Seconds out, round two… The problem with these reviews of the debates is that your reaction is inevitably skewed to some extent by your existing political allegiance. I, after all, thought that David Cameron had done pretty well in the first one. Charlotte Gore’s approach (and a belated welcome back to blogging!) is clearly the best, though personally I’m with the Sun’s “Majestic Cameron squashes Clegg (and Brown) like a bug, do you hear me? A bug!”
So instead of an overall review, here are some scattered impressions from last night.
Most improved: Gordon Brown. These debates are, as I have mentioned before, effectively a handicap event. Prior expectations get factored in, and it’s only a big under or over-performance that gets noted. Bearing that in mind, while Cameron was better than last week, he was already pretty good. Brown was dire last week – apart from anything else the ‘I agree with Nick’ strategy was a disaster. This week he was better because he was more himself. He is basically a grumpy, podium-thumping heavyweight, not a smirking consensus man – last night he played far more to his strengths than last week.
Runner-up: David Cameron. Much less nervous, much more assured.
Most disturbing: Gordon Brown. But that smile! Those jokes! Please won’t someone tell him to stop? His old dropped-jaw tic was mildly disconcerting. His sudden grin (like the silver plate on a coffin) is positively alarming.
Runner-up: Nick Clegg. Knob gags in a Prime Ministerial debate? Eww.
Best moment: David Cameron. There haven’t been very many moments in these debates, all three are generally too good to get caught out. But the Labour leaflet bit was genuinely good – some anger from Cameron, and he forced Brown into a lie to escape. Good stuff.
Runner-up: Gordon Brown. ‘Get real Nick’. It may have been scripted, but it was effective.
Best opening/closing: Nick Clegg. He’s really good at these – certainly better than the other two. It’s also the place where he can best get across the ‘things can change’ stuff, because it’s all about the vibe and the feel, and less about the practicalities, where he often got caught between the other two last night.
Runner-up: Gordon Brown. It’s a punchy effort, going for the Millwall route.
Funniest line: David Cameron. ‘I never thought I’d say this, but I agree with Gordon’. Works on a couple of levels – it both made Nick Clegg’s Trident position look naïve, and it reminded everyone of Brown’s Clegg-humping last week.
Runner-up: Gordon Brown. A touch unfair this, but “women – and you are one” was by some margin the funniest moment of the night. Scored down because it was unintentional…
Oddest question: The Pope. Wtf? Leftfield questions are often a good way of getting unscripted answers, but this one had only one possible answer – I disagree with the Catholic church on (gays/abortion/contraception/other) but welcome the Pope’s visit. Which all three duly gave. Although if Nick Clegg’s an atheist, why did he bang on about sin and redemption?
Runner-up: Expenses, immigration and coalitions – wasn’t this supposed to be the foreign policy debate?
Roll on round three…