So the great Leaders’ Debate came to pass. Did anything special happen? Well, yes it did, up to a point: Young Dave did not win the contest, or even come close, ceding that honour to Corporal Clegg. Pa Broon did not suffer the car crash predicted by, among others, dear Polly Technic in the Guardian on Thursday.
And there have already been recriminations within Tory high command: that Cameron didn’t attack Brown enough, that they shouldn’t have let Clegg into the debate at all, and the thought that Young Dave’s import of one of Barack Obama’s team led to too much emphasis being put on the one-on-one style of debate (not much use when there are three participants).
Well, all three major parties had plenty of opportunity to shape the rules of engagement, so to start carping about them now is not only too late, but also comes over as petty. And Cameron is being put under the cosh elsewhere: Brown has agreed to a ritual grilling from The Inquisition of Pax Jeremiah, and as Clegg has already been through this ordeal, refusal would look as if Young Dave were being evasive.
And this would suit the Labour narrative fine: they are already using the e-word against Cameron. In fact, the outturn from the debate may also be to Labour’s liking too: Brown could not have diminished Cameron on his own, but Clegg has made the Tory leader look insubstantial while reminding wavering voters that he, too, represents change.
So it’s Clegg that takes Cameron down a peg or two. That may suit Brown, who merely needs to figure out how to reduce the threat from Clegg while not appearing nasty – and all the while both of them are heaping pressure on Cameron.Three weeks to go, and still all to play for.