Watching the Sky News coverage of the start of the election campaign, I thought, ‘start as you mean to carry on’, as a useful metaphor for the three party leaders performances in opening their campaigns:
David Cameron, first to speak, moments after Gordon Brown returned to Downing Street. Addressing an enthusiastic crowd of supporters outside old County Hall, over the river from the Houses of Parliament, spoke of the need for change, choosing the path to prosperity over the road to ruin, all optimism, hope, and need for renewal. A genuinely impressive, and confident performance. Interesting references to people power, big society, and reshaping Westminster-based politics. If he wins, he may be a truly transformative prime minister, there were echoes of this in his speech.
Stage managed for TV, after Cameron had finished speaking, Gordon Brown, flanked by his cabinet ministers, outside Downing Street, announced the election date. Beginning hesitatingly, spoke of his middle class background and his values. Then spoke of the choice facing the electorate, asking them for mandates to continue work to secure the recovery, not putting hard-won work at risk, continuing the work to create a fairer society, and create a cleaner politics. Not the hint of a smile crossed his face. Just the dourness and earnestness you expect from Gordon Brown.
Then to Nick Clegg, speaking to a handful of party workers inside, I guess, LibDem headquarters. His message was about the re-shaping of British politics, by voting LibDem. Unfortunately, he didn’t espouse the reasons for voting LibDem, merely encouraging his audience to work harder, and to enjoy it.
So, there you have it. Summed up in three words for each opening pitch. Cameron: energy, change, optimism. Brown: secure, stable, trust. Clegg: sorry, I’m struggling to remember the impression he created, other than that of vacuity.
Wonder if the three TV debates confirm these initial opinions.