Need to Know | 31st March 2015

Election debates: Cameron is the clear winner as Thursday’s speaking order is announced

Cameron will conclude Thursday’s debate, and Nigel Farage has a raft of good speaking slots. Nick Clegg doesn’t.

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David Cameron will conclude this Thursday’s leaders’ debate on ITV. He will also have a chance to rebut Ed Miliband four times in a row to end the debate, and has a considerably later average speaking position than any other leader.

Natalie Bennett will kick off Thursday’s debate with a pre-prepared one-minute opening statement, to be followed by Nigel Farage and Nick Clegg. David Cameron will speak fifth, five minutes into the two-hour show, and Miliband will be the last to give his statement.

Nick Clegg and David Cameron will be the first to tackle the first of the evening’s four topics — which are yet to be disclosed — with Nigel Farage first to tackle the second question; Ed Miliband given the chance to shape the third; and Leanne Wood, leader of Plaid Cymru, speaking first on the evening’s final question.

David Cameron will conclude this Thursday’s leaders’ debate.

It’s likely that the topics will include questions on immigration, healthcare, and the economy/deficit, as these are the three issues voters say are more important than any other. But this is purely guesswork at present. The Tories are pushing for a question on foreign affairs.

Oddly, Cameron’s speaking position is significantly later than most of the other leaders, and more than a position later than Nick Clegg’s. It’s unclear whether a speaker benefits from going earlier or later in a question, but a second speaker is able to rebut and harder to criticse. A more equitable distribution could presumably have been achieved.

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As one colleague just put it, Cameron can end what is likely to be a raucous debate by saying, “What you have just watched was chaos. Don’t risk more chaos after May. This election is a choice between competence and chaos. Choose competence. Vote Tory.”