by Stephen Tall on April 18, 2010
For the second Friday running, I was one of a trio of pontificators on BBC Radio 4’s The World Tonight, alongside the Spectator’s Anne McElvoy and the Mirror’s Kevin Maguire, offering our verdicts on how the election campaign is going. You can catch up via the BBC iPlayer here – the discussion starts about 29:30 minutes in. Some incident in Iceland was, for some quixotic reason, deemed more important than ‘Cleggmania’, so the discussion was briefer than last week’s.
What I normally do before any interview is try and rough out on a piece of paper half a dozen key points I would want to make, should the question arise, or be twistable enough to suit my purposes. As I was asked only two questions I managed to make only 1.5 of these 6 points. So here are the 4.5 which didn’t make it onto air …
1. Clegg’s debate victory – yes, it’s true his mere presence at the top table was likely to boost his standing (gaffes notwithstanding); but that’s not the same as winning. And the fact is Clegg won, handsomely.
2. Will it translate into votes – the polls so far say yes, but it’s early days. There are two more debates and almost three weeks of campaigning left to run.
3. What we can say, without a shadow of a doubt, is that this is a genuine three-way contest for the first time in my adult political life.
4. Brown out-performed expectations – but, boy, didn’t he look tired?
4.5. Cameron was the surprise of the night: such a disappointing display. And the only genuine gaffe of the night, bracketing China with Iran as possible threats to world peace that require a nuclear response. (I half got this point across).
Finally, the one point I did successfully make was this: the Labservatives now have a real dilemma in how they deal with Clegg. If they both gun for him it raises his credibility and confirms his outsider status. If they both decline to attack him again they leave Clegg free to make the Lib Dems are ‘new and different’ pitch unimpeded.