Last night, the first leaders’ debate for the upcoming Scottish Parliament Elections took place with a record number of participants. There were 6 parties represented on stage, so how did each of them do?
SNP – Nicola Sturgeon
Tonight wasn’t a good night for the Scottish Government. For a party polling at roughly 50%, Sturgeon got far less screen time than she was entitled to, and when she did, she came under heavy attack.
The centrist, pro-business faction of SNP supporters will have had doubts cast in their minds after an onslaught from Ruth Davison and the Tories. That base will be wavering after tonight, presented with an alternative which may do a better job of representing their views.
As for their core leftist support, Sturgeon’s in big trouble. Labour, the Greens and it seemed even the Lib Dems all cast themselves as the progressive alternatives to an under-delivering government.
The SNP’s role as champion of the left will have been seriously cast in doubt.
Labour – Kezia Dugdale
Dugdale went into the kill from the start. In terms of the policies, she had it bang on. Her party needs to bring back their old socialist working class voters, and presenting themselves as a radical alternative was the right direction to aim for. The only problem was where they were coming from.
Scottish Labour is widely regarded as a desperate, unelectable force in Scotland.
The fact that in less than a year, the Scottish people will have gone from seeing an arch-Blairite as the representative of this party on TV, to a self-proclaimed socialist will seriously take their authenticity into consideration.
In terms of delivery, Dugdale seemed desperate.
Conservatives – Ruth Davison
Ruth Davison had a good night tonight. In the context of all other parties fighting for the leftist vote, and UKIP being…well UKIP, the Tories planted themselves firmly in an unoccupied centre-ground. For moderate, pragmatic, pro-business voters watching, Davison delivered their message.
Both her delivery and policy was exactly what the Tories need if they hope to become the official opposition this May.
Liberal Democrats – Willie Rennie
In terms of policy, Rennie seemed to be targeting the progressive, centre-left ground of Scottish politics. Given that this is the most heavily crowded arena, with both the SNP and Labour battling it out already, there wasn’t for the Lib Dems to gain from.
When it comes to delivery, not a good night. The accusations of hypocrisy on both fracking and the bedroom tax, which went largely unanswered, will have taken their toll.
After last night, the general perception of the Scottish electorate will be little different – a party which may have its heart in the right place but cannot be trusted on their word.
Scottish Greens – Patrick Harvie
The Greens had a very, very good debate. Casting his party as a clear and, unlike the perception of Labour, principled, radical leftist force in politics, Harvie punched above his weight here. Raising the issue of a citizens’ income and giving uncompromising answers on both climate change and Donald Trump will play well with the electorate, setting them apart from the other candidates, and attracting serious support from both the SNP and Labour supporters.
They portrayed themselves as a distinctive, progressive alternative last night, something which Dugdale simply failed to do.
UKIP – David Coburn
Unmitigated disaster. Coburn started off instead of addressing wider policy issues and then focused on a few dozen Glasgow Council employees and their salaries. Welfare was apparently a new concept to him. He even invited Donald Trump to the golf course…on Scottish TV.
Seriously UKIP, get rid of this guy.
Last night, the Greens and Tories were the winners. While SNP, Labour and Lib Dems ate away at eachothers’ credibility on the centre-left ground, they left a perfect vacancy for Harvie to step in and take up the mantle, unscathed.
Davison has always been a good face for the Tories, portraying a message of pragmatic, compassionate centerism. She appealed to an otherwise unrepresented audience tonight, and will only stand to gain from her performance.
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