Peter Hoskin

Few fireworks – but solid performances from Cable and Osborne<br />

Few fireworks – but solid performances from Cable and Osborne<br />
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So now we know what happens when you put three would-be finance ministers into a room, and start asking them questions.  There's plenty of esoteric language, a good dash of posturing – and next to no fireworks.  Thinking about it, perhaps we shouldn't have expected much else.

Not that the pyrotechnics were completely absent, of course.  Both Cable and Darling rounded on Osborne over the Tories' national insurance plans, and Osborne hit back with some well-directed attacks on Labour's own tax and spend agenda – even getting Darling to waver and admit that a "death tax" is no longer on the cards.  

But, for the most part, calm and civility ruled the day.  I lost count of how many times the participants said "I agree with..." – something which will have suited the spin doctors in the wings, eager to avoid a car-crash performance more than anything else.  But it won't do much to sway voters' hearts and minds one way or the other.

If I had to call it, then I'd say Cable came out on top.  He played his usual, if unwarranted, sage act, and spiced it up by flinging a few choice barbs in both directions.  Indeed, the Tories might be slightly worried that the biggest cheers of the evening came whenever he caricatured them as the party of and for the rich.

Apart for that, I'm sure the Tories will be satisfied.  Osborne put in an efficient and measured performance, easily getting the better of an unusually frosty Alistair Darling.  And, while I'm sure that tonight won't have a tidal effect on the polls, it continues what has been a decent few days for the Tories.

Now, pass the remote – what's on the other side?