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[Sticky] Snap Verdicts
Newsnight October 2013 (Ari Suchet and Alex Cardigan)
Snap verdict: Alex Cardigan victory
Energy prices were the topic of the week, although it often strayed into wider government policy on the economy.
Ari Suchet won the award for passion. But if you're going for the firebrand, you need to do it in a way that answers the question and clearly justifies what you're saying (whether as an intellectual appeal or an emotional one). Otherwise, it risk it coming off as a bit of a rant - and it was a bit on that side of it this time. Nationalising energy companies was dropped as a bombshell without little context or justification beyond "austerity". For something so radical, viewers needed more. With a bit of refinement - and it wouldn't need much - these arguments could have a lot more traction.
Alex Cardigan, on the other hand, deflected it with calm and considered answers. It wasn't a perfect performance - it wasn't entirely clear why getting borrowing down was brought up and it risked detracting from your central message that a cap doesn't work and investment is what is important. It was useful to use your coalition partners here, because they have more credibility than your own party on green issues and using that credibility supported your arguments.
Awards: +2 Media XP for Alex Cardigan
Tory Leadership Interviews Snap Verdict
Snap Verdict: Carpenter and Calhoun win.
Fairly limited in scope (apologies time constraints got to me), but informative in how each candidate performed and how they made their pitch to the membership of the Tories and the country at large. For a lot of the candidates these are first impressions and while first impressions matter, they can be changed (via a great or not so great campaign and some helpful endorsements.)
Mary Cambel had the dubious honour of going first, which is never easy and it showed in parts. Despite the initial promise, it looked like she somewhat wilted under the light and ran into some trouble that she didn't need to get into. Pitching herself as willing to listen on a referendum and using it as a stick to incentivise the EU into making concessions was by far the best moment. While members of the Tories all seem to vaguely like her, as the public got to know her something didn't sit right through the performance. Though approval ratings in the UK are notoriously flexible and should she make it to the run off and win, she'll have every chance to convince people that her performance was the exception and not the rule.
Then came Sir Jonathan Horncastle, who came in with a relatively healthy position and started out rather strong and direct. There wasn't much equivocating and the one word answer about the referendum made people pay attention. It seemed like he wasn't especially well prepared to go into a detailed discussion on which parts of the EU he wanted to see change in a hypothetical reforming period for it. Quoting Ronald Reagan was a bold move and despite going onto some shaky ground you recovered some composure towards the end of our segment on the EU. Being clear about respecting the vote on Syria certainly won some admirers, but unfortunately Laura didn't have time to keep going.
The third interviewee Deborah Carpenter was the first of our 'winners' (though they shouldn't let that get to their heads) to appear. You raised eyebrows when you answered the hypothetical on reopening the coalition agreement with the Lib Dems, but your desire to continue with the agreement as it was won some admirers. The issue of Syria was explored in more depth with Ms Carpenter, she made it very clear that she was in favour of intervention and disagreed with the house, but made it clear she wouldn't look to go back right away without at least attempting to persuade people. When confronted with some of the more unpalatable aspects of the coalition, you provided an answer that... while lacking in some regards was sweetened enough and presented well enough that people ate it up. You also had an ambitious program for the EU and didn't commit to a referendum, people certainly noticed that, whether you could achieve what you set out is the question on a lot of peoples minds. Overall a very solid performance.
Finally we had the surprise star Barclay Calhoun, honestly this was an impressive performance almost the whole way through. You were clear, detailed when you needed to be, combative at just the right time. My regret is that we got stuck in the EU quagmire (as we often do with the Tory party, am I right?), but you turned heads when you directly linked a cost to national sovereignty. When asked how you would pay for more police, you actually provided something resembling an answer, which was much appreciated and when confronted with the idea that leaving the EU would be as risky as raising taxes, you appealed to a particular current of British opinion that regards sovereignty as worth the risk, not a sentiment to be underestimated.
Overall (despite some difficulties, but it's worth remembering these are never easy) all of the candidates made at least some positive impression on the electorate and their own parties, whether that's reflected accurately in the polling is perhaps a matter for the pollsters, but opinion can change and we have a campaign to go.
