Would Cleggmania continue to ride rampant over what he would persistently call the “old parties”, or would his bubble burst as the electorate woke up from a seven-day bender wondering what the hell they ever saw in him? In practice, neither. This was closer to being the difficult second album which can’t have the wow factor of the first but certainly isn’t a flop.
Overall this was therefore more of a score-draw – with Clegg unable to sustain the hysteria of Leaders 1, Cameron getting more to grips with the format, and Gordon Brown hanging on in there. And that in itself is a mark of how much seismic change these debates have delivered for UK politics.
The fact that we can see it as a pretty normal outcome to have all the parties sitting on around 30%+ is remarkable. If this sustains through to 6 May this will be something that has seriously not happened in our lifetimes (assuming you don’t count the weird Labour suicide-note politics of 1983). You see even I am getting carried away.
Clegg being stationed in the middle this time round often got squeezed and picked on, and from time to time got sucked in to the old adversarial politics (or politics as you and I would call it) which he successfully derided last time. It’s hard to be an outsider when you’re front and centre.
Cameron by contrast benefited from being able to stand off to one side and distance himself, seeking to peg the other two together. Indeed they all tried this, with Gordon’s slightly naff pre-prep line of “you’re like my two boys squabbling at bathtime”. While that neatly re-cast the youth of both opponents as inexperience, it conjured up a pretty weird image of a large paternalistic Gordon looming over a naked Nick and Dave in the bath. At least it did for me. Continue reading