Well the first televised leadership debate has just finished and Nick Clegg was the surprise winner having seen off both David Cameron and Gordon Brown in a polished performance by the Lib Dem leader that was high on spin and short on detail. However, let me be the first to say that the debate was great to watch and much better than expected given the telephone book of rules that had been thrashed out between the parties.
Incredibly, support for the Lib Dems has surged to the point where Nick Clegg is being hailed as some kind of PM in waiting. Before the 90 minute session, the Lib Dems were consistently placed third in any poll taken but are now enjoying first place just ahead of the Conservatives, a position the Lib Dems haven’t manage to reach since Victorian times.
Inevitably, this has led to even more speculation of a hung parliament with Clegg as the kingmaker capable of making or breaking the next government.
Ultimately though, this was the X Factor/Dancing On Ice/Britain’s Got Talent for politics. Depressingly, it appears the majority of voters thought exactly the same thing and treated it as some kind of popularity contest with Clegg coming out top based purely on looks, age and the cut of a suit. Why else would people intend to vote for the lunatic Lib Dems who want to offer a blanket amnesty on illegal asylum seekers, scrap the pound in favour of the Euro, hand even more powers over to Brussels and ban jail terms less than 6 months so more crims are let out on the streets to do "community service"?
Matters weren’t helped by the crap chairman of the debate, Alistair Stewart who was way out of his depth in presenting such an important programme. However, let’s take a look at how all three did:
Easily the weakest of the three which shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, Brown bumbled and bluffed his way round questions relying on meaningless stats and that ghastly rictus grin to try and win over the audience. It was frankly embarrassing watching this idiot on TV trying to crack a joke one minute and then blatantly lying over immigration and the economy the next whilst sneering over the other leaders answers in a patronising manner before throwing cheap shots at Cameron.
There wasn’t a single argument the unelected PM won nor any convincing argument put forward as to why we should vote in this cretin and his gang of incompetent spivs directly responsible for wrecking Britain. In a pathetic attempt to gang up on the Tories, Brown grinned and smirked with the Clegg over key policy areas as if to show there was very little between the Lib Dems and Labour, a tactic to try and win over wavering voters.
Brown constantly interrupted and spoke over other leaders and also showed just how much of a gormless fool he was when, after the debate, he strode off stage to start pumping the hands of the audience in a desperate attempt to connect with the electorate. Clegg was about to follow him before Cameron wisely tugged his elbow so the two other leaders remained on stage as agreed beforehand.
Was the most visibly nervous of the trio and far too soft when sparring with the others. Golden opportunities to hang the Lib Dems and Labour on key policies were wasted as Cameron went for the touchy feely, "I’m your mate" vote by opting for a more soft approach to show the Conservatives cared.
Crucially, Cameron managed to effectively nail most of the Conservative policies to the mast and backed them up by giving very specific examples as to how these would be implemented. However, what lacked was a real fighting spirit and sense of bite. There was no wrapping on the knuckles for knuckle head Brown, nor any probing policy questions to expose the Lib Dem lunatic policies for what they really are.
When interrupted by the other leaders, Cameron was far quick to shut up and let them have their say. In short, he came across as a bit weak and reluctant to go for the jugular, certainly not what you would expect from a potential PM who means business!
He did all the right things like looking into the camera, connecting with the audience and making sure he addressed those asking questions by name, something the other two soon copied. Whenever the Tories and LieBour started squabbling, Clegg made sure not to get involved and instead bide his time to offer an alternative and different view when his turn came.
The result is that Clegg’s whole argument revolved around offering something different and that a vote for the Lib Dems was a vote for real change rather than for one of the other two parties. Clegg also won brownie points on presenting himself as the Saviour of Sleaze by claiming his party alone was not tainted by the MP expense scandal, a totally ludicrous claim given Clegg’s own highly dubious expense claims.
At first, Clegg was quite content to agree with Brown on policy but soon rebuffed him when it became too cosy. After all, the aim was to win office, not prop up Brown so he can carry on taxing and spending. Clegg also came across as the most personable of the trio and was the most relaxed, even putting a hand in his pocket at one stage as if he was chatting in the pub. He also used language that was easy to follow and resonated with voters as well as putting forward effective counter arguments to the Tories and LieBour although policy detail was sparse when pressed.
The second debate should be even more interesting now that all three leaders have had a taste for the spotlight. Given the surge in popularity, Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems can also expect their policies to be placed under intense scrutiny as everyone agrees a hung parliament is in nobody’s interests except Gordon Brown who will say and do anything to remain in power.