Farage might have won the live debate but Clegg triumphed in the news packages. And more people watch the news

by Atul Hatwal

A thumping victory for Farage. That was the consensus following last night’s big debate. The pundits said it, the polls said it; there was little doubt.

But for people like me, who didn’t see the debate, and whose only sight of the combatants was on the evening news, the result was very different.

In the contest of the clips, Clegg was the winner.

This doesn’t mean that the verdict of those who saw the live debate was wrong. Just that, as so often is the case, the highlights reel told a different story.

The BBC News at Ten package, which would have had the most viewers, focused on four passages in the debate: the clash over Putin, immigration, past Lib Dem promises of a referendum and the closing statements.

Nick Robinson’s report can be seen here.

While Farage had the upper hand in the latter two exchanges, the first two were the most resonant.

On Putin, the key moment was when David Dimbleby intervened to contradict Nigel Farage’s assertion that he had never said he “admired Putin.”

Although most viewers are likely to have minimal interest in Nigel Farage’s position on Vladimir Putin, it’s always extremely powerful when the neutral debate moderator intervenes against one of the participants.

Quite apart from the topic under discussion, it sends a clear message to the viewing public that this politician isn’t being straight with the audience.

On immigration, again, it wasn’t the subject that hurt Farage, but the way the discussion played out.

In response to Nick Clegg brandishing a UKIP leaflet, Nigel Farage looked every inch the dissembling politician when he tried to disavow it claiming he “didn’t recognise the leaflet.”

Although the public probably agreed with Nigel Farage on the substance of the immigration exchange, the manner of his smirking, attempted denial fundamentally cut across his definition as an honest outsider taking on the political classes.

In that clip, he comes across as a typically inauthentic, slippery politico.

When Nigel Farage responded by holding up a Lib Dem leaflet from 2008, promising a referendum, it was Nick Clegg’s turn to look like a compromised politician. The Clegg response included in the package doesn’t even address Farage’s clear point on a broken Lib Dem promise.

And in the excerpts of the final closing statements it was Nigel Farage that offered a more impassioned, empowering call to action on leaving Europe than Nick Clegg’s realistic though somewhat downbeat peroration to stay in.

Across this four minute package, the winner, on balance, was Clegg because he was on the right side of the two stand-out moments, David Dimbleby’s intervention and the squirming non-denial denial about the immigration leaflet.

For the majority of those that watched the entire debate, the result was reversed. And given this small community includes the journalists, press reports of the contest have largely led on a big Farage victory.

But most voters have only a passing interest in the reports and only a tiny minority will have watched the whole event live.

The nightly news is where the British public will have had greatest exposure to Clegg/Farage round two, and in this medium of clips and commentary, Nick Clegg posted a much stronger showing.

This distinction, between live performance and reported highlights, is often missed in the Westminster twitcycle of minute to minute comment. But it is something all parties will need to bear in mind next year when it comes to the general election debates.

Because when it comes to directly speaking to voters, better to win on the news packages than in the live debate.

Atul Hatwal is editor of Uncut


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4 Responses to “Farage might have won the live debate but Clegg triumphed in the news packages. And more people watch the news”

  1. Tafia says:

    Farage might have won the live debate but Clegg triumphed in the news packages.

    He didn’t though. Even on the news clips Clegg came across as hysterical, ranting and not genuine. And the news clips concentrated in the main on Syria and Russia and the vast bulk of the UK population are not interested in either other than supporting Farage’s position of ‘shame, but none of our business’ (you can thank Blair for that attitude by the public).

    Clegg attempted to use the debate as a springboard for wider issues (such as Syria and Ukraine – both of which the general public couldn’t give a toss about other than not wanting involvement) and it has backfired very very badly on him and the pro-EU lobby. He also tried to be a tough guy and ended up looking a bit of a fanny and weak. Never try to be a tough guy if you don’t like having your face smashed in – you just look stupid.

    The polling figures for the supporters of the various main parties make interesting reading – and if I was a Lib Dem or Labour official I would be very worried and very disappointed.

    The established parties haven’t grasped a basic thing here – a substantial amount of people are (quite rightly) pissed off with professional politicians and will side with anyone who isn’t one. Cameron and Milliband would have fared equally as badly. Probably only an unconventional politician such as Salmond would fare better.

    That’s two debates now. In the first Clegg couldn’t get the better of a Farage who’d just come out of the pub and in this second one he couldn’t get the better playing the big man.

  2. swatantra says:

    If you’ve ever seen ‘Gogglebox’, you’ll know that people don’t watch TV in silence in a passive way but actually talk to their TV, or when Clegg and Osborne and Balls are on, throw things at it. and when Farage or Boris are on then they shout: ‘Good show old bean’ or curse and swear blue murder and yell ‘you@idiot’ or ‘buffoon’ or ‘clown’.
    They don’t sit down and watch the ‘News ‘but drift in and out of the kitchen putting on the kettle or bathroom taking a comfort break. This is the level of political understanding of the electorate that all Parties have to put up with.

  3. Ex Labour says:

    Atul, what did you expect from Robinson and the BBC ? Two former DG’s have stated it is institutionaly left wing and two former news presenters have stated publically that BBC news is driven by what’s in the Guardian, you only have to listen to say ‘Today’ on Radio 4 to hear the non-stop propoganda particularly on issues such as the EU. Evan Davis especially should leave his personal politics at home such is the clear bias shown in his treatment of those who do not buy into the socialist narrative. The news clips and correspondent puff piece will be skewed towards their pet project.

    Clegg showed himself to be the actual Nick Clegg people in Sheffield know and that is more the Nasty Nick who is conceited, self indulgent, arrogant, patronising and very economical with the truth.

  4. Here’s a way to access BBC Iplayer readily from america by hiding your accurate place and using a British ip-address. It Is quick and simple to use and demo really working in this video.

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