Ponsonby: A clapometer victory for Corbyn in clash of styles

A general election debate full of soundbites saw neither leaders land a knockout blow.

Leaders: Johnson and Corbyn shake hands during election showpiece. <strong>ITV via Getty</strong>
Leaders: Johnson and Corbyn shake hands during election showpiece. ITV via Getty

The styles stood in sharp contrast to one another.

The Prime Minster punchy and with a tendency to constantly over talk, Jeremy Corbyn less measured in debating terms but drawing sustained and loud applause from the audience with more empathetic responses rooted in the experiences of voters.

On Brexit, Johnson tried to portray Corbyn as a ditherer and hounded him with the question of what he would do in Labour’s post-new deal referendum. Try as he might for a knockout it never came. Mr Corbyn plodded on with his Brexit formula without looking overly troubled by Boris Johnson’s assault.

And the news story of the night from a Scottish perspective? Boris Johnson’s admission that the union meant more to him than Brexit. The Prime Minister then tried to skewer the Labour leader with the charge that he was ready to do a deal with the SNP to get the keys to Downing Street. Absolutely not, was the Labour leader’s response.

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When the debate changed to the NHS and austerity, the mood of the audience seemed to change too. Boris Johnson stuck with debating points, Jeremy Corbyn with answers that constantly referred to the experience of voters. It was at this point that the clapometer readings for Mr Corbyn were at their loudest and as the second half of the programme played out Mr Corbyn was easily ahead on the applause count.

Was there a knockout blow? No. Was there a clear winner? Probably not, but I suspect that the Labour spin doctors will be the happier since their man seemed to be doing better with the audience than the Prime Minister.

The debate was chaired with composure and at times with a required degree of firmness by Julie Etchingham although her invitation to the leaders to shake hands on the issue of trust in politics was terribly contrived and I thought inappropriate for a presenter to do.

The lines have all been heard before but set in a highly charged atmosphere and with the leaders under great pressure they may have seemed fresh to those who do not follow politics closely. The Johnson strategy was to play to the Brexit base; Corbyn played to the Labour base with some old time religion.

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Will it shift the polls? Watch this space.


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