If political activists all over Britain were supposed to be glued to the telly for the historic first debate in General Election history, I didn’t get the memo. I was at a meeting for the most part discussing the day after and then decided to have a quiet, non-political beer with a chum afterwards. I watched it on the web after 11. I didn’t have a real-time Twitter commentary, but I did have bangers and mash.
My views on it are now muddied by the Cleggfever that chas become ubiquitous. But I’ll try to forget that as I write. Gordon Brown didn’t fuck it up. That’s important to me. I thought he was good, under the circs. David Cameron was good enough but didn’t strike me as Prime Ministerial. Too shiny. Too middle management. He performed below expectations. Nick Clegg was good, definitely the most stylish and accomplished, strangely, but equally he seemed the most insubstantial. I am surprised the polls suggest otherwise. Was Clegg real so inspiring?
I thought, overall, that the debate experience was lacking in revelation. On one hand everyone was competent and that’s not necessarily to be expected. And yet on the other, was anyone outstanding? I think I approve of the absence of clapping and cheering from the audience but it did also make it a bit staid. It was an unusual setting. It was good, absolutely right, to see these three men debating issues in a setting that we don’t know them in. I thought the contrast with PMQs was delightful.
But what did we learn? Probably only that, given a fair hearing, that people like a third party alternative. I like that too. But I’m not sure that means they like the LibDems or Clegg. They just don’t like being told it’s just Labour or Conservative. We’ve all had hit and miss for decades. And it turns out that a lot of people like a bit of maybe.