As I said in my preview to last night’s debate, this pretty much came down to Miliband v Sturgeon with some background fuzz. Wood made a valiant start, not even mentioning Wales once in her introduction. However, she just couldn’t help herself and soon enough had a sort of Cymru related tourettes condition throughout most of the latter half of the programme – Wales-diddy-Wales-diddy-Wales. Bennett did her usual student politics shtick – the Greens need to think about a new leader post-election. Farage did exactly what I expected, although I didn’t see him turning on the audience like that coming. Isn’t he supposed to be “the man of the people”? I suppose only certain people, and anyone who would show up in a BBC studio audience is probably not considered real enough in the human stakes. A few of them probably don’t even hold contempt for Romania in their hearts, cor blimey.
So who got the better of who in the Labour v SNP battle royale? Sturgeon got some got some good shots in – the bit about whether Ed would let a Tory government in to spite the SNP almost certainly worked for its intended audience. But I think in the end, Ed slightly edged it. He wanted to seem prime ministerial, above the fray, to try and place Sturgeon in amongst the group of one issue wonders and rank outsiders that cluttered the stage to his left, and I think he at least partially managed to put that image into people’s minds. Of course, the ill advised Sturgeon-Wood-Bennett group hug that occurred immediately after the debate was almost certainly helpful in this regard.
An ITV poll taken afterwards had Miliband winning it on 35%, with Sturgeon in second on 31% and Farage in third on 27% (a foreshadow of how it’s going to go for him in South Thanet in a few weeks’ time?). For Miliband to come out on top with the public, given he was the only one on stage that actually has a chance of running the country and thus can’t make random promises to people about the utopia that will be created when he’s prime minister, that’s very good going. I’ll say it again: Miliband has been miles and miles better than I thought he would be in this election campaign. And here he is, twenty days out and not only have the Tories not pulled away in the polls, but YouGov has them tied with the Tories after a week of Labour being slightly ahead. There’s still time for it all to go wrong for him, but it’s his to lose now.
One final note: Cameron refused to take part in this debate and asked the broadcasters not to invite Clegg, which they then went ahead complied with. So Clegg did not refuse to take part as some of the media are suggesting, but was never invited. Hate him for whatever you want, but getting the facts straight, particularly at a time such as this, is all important.