Tuesday 19 November 2019 4:43 am

DEBATE: Who has the most to gain from tonight’s TV debate?

Lauren McEvatt is managing director of Morpeth Consulting, and a former government adviser.
and Tim Bale
Tim Bale is professor of politics at Queen Mary University of London, and co-author of Footsoldiers, a forthcoming book on Britain's party members.

Who has the most to gain from tonight’s TV debate: Boris Johnson or Jeremy Corbyn?

Lauren McEvatt, managing director at Morpeth Consulting, says BORIS JOHNSON.

The spectre of Theresa May’s decision to dodge the debate in 2017 looms in the minds of Conservative strategists. It was a move that proved her poor leadership. Just taking part in tonight’s debate marks this Prime Minister out as different from his predecessor. And his poll lead should solidify following a well-executed debate.

Going head-to-head also helps amplify the Conservative messaging that only Boris Johnson or Jeremy Corbyn can be Prime Minister. This should encourage wavering Brexit Party voters who are worried about splitting the eurosceptic vote to come back to the Tories.

Most importantly, it’s an opportunity for Boris to put the poor oratorical reputation he has developed after some fairly lacklustre speeches behind him, and prove that he is the more statesmanlike of the two. Away from the rigid PMQs format, he has a chance to nail the Labour leader on his party’s antisemitism and double down on the Tory narrative that Corbyn is unfit to be PM. If he performs well, that is.

Tim Bale, professor of politics at Queen Mary University of London and deputy director of UK in a Changing Europe, says JEREMY CORBYN.

Leader debates aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. Critics argue that rather than breathing life into a contest, they can suck all the oxygen out of the rest of the campaign. By including certain leaders and excluding others, they massively advantage some parties over others, and effectively turn a parliamentary election into a presidential one

But research indicates that they can make a difference. And common wisdom suggests that, whereas they mainly present a risk to incumbents, they offer an opportunity to challengers — especially if, as in Jeremy Corbyn’s case, expectations are so low that a mediocre performance might do.

Moreover, don’t forget that Corbyn — who’s fought and won two leadership contests — has plenty of debate experience. He may well be able to use the event to his advantage as style versus substance. He might even demonstrate to the public something which by all accounts is true in private — namely that he’s actually likeable. If so, he’ll have scored an important win.

Main image credit: Getty

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