Well, there we go then. Channel 4 have got in there first, kicking off the historic series of debates which are going to be a feature of this general election for the first time ever. So what to make of it all?
Naturally, as a Lib Dem, and a sane person to boot, I thought Vince won. The studio audience seemed to agree, too – I think I’m right in saying Vince got more applause than the other two put together. It got a bit embarrassing, really – when you even get applause for saying “I told you so”, you know there’s something going on!
But there’s little point in going on about Vince. I think the real story here is how shifty and nervous George Osborne looked. His voice wobbled from time to time, sure, but the real giveaway was not in his body language or tone of voice. It was in what he said. Time after time, he appealed to higher authorities – “under David Cameron’s leadership”, “lots of economists agree with me”, “it’s not just me, as chancellor you’re part of a team”, “I agree with Vince”. He constantly prefaced his remarks with backup from someone more credible than him, implicitly acknowledging that Vince knows more than he does about economics (anyone remember that priceless Evan Davis interview?) by including Vince in this group. If there was any doubt about that, he more or less conceded it at the end, by feeling the need to chuck in the old “Lib Dems aren’t going to form the government” bollocks, because he could see that the way things were going, the conclusion people would draw from this programme would be to vote Lib Dem.
All we need now is for people to stick with that judgement, and not let themselves be swayed by the Tories’ spin machine.