I should say I offer these musing on the basis of being 'politically deaf' - or perhaps I just mean that none of those political dog whistles the three of them kept trying to sound were meant for me. The politico-demographic niche I inhabit is woefully small. There just ain't going to be a government swept to power by the enthusiastic backing of hordes of South London middle aged, self employed, LRB reading lefties interested in, er, organising society and economy on the basis of need not profit. We have, the Labour Party calculates, nowhere else to go. (Wrong). So I saw it purely as a televisual event, not a moment of political engagement.
For all this the debate did stir the old tribal instincts: I have enough allegiance to my past to be genuinely surprised when Mrs.Charlie announced after 10 minutes that she thought Clegg was winning. Clearly, I thought, the Son of the Manse was looking a heavyweight and the other two weren't. So I listened more carefully, trying to pretend I was Middle England. & what did my Middle English Goggles see?
- A clever, boring, heavy set man reeling off lists of impressive sounding but hard to digest statistics and lists. Probably trustworthy, on balance, but my god, not someone you'd care to have a drink with.
- A very, very clean younger man with an attitude of command who kept sliding into sound-bites ('The Jobs Tax!', 'Waste!') . There was more than a hint of lack of substance under that apparent attitude of command, something which might easily slide into priggish arrogance.
- Another, strangely similar, younger man, equally clean, with a good line in sounding new and fresh whilst criticising the other two.He kept insisting that only he was 'brave' enough to do the required suns and tell people about the necessary cuts, without, actually, telling us what those cuts were.
I think Cameron now really has to go for Clegg in the other two debates. I'm quite looking forward to this: it's always fun to see an old Etonian do 'angry' - hauteur is never far away. It might, just might, yet prove to be his undoing. But, at root, he's a more consummate professional than Clegg who has been known to sound shrill when put under pressure, so my money would, unfortunately, still be on the Tories to come out on top.
And Brown? I can't help thinking his best hope is for the public school boys to have a cat fight and hope he appears grown up and avuncular by comparison.