Mary Cambel +1 media, Sir Jonathon Horncastle +1 Media, Deborah Carpenter +2 Media, Barclay Calhoun +2 Media
“Stalin: Stop sending people to kill me! We’ve already captured five of them, one with a bomb and another with a rifle… If you don’t stop sending killers, I’ll send one to Moscow, and I won’t have to send another” - Tito
Snap verdict: Narrow Manning win over Suchet; loss for entire Labour movement
My oh my. That was something wasn’t it? Let’s take it turn by turn.
Opening statements: A clear Manning win. Your opening statement was specific and conveyed a vision. Clever to start with “I am a socialist” given you are the least socialist of the three.
Q1, economy: Manning win purely by looking reasonably… reasonable, but what a disaster. Most people don’t know what capital is or why it’s sometimes spelled with a K. This is not a debate that spoke to anyone in the Labour Party, let alone the country.
Q2, public services: this was better for the party and our collective sanity. Manning made a solid try at justifying an open mind in grammar schools (and the personalisation – speaking directly to Sophie – was really good), but most Labour members do not have an open mind about them. Suchet’s answer was decent as were the points on grammars. Manning tried valiantly, but what you were saying really turned off a lot of people in the party. So, this is a victory for Suchet, despite Manning’s efforts.
Q3, Syria: A bit of a damp squib in the end. Manning repeated form by saying things a lot of people in the party didn’t want to hear but saying them well. Suchet could have pushed harder on a strong message with a sympathetic audience. As it is, I’ll call this a level draw.
Overall: Manning was the stronger performer, but was making difficult cases (especially on grammars). Suchet performed much more strongly than previous performances, but was not quite as polished – but emphasised the more moderate elements of her platform and principles rather than the bits that might scare more people off. Thornberry… I’m afraid that did not go well. Shouting “capital” does not win elections, even in the Labour party.
Rewards: +2 Media XP for Manning and Suchet.
Snap Verdict: MHC victory over Tim Farron (duh) - and a general good performance all around.
For people who didn't know, I offered MHC a variety of interviews he could take to big up his leadership campaign, and she coincidentally took the hardest one and is officially the first (though hopefully not last) player of the round to be Paxed.
So kudos there - Paxman is not the caricature a lot of people make him out to be, he probes and queries and communicates as much as he grills and provokes. But it doesn't remove the fact Morgan has had the most difficult interviewer of the round so far (though considering there was less to throw at you, not necessarily the most difficult interview).
And you handled it largely well. Throughout the interview you were calm and consistent. We're remembering that this interview exists to pitch you against an NPC other, but your message will be resonating amongst members more than Tim Farron's similar 'change is needed' pitch - and you champion those integral Liberal values your membership loves much more passionately.
You balanced the fine line of championing the coalition and looking sensible and statesmanlike while promising change and looking true to your values effectively, and I think you kept an interesting ability to half answer questions, or to convey messages you wanted to without appearing to scary to LD members or to the general public (e.g on the renegotiations, the 'change of pace' from Nick Clegg).
Some of the dancing around the questions were a little obvious, and through the 'are the Liberal Democrats really helping vulnerable people?' your discomfort showed a bit - but even then you responded with, what looks in the eyes of British people, decent policy.
This performance alone isn't going to turn around British public opinion on the Liberal Democrats - no single performance could. But it's a good start, and people are keeping a (tentative) eye on you, especially considering the interesting position the other two parties are in. More importantly is how it makes members view you, though, which is in a word great - this interview hit all the right notes, and you can rest assured even Farron voters will be more than happy to accept you as leader.
+2 media xp for MHC.
Snap verdict: A win for Graham Adiputera, and a good night for Dylan Macmillan
First of all - thanks to everyone who participated. Question time is hard and I appreciate the time your took. You all did a good job at various points, and there were no car crashes for the most part.
I'll take this question by question, but the overall message is that Graham Adiputera gave the most consistently positive performance. Dylan Macmillan was good, especially on the question that mattered for him, but was occasionally was a bit too wonkish. Croft... you were served up a right dog's dinner and if you didn't manage to completely flip the narrative, you did remain cool and collected under pressure. And Calvin Ward - your performance was largely good and you hit a couple of great soundbites, but it felt like you had an open goal on the firefighter question and didn't quite take it.
