James Forsyth

Clegg and British democracy the big winners from tonight’s debate

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Tonight’s debate was a good thing for British democracy. In terms of which party gained, there can be no doubt that the Lib Dems were the big winners. Nick Clegg took full advantage of the opportunity that the debate presented him with. In what will have been the first time that many voters have seen him deliver more than a sound-bite or two, he effectively rammed home his message that the other two parties were the same and that his party was the only one offering real change.

This poses a problem for the Tories. Clegg and Cameron are fishing in the same pool, voters who want change but aren’t decided which party offers that change. They need a counter to Clegg’s line that the other two parties are the same and only his party offers real change. There was one moment when Cameron did discomfort Clegg, when he brought up Michael Brown’s dodgy donations—which the Lib Dems have not returned. But the Tories need a lot more examples of where the Lib Dem’s actions fall short of their rhetoric.

In the spin room, Peter Mandelson was firing off lines left, right and center and mocking journalists from Tory-inclined publications. He dismissed the Tory attack that Brown had been too personal with a condescending, ‘poor didums’. But Brown when into this debate behind and there was no game changer for him and most of the post-debate polls placed him last.

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is Political Editor of the Spectator. He is also a columnist in The Sun.

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