Peter Hoskin

Grayling wins the perceptions battle

Grayling wins the perceptions battle
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Another day, another TV debate – only this time it was Alan Johnson, Chris Grayling and Chris Huhne behind the lecterns, talking crime on the Daily Politics.  Just like yesterday's debate, the questions were incisive and insistent.  But the politicians conspired to turn proceedings into a mush.  There was very little clarity, a sizeable dollop of bickering, and proof, were it needed, that Huhne really can go on a bit.

To my mind, it all boiled down to likely audience perceptions.  Chris Grayling was cornered on a number of issues (including a question addressing his "homophobic comments"), but he probably gauged those perceptions right when he emphasised the "sense" that crime is rising, and dwelt on a number of civil liberty issues – from the DNA database to ID cards.  He rammed the point home by delivering his closing pitch to camera, referring directly to "what you want" – which, as Osborne and Clegg have shown, is one of the handiest items in the politicians' TV debate toolkit.

As for Huhne and Johnson, I suspect that they'll struggle against those very same perceptions.  The Home Secretary encountered a similar problem to David Miliband yesterday: the legacy of a government that has been in power for thirteen years.  And the Lib Dem spokesman will always struggle to sell a policy of limiting prison sentences, whether sensible or not.

In the end, it was refreshing to hear them all answer a handful of quickfire, yes-or-no questions.  But mildly disappointing when they all answered "No" to "Have you ever committed a crime, other than a driving offence?"  Now, that would have been a story.