Q1 - LeakGate? MaryGate? MacGate? Whatever you know: Oh poor Croft. You got really ganged up on here, even from your coalition partner. You tried to hold your own but there's no shame in saying that this was a hard question for you. Graham A gave the most solid response to the question, which was devastating. Calvin Ward had a good line in his response - probably his best line of the night - with "calling for transparency isn’t treason. It’s getting through the muck of the matter and holding this government accountable, something they said they wanted on day one". Dylan M had a strong enough showing that he came out of it well. A decent Graham win.
Q2 - Firefighters: Croft held his own a lot better here, but I'm afraid undermined himself by taking the digs at his former Tory colleague a little too far. Dylan M then managed to score the best one liner of the night from someone other than Dimbleby - "I mean in fairness, you didn't really give me a chance to stick around." To be honest, no one was a stunner on this question. Ward - saying the "timing wasn't ideal" pleases no one. Croft you went in a bit too hard against the Unions - you're lucky you weren't called out for compromising negotiations you're leading with it. And Graham you were okay but it was a hard one for you given your coalition partners were leading it. Dylan Macmillan is probably the narrow winner, because he gave a surprisingly strong defence of the right to strike and the need for a compromise.
Q3 - Scotland: You were all painfully English about it. Especially Dylan. You all gave decent enough answers to it, but I doubt anyone north of the border was really convinced. A narrow win for Graham, whose answer did at least try to reach out.
- Graham +4 Media XP
- Mac +3 Media XP
- Croft +1 Media XP and +1 Policy XP; and another point on media for being a good sport about the jokes
- Calvin +2 Media XP
Saxon Newsnight interview
Verdict: Started off bad, but gradually improved and ended on an ok note.
The biggest fault in here for the Tories was that Paxman was specifically requested. I kind of get it: when you come in with a tough interviewer, and you come out on top or don't lose your cool, you look all the better for it. It's a risk. But risks must always be calculated when you're coming in with a tough interviewer: how much ammo do they have against you (in this case, a lot)? Is the aim of your interview something that can be conveyed much more effectively with a softer interviewer (if this was to announce the inquiry and more NHS funding, certainly). Is it really necessary? (There's no election period with your Shadow doing the same Pax interview to put pressure on you to follow suite).
As said before, the purpose of this interview, to me, looked like it was to announce some things that would go down well with voters, but you forget you're doing this through the medium of a tough interviewer with a bone to pick. And he picked that bone hard - and I think you knew it and didn't keep your cool in the right way. The threat to walk out didn't play well in the public - you weren't being scrutinised on a matter of principle and defending those, you were being held accountable over a controversial scandal.
After a gruelling first half of the interview, Pax decided he got what he wanted from you and moved onto territory you were more comfortable with. The health stuff looked a bit better. You didn't really answer Paxman's questions, which he picked you up on and that continued to show, but you got the message you wanted to across to the public with the announcements. The European stuff was even better - though never make the mistake of trying to step ahead of your interviewer and following with their flow (even if you have, which you didn't in this case, they won't like it), but Saxon looked more pragmatic and dutiful than some people would've previously given him credit for up until now.
Note: apologies for the lateness. My life has gotten hectic in conjunction with the game being hectic, new job (kind of), dental surgery, and then my energy has been spent making sure that the game doesn't collapse because everything just went down.
Verdict (not that it really matters): Cambel win. Suchet started off strong, though. Cambel's performance following was a bit more shaky.
What is the point of Prime Minister's Questions? It's to hold the government accountable, obviously, and ask the pressing questions that the public has. It's accountability and transparency in its finest. Right?
Sorry to burst anyone's bubbles, but wrong. PMQ's is entertainment, and showmanship, and - if you want to win, and most people in politics do - one upping. We can complain about the rows, the heckles and the bad jokes, but they're there for a reason.
Ari Suchet lost because she had the nice view of PMQs, whereas Cambel understood instinctively how you 'win' more. That wasn't to say Ari was bad: she started it off instinctively understanding how PMQs was meant to go, one upping Cambel on fiscal responsibility of all issues. This is where Suchet can learn how to do PMQs, by thinking of where she went right at the very beginning (and if she carried on on that tangent, she would've beaten Cambel by a country mile): make your questions themed and interlinked and make sure there's a purpose with every question - to humiliate, to reveal, and all of that jazz. If anyone wants more pointers from me or another admin, of course, feel free to contact.
