Two main British political parties concede defeat in 1st TV debate

14:17, April 18, 2010      

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Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown (R), opposition Conservative Party leader David Cameron and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg (L) take part in the first of Britain's leadership election debates at ITV studios with television moderator Alastair Stewart (2nd R) in Manchester April 15, 2010. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)

The British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and the leader of the main opposition party David Cameron have conceded defeat in Thursday night's historic live TV debate to Nick Clegg, leader of the smaller, third party in British politics.

The leaders of Britain's three main political parties met in the northern England city of Manchester on Thursday evening for a live TV debate, an historic first for British politics.

Both Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Cameron were widely perceived by viewers and pundits to have been beaten in the TV debate by Clegg, leader of the Lib Dems.

Brown said in reaction to the debate on Friday that "I think Nick Clegg was introducing himself in many ways to the public, nationally, for the first time and I think he will be rightly pleased with his performance."

While out campaigning on Friday, Cameron conceded Clegg had had a good debate, "He did have a very good debate, I completely accept that."

Clegg himself was modest, telling reporters as he campaigned in the north of England on Friday that "I think people get slightly carried away with these things. There was a leaders' debate, which was good."

"I think it was an important step, in a sense it was the first step of the campaign proper and I hope that myself and the Liberal Democrats have now been granted a hearing, that we now have the right to be listened to. But I wouldn't state it more strongly than that."

As spin doctors, media spokespeople, attempted to place their respective leaders in the best light on Thursday evening in the immediate aftermath of the debate, the viewing public delivered their verdict on the 90-minute, live, uninterrupted debate.

In a series of opinion polls for different organizations and using different methods, they consistently rated the performance of Clegg as the best by quite a wide margin, followed by Cameron and with Brown trailing in third. An immediate poll by ComRes carried out for ITV, the TV channel which broadcast the debate, put Clegg on 43 percent, with Cameron on 26 percent and Brown on 20 percent.

The final analysis on Friday of the same poll extrapolated across the British adult population put the Conservatives on 35 percent, Labour on 28 percent and the Lib Dems on 24 percent. This compares to the ComRes poll for the same channel the day before the debate showing Conservatives on 35 percent, Labour on 29 percent and Lib Dems on 21 percent.

Of the 4,000 sample of viewers who watched the debate, their voting intentions are now Conservative 36 percent, Labour 24 percent and Lib Dems 35 percent. This compares to their stated voting intentions prior to the debate which stood at Conservative 39 percent, Labour at 27 percent and Lib Dems at 21 percent.

The Lib Dems, and their forerunners the Liberals, have been a small, third force in British politics for 90 years. They had been a major force alongside the Conservatives but split in the wake of the First World War and were eclipsed by Labour.

There are two further TV debates, with the second being next Thursday which will focus on foreign affairs. The Lib Dems may do well in this as they opposed the war in Iraq, and have criticized the government's foreign policy.

Source: Xinhua


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