03:38 GMT25 October 2020
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    The Conservative and Labour leaders, Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn, are preparing to meet during the first TV debate of the ongoing election campaign. Martin Smith, Professor of Politics at the University of York, shares his expectations for the debate.

    Sputnik: ITV’s Leader’s Debate between Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn is the first major clash of the election. How significant is this and what can we expect ahead of tonight's leader’s debate between Labour's Jeremy Corbyn and the Conservatives Boris Johnson?

    Martin Smith: I think it's significant in the sense that it's the first chance to really see the candidates exposed to public scrutiny. I think both of them in different ways have been quite careful about how they presented themselves so far in the campaign and I think the TV debate is it is an opportunity to sort of see them in a much less mediated way if you like.

    Sputnik: We’ve heard a lot spending commitments from both parties and a lot of rhetoric on a wide range of issues but what are the key policy areas in the eyes of voters? 

    Martin Smith: Well, I think the key issue that neither the want spend too much time on this Brexit. I think the other issue is obviously the NHS, the economy more broadly and then issues like immigration.

    Sputnik: Do these debates have much of an effect on the perception of parties in the eyes of the public?

    Martin Smith: I think most of the evidence suggests that what the debates do is reinforce views that people have so they're less likely to change people's views about the candidates but I think they are an opportunity for candidates to make mistakes. I think that's one thing and it sort of sets the news agenda if they do that. I think the other thing is that you can point to occasions if you go back 2010 when Nick Clegg did sort of change perceptions about the Liberal Democratic Party through the TV debate. I think Theresa May by her unwillingness to take on the debates and then the way she was presented on TV didn't really help her election campaign. So I think although generally they don't make a difference there is an opportunity for them to have an impact on the campaign. Both of them [the leaders] in different ways are portrayed as caricatures. Corbyn sort of seen as this left-wing person without much charisma and I suppose in a way Boris Johnson is seen as all charisma and not much policy and has tended to have been a bit bumbling in his presentation so far in the campaign. This is an opportunity for each of the candidates to address those sorts of stereotypes and to show that they've got more to offer than the way they've been presented in the media so far.

    Sputnik: Do you think either one of these leaders will be able to shake away the negative connotations attached either of them in tonight’s debate or in future debates before the election deadline date?

    Martin Smith: I think not completely. I mean it's not going to change the assumptions that people have about the candidates but I think it does give the candidates the opportunity A) to be scrutinized by the public and to be asked questions directly - I mean that can be challenging. I think B) to present themselves as they want to try and present themselves directly to to voters and so I think in that sense what it does is it has the potential change the tone of the campaign for the next few days and I think that's why it's important because it does have an impact on the sorts of issues and questions that will come up in the days following the TV debates. It's all framed the agenda for the next few days if you like.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

    Jeremy Corbyn, Boris Johnson, UK Labour Party, UK Conservative Party Conference, United Kingdom
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