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I didn't watch it live, as I had things I was still doing at 8.30. I had watched the Chancellors debate earlier, where it became obvious to me that Vince Cable was the only one who knew what he was talking about. He could speak and challenge off the cuff, whereas the other two were blatantly coming out with falteringly rehearsed statements praying they would make sense when they came to the end.
Everyone seems to be agreed, with Tory complaints about Cables central position only serving to add to his percieved economically sound stature. With Nick Clegg's manifesto launch the previous day it was becoming glaringly obvious that theirs was the only manifesto with clear and costed policy of any kind and he had a real chance of doing well.
I watched the debate at about 11.30 with two girls in their late twenties who were registered to vote but weren't that interested in politics, an Italian guy who hasn't been here long and is improving his English before embarking on an MA in film, and a rather drunk harpist who fell asleep at the beginning. The rest of us really enjoyed the programme.
Straight away Clegg came out on fire. Cameron from the word go looked like he was shitting himself, Brown was looking like Alistair Campbell had sent him out with "Whatever you do don't try and smile" ringing in his ears.
Where Brown and Cameron were pitching themselves with tabloid arguments against each other, Clegg continually came back with clear, straight and costed policy. He was the only one who looked at the others while they spoke, and looked at them like his was listening, rather than trying to think what to say next.
Where Brown and Cameron both tried to refer to lame statistics they had learnt, and would veer away from the questions altogether to try and score cheap political points against each other Clegg was coming out with simple policy- tax relief for low earners, higher tax on the rich and on the banks who should pay us back for their bailouts. Cameron and Brown seeing each other as the main rival made it easier and easier for Clegg, positioned to the left, outside their petty looking squabbles.
"The more they attack each other, the more they sound the same".
Brown appeared desperate to ally himself with Clegg, to make him "his boy", which Clegg was having none of. With his uncomfortable politicians mannerisms Brown made himself comparable to Nixon. This should have been Camerons moment to play JFK, but he totally fluffed it with his Posh boy "Doing things proply" speeches.
"Who is this guy? He looks like he is made of plastic!" said our Italian. The girls also hated him.
Both Brown and Cameron fell into the self made trap of falling over themselves to try and butter the questioners up. When it came to questions about the armed forces this became insulting. The audience had obviously been instructed not to react but you could see the anger as it grew in the questioners eyes and almost hear the angry shouts in a million living rooms.
Again Clegg only spoke about policy, and a policy which for him is quite an exciting gamble. Scrap Trident, spend the money on the armed forces. Cameron alone tried to counter, trying to interest a 21st century electorate in nuclear terror, with Brown staying shtum. Will this work or is Clegg right? Has the world moved on?
The summing up was curious. I expected Clegg to say "My manifesto has clear and costed polices, these guys hasn't, vote for me."
Instead he, and both of the other candidates had obviously been coached that this was their moment to appeal to those who had been watching the whole way through but hadn't understood a word. All three delivered stupefiyingly dummed down speeches.
Both of the girls were totally raving about Clegg. They thought he was brilliant and said they would vote for him. We all thought Alistair Stewart was crap. One of the girls kept angrily pointing out how he was favouring Cameron. We had a quick look at the polls on the net which not surprisingly reflected pretty much everything we thought.
What next? I was vaguely aware of who Nick Clegg was yesterday. Today he is blatantly shinning boy in the way Blair was in 97. I reckon if the other two start trying to attack him they could even propel him into office.
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