The leading women of British politics cast a shadow over their male counterparts in tonight’s seven-way debate between party leaders, as Nigel Farage found himself exposed.
Nicola Sturgeon (SNP), Leanne Wood (Plaid Cymru) and Natalie Bennett (Green Party) all emerged as strong leaders, stealing the spotlight from the squabbling leaders of the three major parties. There was certainly a very female edge to proceedings, with the #EverydaySexism hashtag trending during the debate.
Meanwhile, UKIP leader Nigel Farage found himself on the receiving end of robust criticism, particularly when he suggested that foreign nationals diagnosed with HIV were putting undue strain on our NHS. This assertion was met with a sharp response from Wood.
This was an unusually weak performance from Farage, who floundered when robbed of the opportunity to set the agenda. His attempts to frame unrelated issues as manifestations of the immigration problem were met largely with dismissal from the men, but it was Sturgeon, Bennett and Wood who quietly deconstructed the kind of UKIP bluster that has gone largely unchallenged in recent months.
Without the ability to set the agenda, Farage’s policy weaknesses were thrown into the kind of sharp focus that could put the brakes on UKIP’s rise.
Sturgeon, in particular, looked strong throughout the debate. Her principled stance won over Twitter users, particularly as she spoke about austerity and repeatedly brought the debate away from ideology and back to real people.
This is the night Sturgeon emerged from shadow of Salmond, and impressed English, interesting given possibility of Lab/SNP pact
— Glenn Moore (@GlennMoore7) April 2, 2015
It is interesting that it’s Sturgeon who has emerged from the debate so strongly, given that her party is one which many viewers will be unable to vote for. Her success south of Hadrian’s Wall certainly won’t hurt the chances of the SNP working as a key member of an electoral pact or coalition after May 7th.
It remains to be seen whether this debate will have any effect on future polling or on the election itself. However, based on the evidence of tonight’s debate, there’s a clear appetite for strong, female voices in the political arena.
It’s the perfect antidote to the pint-glass politics of Nigel Farage.
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