Monday, 19 April 2010

I Agree With Nick

The historic live televised debate last Wednesday between Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg had a predictable outcome but for all that, an amusing one: Clegg emerged as the big winner. Less expected was just how far the men with whom he was debating would go to make sure they didn't offend him or his supporters.

The most memorable element of the broadcast wasn't the ridiculous rule-enforced silence from the audience or the MC's irksome yapping, but the innumerable times Brown and Cameron tried to align their parties with Clegg's.

No matter what the issue, no matter if Clegg had just taken a swipe at them, both Chuckles and Pillsbury were loath to lay into the Lib Dem leader. Pillsbury, uncomfortable in his role as front-runner, even set Clegg up by demanding information on the Lib Dems' spending proposals, giving their leader a perfect opportunity to recite his party's manifesto.

At times, Chuckles attempted to recruit Clegg into a Tory-bashing tag-team, but the Lib Dem leader was content to let Labour and Tory bicker between themselves. He grew into his role quite neatly, shoving a thumb at "you two" and tarring them with the same brush. But neither Chuckles or Pillsbury took the bait; the Lib Dems may yet decide the outcome of the election, or hold sway in a hung Parliament.

In the end it got a bit much for Clegg, who failed to mask a laugh, accidentally, or on purpose, or accidentally-on-purpose, when Chuckles said he "agreed with Nick" on the subject of parliamentary reform. There are two more debates to go, likely to be characterised by Clegg gains and overtures toward him by Brown and Cameron.

What a turn-around. But isn't it a bit early in the campaign for such obsequiousness? What does this tell us about confidence levels in the Labour and Tory camps? Or is it more about expectation engineering? Which of Chuckles or Pillsbury will be first to kick Clegg in the slats if his guard drops?

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