Much as I hate to say it, the polling companies seem to have called this right. Nick Clegg was the stand out performer, Cameron second by some distance, Brown third. Our guy just isn't suited to this format, he doesn't have an emotional appeal to voters, and everyone knows it. In a sense this was Drew Westen's theory in practice. There were a couple of points when I felt Gordo did give solid, technical answers that felt good in comparison to the general soundbitey feel. But by the end he just seemed to be repeating that line about taking £6bn out of the economy at the wrong time. Also that dig about 'you can't airbrush your policies' sounded really rubbish. (there's a great Friday Night Armistice thing where they performed political 'jokes' as stand up that really showed this kind of thing up, but I can't find it)
One interesting thing about it was how restrained Cameron seemed - he didn't get many jabs in, even when Brown had a direct go at him. I found this quite puzzling, but Iain Dale discloses today that voters don't like it when Cameron does angry.
It must have been a predetermined strategy based on the fact that people tend not to like it when Cameron becomes aggressive. The dial tests show it.I've long suspected this - that if Cameron loses his temper the impression will be a bit 'how dare you challenge?'. It's that whole Bullingdon Club 'born to rule' vibe he is so desperate to shake off. But by failing to punch back he seemed a bit ineffective last night, as the polling seems to suggest. If I were a Labour strategist I would be hunting for clips of Cameron losing it, or thinking up ways to provoke him!
What could we pull out of the bag? Well, if Brown can't emote why doesn't he do a bit of angry? After all, 'Bullygate' did no damage it seems, and might have even toughened him up in voters' eyes. Just a thought.
Finally, despite agreeing with the pollsters take on who came out best, I found the whole thing a bit depressing. Nick Clegg did well by trying to talk to the voters directly, and seeming to share their concerns, but this is ultimately just presentational stuff too. It's sort of anti-soundbite soundbite. I suspect the stuff that made voters warm to him was the stuff with the least meaningful content.