What a difference a day makes! Yesterday it was Bigotgate and Gordon making repeated apologies to a Rotherham Grandmother for an unguarded remark but at least the sun was shining. Today the weather decided to change and it bucketed down on the University of Birmingham and literally put a damper on the whole proceedings.
The gladiators, the three main party leaders - the Scottish Gnats being thrown a bone by a seat on Questiontime on BBC1 transmitted live immediately after the debate-arrived by car and escorted in.
Cameron and Clegg, one car each but when Gordon Brown arrived a full presidential motorcade, I counted 7 vehicles; swept into the front of the University grand hall.
The BBC designed set was a delight, unlike the previous two with just a few discreet BBC logos on the lecterns rather than blanket house publicity for the host broadcaster.
The highly structured format of the whole series really put the lid on a free ranging exchange but at least we had a taste of what could happen if you put the three of them inside a large weighted sack and threw it in the River Thames, they would all rapidly devise a uniform strategy to get out of the bag to save themselves. The questions from a rum assortment of British Voters mainly dressed by courtesy of Oxfam completed the preparations.
Standing at the lecterns Cameron on the left, Clegg centre stage and Brown on the right the questions came and you could see that the lessons learned during debates one and two were being put to good use but I noted that Gordon Brown looked drawn and frankly ill – the man really needs a good nights sleep.
Questions came and answers given all drawn from the previously published manifesto, along party lines almost word for word. So no need to go over it all again here but there were subtle changes in tone and style.
I recorded only one Cameron reference to ‘the big society’ and that was virtually at the end of the allotted 90 minutes, so perhaps that’s a policy to be strangled at birth? We shall see.
Gordon Brown relied on set pieces and endless repetition: a good example: Deficit reduction plans which Gordon says he has stuffed in his back pocket. Before the final set piece, a statement by each one of the leaders I mentally put together my own poll of what the voting intention would be giving them marks out of ten : Cameron 8, Clegg 7 and Brown 4 and tweeted the numbers. Clearly Bigotgate had effectively killed the Labour campaign stone dead in its tracks.
Much later the You Gov poll for The Sun newspaper came out: Cameron 41`% Clegg 32% and Brown 25% . ITV also commissioned COMRES giving Cameron 35%, Clegg 33% and Brown 26% . We’ll know our fate within a week and then let the real fun and games begin. It’s not going to be pretty and will last for several years….but then be thankful we are not living in Greece!
Contributor: Julian Bray http://tinyurl.com/pknlxn Broadcasters ISDN 0044(0)1733 555 319 G722 & APT-X (3D2) Dual Codec Landline: 01733 345581