After the first two debates Brown was much as expected; he never got any pulses racing. Clegg was a revelation; he got lots of pulses racing, specifically those of the Labour and Conservative spin-meisters. Cameron disappointed; his team will have expected so much more.
Apparently Brown was under most pressure coming into this third debate. Of course he heaped more pressure on himself in Rochdale, and by bizarrely going back to Rochdale. No-one has ever gone back to Rochdale, except maybe Mike Harding.
But it was not Brown who was under most pressure, he’s probably yesterday’s man: it was Cameron. His party have thrown away a big lead. And, unlike the Labour strategists, those who run the Conservative campaign assiduously made Dave the Poster Boy: they made it a Presidential campaign way before the first debate confirmed it might be.
And the story so far was that The Tories, to be sure, found out that people didn’t like Dave quite as much as they had hoped. They had no plan B. The good news after the third debate is that Cameron delivered when he needed to. This was his best performance by some distance and it was a good, polished, aggressive performance. How he and his team must wish they could turn the clock back a few weeks.
Clegg looked like he had actually been in a debate with two big hitters this time. He never got flustered or crumbled, but he did look flushed and it was Cameron who mostly held his head down the pan by attacking him at every opportunity. The Lib Dem man is still very good and gave lots back but some of it we felt we had heard before, because we had.
Brown was confident, assured and fluent on the economy, but second to Cameron by a distance overall. He did well in patches but it all got a bit desperate at times, as was confirmed by his over-aggressive closing minute: you really go for it when you know you are losing.
There was lots of great, substantive debating, real hammer and tongs stuff, and we got to see more than before that there are clear differences in what Brown, Cameron and Clegg believe: they had to defend their positions throughout on a whole range of issues.
It was great stuff again from three very talented debaters, but it was Cameron who brought his best game out tonight and he won it, but I bet you his team still think he could, and should, be better
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