Fraser Nelson

Why the SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon may well win Thursday’s leaders debate

Why the SNP's Nicola Sturgeon may well win Thursday's leaders debate
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I know it's early, but I'd like to tip a winner from Thursday's debate: Nicola Sturgeon. SNP leader. She has just been positioned next to the Prime Minister, who'll be on the far-right. This which will cause relief in Tory HQ who had been worried about his being flanked by Nigel Farage and Sturgeon. The lineup, from left to right, is as follows:-

Natalie Bennett - Nick Clegg - Nigel Farage - Ed Miliband - Leanne Wood - Nicola Sturgeon - David Cameron

— Ian Hyland (@HylandIan) March 30, 2015

Sturgeon will be new to an English audience, and is certain to impress. So far, the write-ups haven't done her justice: there have been too many Jimmy Krankie jokes and not enough proper analysis of the phenomenon that she represents.

Salmond standing down to make way for her was a masterstroke; it allowed the SNP to rejuvenate and convert its referendum defeat into the political landslide now underway. Sturgeon is calm, articulate, sincere - and vicious when she needs to be. She has even learned from Salmond the art of giving a little laugh to her own jokes as she makes them.

She is a past veteran of these television debates, having devoured opponents in the run-up to the Scottish referendum last year. The above clip shows her dealing with Alistair Carmichael. As I wrote at the time:-

It was supposed to be a debate, between the SNP's Nicola Sturgeon and Alistair Carmichael, the Scotland Secretary. Instead, viewers saw a genteel Liberal Democrat being disembowelled by a ferocious and merciless nationalist. She seemed to quite enjoy it. This gruesome spectacle was only beamed into Scottish households – a shame, because David Cameron really ought to have seen it. It would have shown just how much trouble the Union is in.

On Thursday, Cameron will have the chance to see this for himself.

PS The highlight of the Sturgeon vs Carmichael was when he appealed for help to the moderator, Rona Dougall, when he was being chewed up. He didn't actually say "Help me, Rona!" but the debate was anyway remembered that way.