‘No comment’ just doesn’t cut it in election debate

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No comment

As I sat and watched the second live election debate last night, it got me thinking about the dreaded ‘no comment’ debate that we often tussle over while in the midst of a crisis comms storm.

To me, it seemed odd that every party was quarreling over each other’s policies and manifestos, bar two. Regardless of their reasoning for not attending the BBC’s live broadcast, I can’t help but feel they made an error of judgement by not taking to their lectern.

This became increasingly clear when the final question was asked to the depleted panel on what deal they would strike if there was a hung parliament. Each and every one, aside from Mr Farage, was very clear in their response: ‘I would like to categorically state that we will not be making a deal with the Tories’. One after the other they threw the statement out to the studio audience and beyond, with no chance of a retort from the Prime Minister himself.

Ed, Leanne, Natalie and Nicola, all echoed each other’s sentiments, enjoying the freedom of a ‘no comment’ from the Conservatives. We often advise clients at crucial and sensitive points in a campaign to take the same stance; the vast majority of the time, it comes down to commercial sensitivities, or trying to avoid prejudicing a case or inquiry.

‘No comment’ can often be misinterpreted as an admission of guilt, but it’s an effective way of not being deliberately obtrusive, while not venturing into dangerous territory. However, I’m struggling to see the rationale behind Cameron and Clegg’s approach.

While the arguments last night were largely the same as those in the previous ITV incarnation, each of the party leaders was able to cement their views (for good or bad) in the minds of voters. All I can say is that David and Nick better try a bit harder today on the campaign trail to ensure they catch up on lost air time.