I came slightly late to the debate due to having discovered a job interview in a junk email box. So I sent a yes I will be there reply before going to the television, and I must have missed a bit where Nick Clegg wriggled defensively about the Euro. Having not seen that, and yet seen him just about hold his own on immigration, but also being repetitive (including this 'other parties' stuff), I just ummed and arred and thought that Cameron had taken too many hits from Brown to have won. So I gave it just to Clegg, then Cameron and then Brown back some way, him last because he never seemed to get what he needed from this debate - to shine on his apparent subject, despite the attacks laid on Cameron. He did not show he himself as the commander for himself. In fact, he pushed the notion of no cuts now to protect the crawl out of the recession, when governments make decisions for later anyway, and we all know the level of debt that needs tackling. But then all of them had a sense of denial.
Later everyone said Clegg had done less well, and some thought Brown had done better. But even if Brown did do better, it's almost like it's becoming a lost cause. However, against that is the electoral arithmetic that should still deliver seats to Brown he would lose in a more equitable electoral system, compared with Cameron and many times more than Clegg.
I spent time much debate time doing very fast and rough pen sketches. I did Emily Maitlis too afterwards during Newsnight, and tried to do Laura Kuenssberg at the earlier news, but, despite her obvious asymmetric features, scrapped it in favour of one from a photo. These sketches are featured.
Thus I discovered that, just like last week, I wasn't typical in my opinion, plus I discovered the weak reply on the Euro. I also agreed with later opinion that Clegg seemed somewhat below par: when he was quizzed by students recently he was very clear, gave good answers to good questions. But I also thought the debate itself was poor: and David Dimblebum should have kept his mouth shut. He couldn't ask questions, so he just showed his frustration via repetition. It's as if the boxing match of 15 rounds should have lasted 12 at most, and thus the whole thing was flagging. Viewing figures will be interesting as many may have switched over for football.
The poll of instant polls says Cameron 38%, Clegg 32% and Brown 26%. Into the last week, then, of the campaign, and one wonders. If I was to guess, it was that Brown now has fired all his shots and will begin to fade. The debates meant he could say everything he needed, and having done so, he is stuck. It will be interesting to see if Cameron gets a lift, and begins to sniff a majority. That may intensify Labour to Lib Dem tactical voting, if Brown does slip further, though some constituencies may see it go the other way. But also, and here's a deflating matter from my point of view, if Clegg flatlines now, and some Labour-Tory constituencies wont see a possible Lib Dem surge, then there may be a failure of the Lib Dem soft vote to actually connect. It needs a bandwagon to get a bandwagon, and the wheel slipped a bit.
There are two aspects that may change the election.
One is as yet hardly mentioned. It's that a great many people are employed in the public sector. A great many in the private sector actually rely on public contracts. If the Tories slash and burn, the rise in unemployment could be massive. People may think this needs a more sympathetic, careful touch. The 'Big Society' is just a piece of spin for a smaller State - but the State does direct so much activity as of now.
The second aspect is well mentioned and is the gathering storm from Greece, now knocking on the door of Portugal and Spain, and it is the debt levels and the economy. Greece is very nearly bankrupt and there could be a domino effect. We are somewhat after Italy.
If I was Nick Clegg I'd now start emphasising my team, like the other guy painted on the bus. Cameron mentioned his team in the debate. Presumably the parties will have rallies, but the teams should be shown rapidly before then and introduced. Clegg needs to be with his people, like of course Dr Vince Cable, but also Edward Davey, Chris Huhne, David Heath, Simon Hughes, Nick Harvey, Prof. Steve Webb, David Laws, Sarah Teather, Norman Baker, Don Foster, Julia Goldsworthy, John Thurso and Lynne Featherstone. Show these people as capable of being in government, and do it quick, like being ready.
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