I, like millions of others in the UK watched intently to the performance of the 3 leaders of the biggest national parties in the country.
Whilst I was expecting to listen to 90 minutes of repeated sound-bytes, manifesto promises and policy spin, what I was not necessarily expecting was the level of interaction between the 3 leaders themselves, and for the first time the ability to view and analyse their real individual presentational skills.
Yes it was all very rehearsed and had an air of contrived politeness about it, but it emphasised for me the method by which each of the three decided to address the public when it was their turn to answer questions put to them.
Brown as ever wanted to churn out the tractor stats, attempting to make us believe that after 13 years of getting it wrong, he now has a miraculous ability to put it right again. Quoting figures for each subject that under scrutiny are different yet again to what he has reported to parliament and various committees, in a manner that allowed him to ignore all the previous wrongs that was so calm and collected that I have rarely seen in anyone other than professional con men.
Cameron on the other hand looked frit. As the professional PR man amongst them everyone was expecting him to take control of the floor and in turn the debate, yet his demeanour was of a shrinking violet rather than a potential statesman, and to me at least he came across as nervous, edgy, shifty and unsure of the pseudo marxist policies that he is selling. A man trying to sell you something that he instinctivly knows is wrong and it showed in his pitch.
Then we come to Clegg. He surprised everyone including me. Confident and assured he looked directly into the camera, made copious notes that he made good use of in his summing up, addressed people directly and made excellent use of his ability to stop the other two in their tracks if he felt what they were saying was wrong.
I dont necessarily think that the message that Nick Clegg is selling is the right one for Britain, but his personal ability given this uniquely equal opportunity to sell it to the audience and the nation is a lesson for all.
And that now brings me to LPUK and its own leader Chris Mounsey. It is a subject that I have avoided commenting on until now. I have waited for the plethora of commenters to finish having their say and weighed up the varied and sometimes opinionated views of those who both support and oppose his latest moves.
Chris Mounsey has made two TV appearances this week. That in itself should be cause for celebration for such a small party to get that kind of national exposure, but in both cases it has caused much angst.
The first show The Big Question hosted by Niki Campbell is and always has been a kind of political Jeremy Kyle show. It looks for controversy and it chooses its panels carefully, looking always for the extremes of its subject matter, yet always uses a multitude of fake charities to push the government line. It is not a new show, it is not unknown, yet Chris Mounsey failed to do the necessary homework required to understand that it was not the subject that was to be debated, but the opposition to it, and in keeping with the modis of the show, to personally decimate those who would oppose it.
The second show, Daily Politics hosted by Andrew Neil. What should have been an excellent outlet for Libertarian policy was in simple terms a personal ambush. But, having said that, it was an ambush with a message.
Two TV shows, two personal attacks. The messages are being sent. It is a message that the media are perhaps in one of two modes.
The first mode is that they want to destroy, and two short appearances on national TV may have served their purpose, but the other, and I am perhaps feeling optimistic here, is that the media have decided that it is time to include the Libertarian message as part of the bigger mix of political life.
I cannot believe that Andrew Neil would have used up valuable airtime simply to extract an apology from a blogger for a Trades Union leader, so I am inclined to think that it was a personal message to Chris. We want to engage, but you Mr Mounsey have got to begin to start thinking, acting and presenting yourselves as a politician if you ever want to come back again.
One of the messages that I got loud and clear when I held the LPUK party leadership was that for that period I was the face of the party. That whatever I did, said, wrote would always be seen as being on behalf of the party. My dress and demeanour being just as important as the words. Personal views you keep to yourself, they would always be perceived as party views and my blog was as much a voice of the party as the official LPUK site. The public perception to political activity is a public affair if votes are to be gained.
Looking back at the leaders debate, this is a lesson that Nick Clegg has learned well, thinking, acting and presenting himself as a viable politician, and that his presentation has reflected well on his party as much as himself. Chris Mounsey now has to do the same, if only to support the candidates that his party has standing for election.
Its been a tough week for Chris Mounsey, and I feel for him. His immediate actions in the wake of these shows tell me that some of this has has already hit home, but there is still more to do. The ranting of the Kitchen may have gone, but will the Knife have the ability to be as cutting in an acceptable political sense, remembering that in the public’s eye whatever the party leader writes will be considered policy, and will his political activities now be better presented and reported on the LPUK website and blog.
In the world of party leaders, whether they be big or small, just getting the message out is not enough, being angry is frowned upon and being rude or vitriolic is dismissed. In today’s media driven political world, as Nick Clegg proved last night, presentation is everything.
I am pleased that Chris was the one who took over the reigns as party leader and I trust that the context of this posting is taken in the best of ways, although I can’t help wondering whether the next time I get to meet him he will be as immaculately dressed and looking every part the politician as the three bears were in the leaders debate.