Last night’s debate changed the political landscape in Britain. No exaggeration.
The English press has spent the last few months trying to get their readers to clamour for the rebuilding of Hadrian’s Wall.
Well, I think if they’d succeeded that wall would now be very busy indeed, but not with people trying to keep the Scot’s out.
It would be filled with English voters trying to get out … because, I’ll tell you, if the SNP ran UK wide they would be polling at 30% after this debate.
I gave Nicola third place in the aftermath, and I’ll explain why. I changed my mind when I saw the raw numbers, and realised I’d tempered my own enthusiasm at her performance because I wanted to be “balanced.” When I look back, she was exceptional … and she has enhanced her reputation, and by default that of Scotland by several degrees of magnitude.
I’ll go over the implications of that in a moment.
I thought that three other candidates did what they set out to do.
I’ll open with Nigel Farage, who was as bitter and low down as I suspected he’d be.
And I was glad.
Reasonable, intelligent, informed people will have been appalled by his casual bigotry.
Yet, for some, for some of the ignorant and the narrow minded, they will have heard a guy who talks their language, and I actually thought he had some excellent moments, such as when he cut through all the political chit-chat over the debt, by actually telling the audience that no-one has cut it and no-one is proposing to … it’s gone up and is still rising, and will continue to rise.
He also nailed the point on the EU that the British government can do nothing about the flow of immigrants into the country. Forget for a moment that it would be a disaster if they could; no-one even admitted he was stating a fact, which gave him the points by default.
Why am I so pleased by these things?
That’s simple enough, I suppose. He has grabbed a large chunk of Tory voters in the last 24 months, and there was a fear that they would go home to their own party when they were faced by the General Election.
In this debate, he spoke their language and talked to their concerns, directly.
That will have steeled many of them not to change their vote.
He did well, which will cost Cameron big time.
In short, Farage had a “core vote” strategy. He knows who they are and what they want to hear. He gave them what they required to stay with him to the finish. He’s no longer going to change minds, but he kept the narrow one’s he’s got, and in that regard he did just fine.
Ed Miliband had a job to do too, to look like someone who could hit back hard.
He looked far better last night than he’s ever looked at Prime Minister’s Questions.
He was aggressive at times, came across as sincere in others and once or twice even sounded like he wanted to give Cameron a good slap.
Maybe he should have.
But the “big offer” is just not there. All that’s on his plate is Tory Lite and deep down he knows it, and you have to be a world class salesman to punt that sort of dreck and he’s just not that good.
He will be Prime Minister. I even suspect he’ll grow into the job and surprise his critics and enemies.
But I’m under no illusions about his convincing me to change my mind about the things that matter, like independence for Scotland.
There’s no going back on that one, and no going back to Labour either.
To hear him defend PFI on the basis that his kids were educated in a PFI schools … I shuddered, I really did. It was a horrible, horrible moment and reminded me (as if I needed it) why I will tolerate his winning, and his party, only until we can be shot of them.
I thought Natalie Bennett was brilliant. I know she’s been pilloried on some of the talk shows and the snap polls haven’t given her much credit, but I thought she shone. She was so decent, and genuine, and compassionate that I do wish to God she was in a position to influence public policy, because her humanity shone like a beacon.
If she was Scottish she could have any job she liked in the SNP except one.
I really did like everything she said and how she said it.
She gave Farage some of the hardest hits of the whole night too, which was a pleasure to watch.
The women were magnificent. Leanne Wood suffered from lack of name recognition, but she was great when she got a chance to speak.
The debate was an absolute triumph for all three of the ladies, and that had me smiling from start to finish, especially in a week when the gender issue has been pulling Scottish progressives apart.
Whether you agree with the SNP’s decision on women only shortlists or not, put it aside and applaud the achievements of three wonderful ambassadors for the sisterhood, and for our politics. They should make every enlightened person proud.
Of the others, the remaining two, Cameron and Clegg, well … last night was as bad as it could have got. Cameron came off as one dimensional and uninspiring. Like Miliband, he is locked into nothing but crap choices and bad policies but at least Miliband has a message of “change” even if it’s only about the depth of piss we’ll be swimming in for the time being.
A message of “stick with the plan” is pretty desperate stuff at this point – especially when “the plan” is so discredited and rank – but aside from attacking Miliband on a personal level it’s all the Tories have got … which means they’ve got nothing.
Cameron is a busted flush and I understand why he didn’t want debates. Going up against Brown he stood a chance because Brown was so uncomfortable in his own skin. But Clegg murdered him in 2010 and I suspected he’d reek last night, and he did.
He’s a lucky man that Honest Nick is a lying toe rag and that every person in this country is well aware of that fact.
Clegg shone last time because he seemed authentic, but we all know what a weasel he turned out to be, as he and his party reverted to type and climbed into bed with the first john who flashed a fat wallet.
To hear him attacking immigrants getting benefits, a Liberal Democrat for God’s sake, pandering to the right on Europe, was as loathsome as listening to Miliband defend PFI.
A total lack of any scruples at all … that’s how you define a Lib Dem and he, as their leader, is politically radioactive.
I think he’s a sure thing to lose his seat now.
No person with a fraction of political conscience can justify voting for him on the basis of his self-serving behaviour.
Here, in Scotland, where the future of the Westminster government really will be decided, Nicola Sturgeon’s position as the star of the show is now unassailable. She is the best of the best, a world class operator getting her chance on the big stage.
When Fraser Nelson is giving her the win, admitting he wants her to lose, the question as to who came out on top is moot.
When Labour loyalist Kevin McKenna sounded like he wants to cover her in honey and lick it all off you know Jim Murphy is wistfully looking at his faded South African army call up papers and contemplating the days when his biggest worry was about whether to dodge the draft.
He’s next, and on the basis of what I saw here Nicola will chew him like gum and blow bubbles on her way out of the TV studio.
Her performance will have made English voters less fearful of Cameron’s scare stories about the “Scottish tail wagging the dog.”
When that is fully realised it will blunt both of Scottish Labour’s remaining weapons.
First, this claim that every vote Labour loses in Scotland risks letting the Tories back into Downing Street just won’t have impact if it isn’t scaring English voters sufficiently into their camp.
It also nails this barmy idea that the SNP are “Tartan Tories.”
She sure as Hell didn’t sound like the leader of a right-wing party.
No-one genuinely believes that she is, but her offer to the poor and dispossessed of England is something Miliband himself didn’t have the stones for … and that will have been music to the ears in the heartlands.
If you oppose Trident, austerity, welfare cuts and creeping privatisation in the NHS you’ve really only got one rational choice if you live up here … and only stupid tribalism is standing in your way.
The SNP are now progressive Scotland’s main party … it is as simple as that, and even the English think so now. That’s about as concrete as you can make it. A lot of them like what they hear from her, and they’d vote for her brand of “sexy socialism” in a heartbeat.
(Thanks to AngrySalmond for the best political slogan of this campaign!)
That debate was a pivotal moment. It has made the “wee lassie in the tin hat” the most widely respected politician on these islands … and that has altered the game, drastically, and probably for good as far as British elections go.
When Westminster next does this for real, it’ll probably be the last one we’re part of.
There are 34 days left to go. It’s getting exciting.
Tick-tock. Tick-tock. Tick-tock.
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