fallibilist

"I may be wrong and you may be right, and by an effort, we may get nearer to the truth." (Karl Popper)

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Labour/PD/Green/SF leaders debate

So who won last night's debate? Examiner columnist Harry McGee's initial reaction was that "Rabbitte (relaxed, almost too Cheshire Cat) pipped it from McDowell (over negative, too prone to personal insults) from Adams (relaxed but woolly on specifics espeically on the economy) and Trevor (made some very good points; defended himself well but the writing on the hands was a disaster)." Let me give my view on each of the four leaders' performances, for what it is worth.

Rabbitte, aside from the smirk that seemed constantly on his face when others (especially McDowell) were speaking, was composed and avoided the squabbling between Sargent and McDowell, in which the Green leader in particular seemed intent on reprising the Rumble in Ranelagh. His remark that McDowell was acting "like a menopausal Paris Hilton" was just plain odd. Rabbitte seemed a little uncomfortable when asked how cutting the baic rate of income tax was consistent with drastic improvements in public services, but I thought he answered the question well. On the plus side, however, he did best in the opening set piece individual speeches and avoided having any serious blows landed on him. John at Semper Idem is right to say: "He was calm and collected, defended himself well, and came across very competently on those moments when the issues were discussed." I noticed on a number of occasions that he interjected after Sargent had made a point to agree with him, thereby trying to show the compatibility of Labour and the Greens.

McDowell was in fighting form and seemed determined to present the PD's (and by extension the present Government) as the only safe option when it comes to the country's economic and fiscal prospects. So he repeated the Greens' plan to raise €1 billion over five years via a levy on the banks; he quoted Rabbitte's remark that as Minister for Finance he would "afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted". His hardest blows fell on the strangely hapless Adams, though. When the Sinn Fein leader claimed to live on the average industrial wage, McDowell reminded him of his (Adams') holiday home in Donegal; when Adams responded that it's owned by the bank, McDowell, quick as a flash, asked whether it was the Northern Bank. Similarly, when Adams lamented the state of national drugs policy, McDowell shot back that the Provos had sold their paramilitary know-how to FARC narco-terrorists in Colombia in exchange for $25 million. I have to agree with Harry McGee though, that too much of McDowell's content was negative. It would have been better for him to spend more time emphasising the economic success of the last 10 years and building on his convention speech pledge to take Ireland "from good to great".

Sargent's opening speech was decent and, then went toe-to-toe with McDowell and showed no lack of confidence. The cog notes on his hand looked a little silly, but I don't think that will exactly be a matter affecting how people vote. He made some good points and got in his customary reference to how well the Greens have apparently done in government in Germany, Finland and Sweden, but probably would have liked more of a chance to make the points his party has cogently made on signature Green issues.

As for Adams, I think Mark Hennessy is right that he got "a hiding". Hennessy adds accurately: "Adams’ oft-repeated nonsense that he lives on the average industrial wage was cruelly exposed by the PD leader" and "Adams weak command of economics, particularly when he accused Labour of wanting to privatise the health service, was brought into the light, though rarely as clearly as this." Certainly Hennessy's conclusion is right too: "While Adams will not have lost any of his party’s core support in last night’s debate, there is little doubt but that he will have done little to attract second, third and fourth preferences from uncommitted voters." (I am at a loss as to how it can United Irelander can say that Adams performed better than McDowell and equally as well as Rabbitte.)

Marks:
Rabbitte 6.5/10
McDowell 6.5/10
Sargent 5/10
Adams 2/10

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