This is the debate of the challengers, this means that to see Nick Clegg or David Cameron attending would be an odd sight, since Cameron and Clegg are representatives of the former government. If they did attend they would be giving up a major advantage of the incumbency effect. Did they miss much by not attending this debate? My answer has to be no. While the attacks on the government were constant throughout the night, if Cameron had attended he would have lost his trump card, the respect of authority. The attacks on his record will be quickly forgotten amongst the debris of a left wing love affair that was on show. Brevity was not on show tonight, which made it rather tiresome, but for some it was the ideological orgy that has been missing thus far.
Natalie Bennett, the insufferable leader of the Green party who’s moral superiority irks so much of the country actually did rather well tonight. Even if she was guilty of skipping over the defence question with answers which she knew people wanted to hear. Rather than explaining how she wants to melt down the arms industry, legalize belonging to Al-Qaeda, and cutting the defence of the realm, she decided to be terse. She made some convincing personal statements, which included the well aimed defence of migrants, and the view that people should vote on their principles hit home. This will not though increase the vote of the Green party, which are still looking at a solitary seat. People want a voice in Parliament, and the Greens cannot deliver that, no matter how much Bennett tried to use Caroline Lucas as a political pin-up.
Nicola Sturgeon was the one who really came out well tonight. She was in full attack mode, and focused her wrath on Miliband and Farage. Miliband throughout the night defended his positions in trench like warfare, but got overwhelmed towards the end when Sturgeon nailed him to the cross of what will happen come may the 8th, and what Miliband is prepared to do to ensure Cameron was kept out. More and more people in England seem to be frustrated they cannot vote for the SNP, and the appetite in Scotland for them will not diminish with this performance.
Ed Miliband held his own during the duration of the debate. He tackled the trio of women who didn’t disagree on a single issue all night quite effectively, and punched in enough attacks on Cameron and Farage to impress those who were watching. His remarks that only he and his party can stop Cameron was quickly halted in its proverbial tracks by none other than Nicola Sturgeon. Sturgeon at one point had him in a verbal headlock and it ended with a shakedown. However, Miliband got in the sound bite of the night. Challenging Cameron to a one-on-one debate will have given Lynton Crosby something to think about tonight. Miliband is showing greater pedigree as a leader as time goes on, he is more confident, assured and decisive. He is even looking prime ministerial.
Nigel Farage fresh off the back of a 1 million pound donation from Richard Desmond was cock sure and gleefully on the stage soaking up the act of being the only ‘right wing’ leader. He tried to paint himself as the under-dog throughout the night, attacking the BBC, the audience and going after all the leaders. He will have appealed to his base and that is all he needed tonight. He offered an alternative to what was on offer, no matter how odious that alternative is it offers some voters a chance to have their voice heard. UKIP will take seats, most likely more than the Greens and that is the result Farage is after.
You may have noticed I have not reviewed Leanne Wood’s rather tepid performance. She has often been terse and struggled on defence, at one point asking Ed if he’d use nuclear weapons on ISIS. Her lack of understanding between conventional force and non-conventional force was only one moment in a 90 minute performance. However, it wasn’t just that, she failed to sufficiently outline the argument that the Welsh state does not have enough money. This is the reason why Leanne Wood’s party is sitting 4th in Wales. Overall the debate will not change things. Miliband was probably the winner in the sense that he had a lot to lose and will have come out stronger than before. He looks more like a future Prime Minister, than an academic with no grasp on reality. The other leaders will have simply appealed to their base, especially Nigel Farage. Natalie Bennett really tried to appeal to outsiders with her almost desperate appeal for people to vote with their hearts rather than their heads. Unfortunately for her, this call will go unheeded as the race for Downing Street enters the homestretch.
By Sam Mace, Senior Writer for Daily Political View.