When are Gord and Dave going to face Paxo?

When are Gord and Dave going to face Paxo?

    And what do we think of Cameron’s “make-over”?

cameron newsnight.JPGJudging by the comments thread here last night most people thought that the Tory leader performed reasonably well in the first big set piece of the new political year – a long interview on Newsnight. He seems to have adjusted his style to reflect the new more sombre mood created by Gordon Brown and is looking a lot more formal.

He also seems to have changed his vocal approach. The voice sounded deeper and he was clearly very well prepped for the occasion.

For another aspect of last night was that this was Cameron’s first big time out since the ex-News of the World editor, Andy Coulson, took over communications for the Tory party. So in a sense it was as much a test of Coulson as it was of Cameron.

But did the Tory leader really get challenged? Wasn’t the format involving four separate journalists asking questions in turn never really going to put Cameron under pressure? Why was Jeremy Paxman not allowed to have a go?

No one can doubt that the programme’s new political editor, Michael Crick, is a formidable investigative journalist but he hasn’t got a fraction of the edge of Paxman when doing the big interviews. The others performed OK but we never got that continuous pressure that Paxman is capable of.

Gordon Brown, of course, has not faced Jeremy in years and one by product of being elected Labour leader unopposed is that he managed to avoid big set Paxman pieces that have become an integral part of other leadership contests. My understanding is that there’s an open invitation to both Cameron and Brown but so far neither has been brave enough to accept. Maybe we’ll have to wait until a general election campaign.

How leaders perform in such circumstances matters enormously. For most voters their only involvement in the political process is when they get a fleeting glance of extracts from programmes like Newsnight during the campaign. Television plays a huge part in shaping views.

To see the whole interview click here

On the betting markets the latest ICM poll has led to more money going on a 2007 general election.

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Mike Smithson

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