Tuesday, 16 February 2010

The Attitude Check - The Leaders' Responses Part I

Johann Hari has now completed his set of three interviews in Attitude with the three major party leaders. There are some questions which are specific to one leader and his party but several which are generic across all three. Over the next few nights I will be looking at those and giving my opinion on how they responded. Here is how Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg responded to the opening question they all were asked.

Why should people vote for [your party] at the next general election:

Because we [Labour] are the anti-discrimination, anti-prejudice and pro-equality party. We've always been determined to protect and defend the rights of the people who need the protection of the law. I think the whole history of the Labour movement has been to take on prejudice, discrimination and vested interests where they exist. If we've not done enough until 1997, we are to blame for that. But we have done a huge amount since, we've got a lot more to do, and in our blood, in our DNA, is a determination to speak up for equality and against inequalities and against injustices. I am really proud that once people have won rights, you can't ever humiliate them again. You can't ever go back. My view is: you start from the dignity of every individual. You want a society where every individual has the chance to realise their potential to the full, and any barriers that exist - like prejudice - is dismantled. And so, my position, starts from a principled position. Some people might think - this guy is a son of the Manse, brought up in a very Presbyterian environment. But I've always been very proud that the Church of Scotland has a much more egalitarian view about gay rights than others.

Sadly for the Prime Minister the way he speaks even comes across in the written word as dour. Also this is a position statement there is a lack of clear reasons why we should vote now, apart from the one line "we have more to do".

Clegg: I want anyone from any community to vote for us because of the values we [Liberal Democrats] represent, not because they think we tick a particular set of boxes. We are a liberal party who believe in tolerance. We have the longest and proudest record of campaigning for gay rights in British politics. The main reason I want people to vote for us is not some sort of segmented appeal because we've got a vision of Britain could be that I believe lot of folk - gay, straight, white, black, Asian, women, men - can support.

Nick Clegg is the only one not wholly cuffed by the fact he is speaking to a gay publication. He's setting out the ideals, elsewhere in the interview come some of the specifics. He's showing the tolerance that he talks about by not pigeon holing, the other two talk of some other worldliness but Clegg is all encompassing, not boxing you in don't look at us just for tick boxes.

Cameron: Above all because I think the country needs change. Change in terms of sorting out our economy, in terms of improving public services, and in terms of some of the things that are going wrong in our society. I think I can say to gay people that not only is it change we need, it is a changed Conservative Party that faces you at the election. Not that we have a perfect record on all of these things, I know. But there have been some major changes that have taken place under my leadership.

I know there are gay people who have conservative values, such as wanting us to be supportive of business and enterprise, wanting to have strong defense believing in strong defense of liberty and so on - but in the past they have felt held back [from voting for us] because the Conservative party was sending them a signal that we didn't support them or their lifestyle. That has changed. I think we can look gay people in the eye and can say you can now back us both for the values we have but also because we now support gay equality.

Initial thoughts on David Cameron is that he is trying to overcome the legacy that his party have established through their past actions. Hence the apology, however twice he says "I think we can" either say or look at gay people differently from before. Think and can together are two soft words which may hint at a certain uncertainty. Cameron also hits out at the wider agenda though.

Overall it is a tough start for Cameron, indeed Hari doesn't let him off later in the interview so maybe he is guessing the course that the interview will take. Brown sounds like a lecturer in political history, laying out the history of the party but not giving much of a vision for the future no reason to vote Labour to move forward. Both Cameron clearly and Clegg by implication which is later fleshed out give a reason for hope. It may be that Labour is basically out of ideas but the other two both show an enthusiasm, the snappiness of Nicks answer to the first question being a prime example of bring it on.

For openers I'd give
  • Nick 7/10
  • Dave 6/10
  • Gordon 4/10
More tomorrow at the same time

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