policies, I keyed this Tweet into my mobile: “(geraldgiam) is watching the UK election debate on CNA between Brown, Cameron & Clegg. I think LibDems are going to cause a tsunami”.
The results of the post-debate opinion poll go some way in validating this. Nick Clegg of the Lib Dems was the “runaway winner”, according to The Times. Three-fifths of those questioned (61 per cent) said Clegg was the winner. This compared with 22 per cent naming David Cameron and 17 per cent Gordon Brown. Even more shockingly, after the debate 41 per cent said they would most like to see Clegg as prime minister, against 36 per cent for Cameron and 23 per cent for Brown. As many as 68 per cent say it makes them more likely to vote for the Liberal Democrats. This puts the Lib Dems on course to score big in the May 6 polls. They will without a doubt increase the number of seats they hold in the House of Commons, the lower house of Parliament.
This is an amazing result, given that most people (at least outside Britain) had never heard of Nick Clegg or the Lib Dems prior to this debate. The Lib Dems are a relatively new party, formed only in 1988. They currently occupy only 63 out of 646 seats in the House of Commons. Because of this, politics in the UK for the past 60-odd years has been dominated by just two parties, the Labour Party and the Conservatives, or Tories.
Nevertheless, in all his statements and his party’s Manifesto, you have only seen Nick Clegg talk about his plans when he becomes Prime Minister, not a leader of a minor opposition party in Parliament. I think Clegg has done a good job in sticking to his key message–“fairness”–and portraying his party as a credible choice apart from Labour and the Tories. Opposition parties in Singapore should study the Lib Dems and learn lessons on how a minor party can punch above its weight at the polls against the incumbent powers.
Here are the closing statements of the three leaders. Clegg’s at at 3:02 onwards.