This was an odd one. To be frank it bored the pants off me. They were all practised and smoothed off to within an inch of their lives. They were all, for different reasons, scared to put a foot wrong. It therefore never caught light. The differences were minute. Frankly, at points I was more concerned about the Liverpool result over on C5.
But, but, but …. the Institute for Fiscal Studies are right – the depth of the financial gap we are facing as a country is immense, and here they were footling about arguing over £6 billion here and there: all it takes is saving of just 1p in the £1? Cock. If the voters take this supposed economic debate as setting out the reality ahead, you’re in for the rudest awakening since Chamberlain’s paper waving after Munich.
But, whisper it, this was the one where I started to get what the Clegg attraction was all about. I started to fall under the influence. I started to warm to his apparent ordinary chapness. Pity for all those who really think he is different. He’s a politician, just one who’s not been near a sniff of actual power until TV turned this election upside down 2 weeks ago.
Cameron still seems botoxed to within an inch of his life. If he is destined for No 10, I’m going to hate him as much as his predecessors. He even managed to look Prime Ministerial, scary balloon clown that he is. I await the evolution of Steve Bell’s cartoon of the man I fear will be our next PM, God help us all.
Gordon Brown looked absolutely knackered. With his dreams haunted by Mrs Duffy and his bigot-gate disaster, he seems like a punched out boxer who’s still got the mechanical moves but his eyes are dulled. I think people are starting to feel sorry for him – and that’s fatal.
In TV terms this was an expansive serious BBC production, taking advantage of the vast halls of academe in Birmingham. They posted Dimbleby up on stage offset but on a par with the candidates – unlike Sky and ITV who set them down in front. In my mind, this whole setting diminished rather than elevated the three.
My conclusion? Cameron will be pleased to have consolidated his base, even at the diminished levels which the three-way divide now allows, and with each debate he’s shown a surer grasp of what this medium required. Clegg will be slightly disappointed that his even better performance has been so heavily discounted. Brown will be pleased the mics were removed at the end.
So in the end these serious three-way contests have moved us all into serious three-party politics. We’re headed for a hung Parliament, with Tories as the largest party and Lib Dems able to put them over the threshold. Would Clegg, this principled man of change, do that? You betcha. Look on his works oh ye tactical voters and despair.
Of course there is a last-ditch scenario in the minds of the centre left where Brown goes and one of the Milibands (don’t care which) steps into the coalition dance with Clegg and the Tories are cast into outer darkness forever.
But as Cameron measures his curtains for No 10 and Clegg contemplates whether coalition with the Tories will be just like being back at Westminster School again – the fast emerging question is therefore who gets to lead the Labour party in their long walk back to power after the knives are sharpened and Brown heads off to his last long bout of recrimination.
Poor Gordon, if Tony had lost in 2005, he’d now be the greatest PM we never had. Thanks in part to these TV debates and the rise of Clegg, he stands to be another Eden – too late into the highest office and broken by the experience.
Posted by arialbold