Cambel's performance afterwards was a little more shaky; she answered the planted questions well, and deflected your cliche Labour critiques well too, but when it came to issues of heat - namely, the Macmillan amendments, things started to look sore, deflecting and personal. The spat with Dylan Macmillan was not a good look for the Prime Minister. Of course, in the hours following, we know it got a lot worse from there.
(Note: the response to Ari's SNP question was very, very good though. Well done).
Following Daily Politics
Verdict: Solid interview for Dylan Macmillan.
Macmillan made a good pundit here, which seemed to be his role temporarily, giving a decent assessment on what went on during PMQs. When posed with some difficult questions by Andrew Neil he seemed to defend himself quite well, though there were your odd stumbles and awkward corners in regards to whether he'd set up his own party. Short and sweet.
Verdict: Not perfect, but Suchet is improving and this was altogether an alright interview.
That's not to say that this was the perfect interview - it wasn't, and sometimes you did basically feed your opposition some attack lines they can use in this upcoming election (on referenda, on taxes and potentially on Syria). But Suchet does seem to be slowly and surely grasping the machinations of politics, the sacrifices that have to be made and the strategy you need to employ in order to assemble a winning coalition of voters.
Defence was funnily and surprisingly - and Suchet has been pulling out some surprises - the strongest part, with Suchet (wait for it) pulling a more moderate tone than Manning in some respects, and walking a fine but balanced line on trident and defence. The Syria stuff may incense some people, but admittedly it's sentiment most of the British public are ok with.
Even Europe was handled relatively well, with at least a semi decent case given for opposing a referendum, and you never properly crossed the line of implying Brexit supporters or referendum advocates were stupid or worthy of contempt - even if you toed that line; as I said, it wasn't perfect, but you toed the line and seemed to appreciate the electoral coalition Labour had.
Taxes were the worst bit. Look, I'm not saying it's fair, but if you're in the Labour Party - especially post 2010 - have an idea what you're going to spend and how you're going to pay for it. You can't announce on the dot, because you need to know how you're going to get it done. And if the pennies don't add up, you'll need a good economic rationale.
This doesn't immediately negate the case for a left wing programme and neither do your sums have to be super spot on (cough Labour 2017) - also, unless the Tories and media (us AVs) are sad (which is a possibility), with a few tweaks or overoptimistic projections no one will care too much. But you need to make your plans look achievable under the current economic situation. You looked like you were going to spend now and tax later - that makes voters anxious. I don't think they're inherently against taxes when you outline those taxes to them and make the case, but if you leave it to their imagination they're going to go for the worst case scenario.
Verdict: Great performance from all, but I think Manning eked out a win (but some of this was luck; more on this later).
Here's the thing: you weren't just all fine or ok - but you were all really good, so picking a verdict where there's no clear winner is hard.
On the floods you all struck a similar and probably the right tone; though on coalition negotiations Adiputera did stumble a little - it was slightly needless, as Summer and on twitter the PM defended you in a way the public would buy easily - but kudos to Manning for making a mountain out of a molehill but doing so effectively that the watching public would feel like there's a rat to be sniffed out. That said, it was only a very minor stumble, and I'm being nitpicky.
I think Summer did manage to do best on the referendum question and effectively tapped into - even if it's not, he certainly made it feel like - the public mood. Conceding there were important things on top of Europe, but that didn't mitigate the fundamental question, may - possibly counterintuitively - be a smart move to get a referendum in by the backdoor. Adiputera, however, despite being grilled, rebutted very effectively and made a very passionate and buyable case against a referendum.
Then there was the last bit we sprung on you all. Manning and Adiputera's coolness looked good, although this was somewhere you probably could've gone in for the kill a bit more. Summer's reaction is obviously going to go viral and he'll be the politician who is laughed at for the month - but it doesn't negate that you played the horror at the response correctly and didn't try to make excuses for your former ally - that would've been less mocked, would've been shared a little less widely - but it would've been much, much, much worse for your image in the long run.
Manning probably came out on top what you factor in all these debates overall. I'm not sure if Manning decisively won on any of the topics, but was consistently extremely strong throughout. I imagine this performance could've been significantly worse had there been a bit more time - 'taxed to oblivion' was a line looking to be torn apart - but you were saved by the breaking news. Redtops will still make punches, but not having Neil grill you on it meant it didn't resonate as badly as it could've.
(As I said, you all got +2 media each for being great).