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Friday, March 27, 2015 

Theatre of the absurd.

There's not much point doing a great big analysis of last night's flyweight tussle, not least because you'll have read much the same elsewhere, not that it ordinarily stops me.  Just a few thoughts then:

1. The utter absurdity of the event.  Presumably both audience and presenters were prevented from pointing out the obvious, that as Miliband and Cameron were in the same studio it was ridiculous they couldn't debate each other face to face.

2. Cameron won.  Not in the event itself, where on points I would suggest Miliband edged it thanks to his really strong performance towards the end against Paxman, but in his demands being acquiesced to by the broadcasters.  Around 3 million watched the event last night, a truly pitiful number compared to the debates last time.  Obviously things have changed since then, more will have watched it online or followed live blogs, the campaign has barely started, there was practically no publicity about it happening and so on, but Cameron will be pleased his discomfiture to begin with as Paxman asked about food banks, zero hours contracts and his rich friends will have been seen by so few.

3. The questions posed to Cameron by the audience were a joke.  The AgeUK conference earlier in the week gave him a harder time.  Only when the lady towards the end asked with emotion about being let down by the coalition's NHS reforms was Cameron taken out of his comfort zone.

4. The format just didn't work.  Each section was roughly 18 minutes, which wasn't long enough.  Paxman couldn't properly demand answers from either of the leaders, forced to move on just as he might have been getting somewhere, and so while Cameron defended his decisions on Stephen Green and Clarkson he wasn't pressed on Andy Coulson.  Miliband also was exceptionally shaky in his opening exchanges with Paxman, and the fact he came back at his interrogator with such vim was partially down to the moving on to territory he and his team had gone over time and time again.  Doesn't alter how impressive his responses were mind.  Extending the event to two hours and making each of the four sections 30 minutes would have made a big difference.

5. It all bodes spectacularly ill for the "real" debate next Thursday.  7 leaders in 2 hours when you don't really get anywhere with 1 in 40 minutes?  Well played Cameron, well played.

6. Katie Hopkins promises to leave the country if Miliband wins.  Are there any better reasons to vote Labour? (Yes. Ed.)

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