The audience at last night’s Question Time debate (BBC1 iPlayer) may have, in the words of this morning’s Guardian headline, “smelled blood and went for it,” but it was not an event that did much credit to the three participants.
Cameron, Milband and Clegg all evaded questions and looked less than trustworthy. The audience was “the star” according to Jonathan Freedland in the sketch which has the “smelled blood” headline only in the dead tree version of the paper.
It was the star but sometimes it was unreasonable, Two questioners who looked like a mother and daughter seemed to have a blood lust, and I just wished the man who claimed seven countries were likely to leave the EU was told that he was living on another planet.
The Guardian/ICM instant poll made Cameron the winner with 44%, Miliband second on 38% and Clegg trailing on 19%. Cameron may have won simply by going first and getting an easier ride from an audience which was only just learning its power. Clegg did not do that badly.
In a disingenuous move Cameron produced a copy of Liam Byrne’s handwritten not to his successor as chief secretary to the treasury: “I’m sorry there is no money left.” Cameron knows, as well as any sensible person who has ever worked in an office, it was light-hearted, the sort of off-the-cuff message people leave for a successor.
To suggest it was a serious statement of fact is demeaning but the Conservatives have elevated it to an admission of over-spending by the previous Labour Government.
Miliband did not help himself by not mentioning the note at all when asked about it. He looked slippery and gave Cameron’s interpretation credibility. And Milband’s rejection of working with the SNP, which is aimed at reassuring English voters also looked like a denial of reality.
My feeling at the end of Question Time was “none of the above”. None of them looked like statesmen.