Watched The Debate this time. Ho Hum. Brown was a bit better than I thought he’d be. I imagined a conveyor belt filled with rubble chugging its way through the studio, discharging nuggety factoids at random. But he managed to make his personality cohere, more or less. Not a hugely appealing personality, consisting mainly of a lot of statistics held together by a gluey sense of entitlement, but we already knew that. 

Cameron was Cameron. Some of the stuff he was coming up with sounded like the kind of thing people who like that kind of thing like to hear, though it’s a different matter whether they like to hear it from him. He’s caught in the Blair trap: the more sincere he sounds, the more he conveys the feeling that he’s putting one over. 

Cleggy boy ain’t all that. I mean, he’s alright in a "doesn’t wipe his nose on his sleeve" sense, which seems to be all that’s required right now. He sounded a bit apologetic about his best policies, ie on immigration and Trident, which is a mistake. He didn’t exactly squirm; it was more a slightly queasy appeal to reason, with lots of stuff about kicking things into committees. His position on both these issues cries out to be presented aggressively as “plain common sense” and he couldn’t shape up to that properly. He really should have mocked Cameron over his China comments last week. 

Sky had Osborne on afterwards, congratulating them on holding such a wonderful debate, which raises the underlying meta-issue in the election: 

Last week, the Lib-Dem candidate Nick Clegg—the third party candidate in the race—did so well in a television debate that he began to emerge as the logical alternative to Labor. This has caused the Murdoch papers to unleash a full-scale attack on Clegg—with hardly any pretense other than to help Cameron—now known as the “Kill Klegg” campaign. 

First I heard of it, though it’s quite good. 

In turn, the Independent newspaper ran a front pager yesterday with the headline “Rupert Murdoch will not decide the outcome of the election. You will,” challenging the Murdoch coverage of the race.

 Later in the afternoon, in a coming-apart-at-the-seams scenario, Rebekah Wade/Brooks and Murdoch’s son, James—who will both face the wrath of Murdoch senior if they don’t produce a winner—stormed over to the Independent, breached its security systems, barged into the offices of the Independent’s editor-in-chief and top executive, Simon Kelner, and commenced, in Brit-speak, a giant row. Their point was that newspaper publishers don’t slag off other newspaper publishers in polite Britain, but also the point was to remind Kelner that he wasn’t just slagging off another publisher, he was slagging off the Murdochs, damn it. Indeed, the high point of the screaming match was Wade/Brooks, in a fit of apoplexy and high drama, neck muscles straining, saying to Kelner: “And I invited you to Blenheim in the first place!” Blenheim being the Murdoch family retreat and the highest social destination for all Murdoch loyalists and ambitious Brits in the media. 

 This is one way for empires to end. 

Osborne’s comment showed that the Tories’ loyalties are still with the Empire. Nick, I suspect, will be happy to do business come the glorious day. Shame really. Some indication that he wasn’t could see him really attack the Labour core vote, and maybe get not a few Tories on board too. 

Incidentally, I was impressed by the way Clegg used the Lib Dem position on EU membership – an in/out referendum – to encourage Cameron to present his right wing for plundering by UKIP, which Cameron duly did. Maybe that’s a bit premature in terms of votes this time, but I am amused by the combination of “plucky outsider” “Mr honest as the day is long” and “cute as a shithouse rat.” There was the tzzzzeeep of the stiletto about the thing. I just wish he’d done it on Trident.