… George Osborne.
I know that that view will jar with most people on Twitter and those that voted in the polls last night – the Channel Four poll that closed at 9pm exactly, just as the debate finished, had Cable on 36% and Darling and Osborne on 32% each. While the Guardian poll (that closes at midday on Tuesday), currently has Cable leading with 47.8%, Darling second on 27.2% and Osborne third on 25%.
Now, I’m not going to give you a detailed breakdown on the debate itself – you can read a great BBC summary here, or visit the Channel Four microsite, or even read Rory Cellan-Jones’s summary of how it played on social media – but I will give you a quick summary of my perceptions of it.
Firstly, I enjoyed it. I liked the seriousness of the debate and thought that the format worked well. And arguably it was Channel Four and the presenter Krishnan Guru-Murthy who won overall.
I’m not sure it told us a lot though.
Vince Cable came across as honest, dependable and very much a safe pair of hands through the current crisis. Part of the reason he can do so is that he is arguably the least likely to get the job after the election (despite the valiant efforts of the invincecable team); but also partly because he genuinely seems to get it.
Alistair Darling came across as relatively confident if a little dull. He didn’t say much in terms of actually policies, but then he was never really likely to – if he didn’t say much during his election speech then he wasn’t going to say much here. I think that his reputation is likely to come away relatively unscathed from all of this – not just the debate, but the whole recession and likely election defeat for Labour (he can blame Gordon Brown for both). He seemed to have the air of someone who is confident he will fight another day.
George Osborne was expected by most observers to fare the worst – he was considered by most to be the most economic lightweight of the three. And on that score – he won. He came across a bit smary at times – especially when it looked like he was trying to chat up a student that asked a question; and he seemed to dumb it down at times. But he also spoke to the audience. A couple of times when Darling was trying to beat him up on a point Osborne explained to the audience what the row was about – of course with a bit of extra spin.
Tweetminster recorded that sentiment for George Osborne dropped the least after the debate – a victory of sorts. (All three lost points – Osborne lost 1 point, Darling and Cable 3 points each).
I think a debate like this doesn’t make people actively decide to vote one way or another, but it helps them to justify that decision. In that sense, all three did well, but Osborne came out on top as he was the weakest link for his party before the debate.
Having said all that, this great post from The Media Blog sums it up nicely, especially the tweet from @DominicFarrell – “Those who will decide the #election were watching Coronation Street”
This debate was only a very small skirmish in the bigger war.