It would be hard for a non-partisan viewer to say anything other than David Cameron clearly won last night. He was concise, hit his button issues and set up a very clear philosophical difference between himself and the two others on tax and basically who creates wealth in a modern economy. He sounded and looked like a prime minister, and has peaked just nicely. He scored a nice hit against Nick Clegg on the Euro, but didn’t bang on about it too much because he knows, I suspect, that it doesn’t register with Brits as much as it does inside his party. He also had Nick Clegg on the defensive over immigration. The one surprise was that he didn’t push the Vote Clegg Get Brown message very hard, or go on too much about a hung parliament, which would make you wonder what polling data he’s seeing.
This was, by far, Nick Clegg’s worst debate, but by no means a disaster. He was weak on the Euro, although probably right to just get away from the issue altogether. The “Here they go again, those pesky old parties” schtick was getting very irritating by the end. His defence of his immigration policy, on the other hand, was one of the most noble defences of a policy I’ve seen in a long time. It is what people always say they want a politician to do: Tell them the truth, and follow through with an honest policy even if it is unpopular but the right thing to do. I was against an amnesty, but Nick Clegg made simple good sense about actually dealing with an issue as opposed to just talking about it. It’ll probably lose him votes, but he’s still right. Clegg sounded, by far, like the most normal of the three, and will be hoping that it’ll allow him to hold on to most of the Cleggmania surge, and win second place in the polls.
Gordon Brown looked like he’d been mugged in the car park before the debate. The fact is, he’d have had to put in a Jed Bartlet performance to get any sort of traction. Labour have lost, and he’s just turning up. Admittedly, playing his strongest card, the “don’t change horses” one, but I think people have made up their mind about Gordon Brown. He was very good on the estate tax though, and did take the wind out of Cameron’s sails a bit by pointing out who actually pays it. He also acknowledged the Bigotgate thing in a fair way. He just didn’t bring enough of himself, Gordon Brown, husband and father, to the debate, instead bringing Gordon Brown the statistics machine.
They should have shown him this before the debate. It’s another progressive leader on the ropes, and always brings a tear to my eye.