History beckons the Greens in Brighton Pavilion. Don’t do anything risky, work hard, and you will make your historic breakthrough

As we enter the last full week of campaigning, and with just 10 days of campaigning left, here are some views about the campaign.  The last big event is the third and final Leader’s debate on Thursday.  The theme is the economy and this is Gordon Brown’s big opportunity.  Not only is this his strongest area, it is David Cameron’s weakest, and Nick Clegg is no Vince Cable.  Expect Gordon to come out of this debate stronger than the first two, and he recorded the best improvement between debates 1 and 2.  Nationally, anything can yet happen in this unpredictable election.  Tactical voting could yet decide certain results.  It is just a shame that Clegg is becoming so hostile to Brown.  His Tory origins are beginning to come through.

Locally, also on Thursday, is the debate at the church by the Fire Station.  Nancy Platts will hope that the fire fighters will be there to support her.  Her campaign regarding the fire station has been stronger than most local issues.  Charlotte Vere must be keenly looking forward to May 7th so that she can leave Brighton for the last time and seek a safe Tory seat in outer London.  She hasn’t done badly, but her campaign has never really gelled, and it is hard to see what she can do over the next 10 days to salvage things.  Her attacks on Caroline Lucas have proved counter-productive and she should have avoided name-checks to the front-runner.  If you attack, you must land a killer blow or else you look petty and partisan.

As for Caroline Lucas, she needs to continue to motivate her supporters.  The pressure will be on her and she needs to make sure she takes some time for herself, does not come across publicly or privately, as stressed.  She needs to continue to charm and show what a formidable alternative politician she is.  Her supporters need to redouble their efforts, but her campaign manager must ensure that she enjoys the next 10 days.  It is the Greens’ campaign to lose.  I can’t see Nancy or Charlotte landing that killer blow on her campaign.

History becons.  Don’t do anything risky, work hard, and the Greens will make their historic breakthrough.

Next to Clegg, Cameron looks tired & bland; Clegg by Brown looks lightweight. Bruiser Brown wins on points

Here are some of my immediate reactions to tonights Leaders’ Debate.

Gordon Brown was in his element, the Leader with experience on the world stage and the policy anorak. He was calm, firm, authoratative. But twice he didn’t carry it off: his “get real, Nick” comment.  He doesn’t do macho at all well.  The other was his demand to know why commitments to the elderly wasn’t in the Tory manifesto. Cameron was able to give the commitments straight into the camera. Stick to your own policies, Gordon, with the occassional “there is too much to lose / at risk”.

Brown on the economy was impressive.  Clegg needs Vince Cable alongside him.

But his defence of Trident through his attack on Clegg was a huge, huge mistake.

“The buck stops with me” ending was excellent but not the attack on Clegg’s Trident stance.

Clegg was not so assured this week.  High expectations but came across a bit ‘samey’.  Did not compare that well against the heavy-weight Gordon Brown. Clegg was strongest on immigration. Landed blow on Brown when saying you can’t deport 900,000 people – “You don’t know where they live!”.  His demand to know the target figure from Cameron showed up Cameron who could only say “You’re better off under the Conservatives”.

Cameron was strongest when giving assurnce that the Tories will retain the winter fueld paymnt, free tv licences, free bus passes, fre eye tests.  His accusation of Labour “lies” hit home.  Question is, can you believe that this will be the case when they ‘discover the reall state of the countries finances’?

Cameron’s “don’t scare people in a general election” was a bit over-rehearsed.  Generally, he looked tired, and  lacked sparkle.

Cameron’s ending weak – Labour trying to scare voters.  Clegg’s “We can lead the world” a good vision. Glad there was no “We can make Britain great again”.

Alongside Clegg, Cameron looks tired and bland; Clegg alongside Brown looks lightweight. Bruiser Brown wins on points, but Clegg hasn’t done his cause any harm..

Clegg will emerge with a spring in his step, Brown can take comfort that he held his own, but in the Cameron camp, the recriminations will already have started

It is too early to say for certain what the impact of last night’s Leaders’ Debate will be.  Commentators in the media, vox pop and the Twitterati are quite at one in saying that Nick Clegg was, on the night, the most impressive.  How that will play out on May 6th, assuming the same performances are repeated in the next 2 debates, is hard to predict.

The fundamental question is who, if anyone, will the Lib Dems take votes from?  The problem for Clegg is that he has a Party that has been in decline in certain areas for years. In Brighton and Hove they are barely a shadow of their former selves.  With just two local councillors (and hardly the most inspiring, – at least in the case of one of them a rather negative individual), and no campaign to speak of, the Lib Dems are hardly going to set the campaigns on fire.

But elsewhere, in Eastbourne for example, there can now be high hopes of a surge to the Lib Dems and the prospect of a Tory defeat.  In that town let’s hope the Lib Dem takes votes from both Labour and the Conservatives.  In Brighton and Hove, votes lost from Labour to the Lib Dems could well result in Tory gains.  Hopefully, the strength of the Green campaign in Brighton Pavilion will prevent this from happening.  Caroline Lucas retains a head of steam, but the Greens must not become complacent, and this blog should not coax a sense of an inevitable Green win.  Thgere is still everything to lose.

My prediction is that Clegg takes more away from David Cameron than he does from Gordon Brown.  Cameron has traded on his ‘fresh approach’ to politics, but Clegg comes across as a nicer version, Cameron says he represents change, but Clegg comes across more of a Westminster outsider, while Cameron continues to slug it out with Brown.  Faced with the surly public schoolboy Cameron, Clegg comes across the nice guy that most mothers would be happy to see their daughter (or son) bring home.

As for Gordon Brown, his most effective pitch is to say be careful what you wish for just as the economy is beginning to settle down.  Last night gave anti-Labour voters the opportunity to consider which alternative they want – a not so nice, second rate Cameron or that nice Nick Clegg.  Labour will have generally consolidated its vote.  This morning, Clegg will emerge with a spring in his step, Brown can take comfort that he held his own (just), but in the Cameron camp, the recriminations will already have started.

First round to Clegg. Brown did ok. Cameron came across as the spoiled school boy he is

No doubt about it, Nick Clegg had nothing to lose and everything to gain, and he surely made the most of the Great Leaders’ Debate.  He looked relaxed, assured.  He was even enjoying himself.  And he won the debate hands down.

In spite of the online polls, Gordon Brown came across as predictably competent particularly on the big issue of economics.   The contrast between himself and David Cameron showed Cameron to be shallow, indeed scared of figures.  He kept trying to change the subject.  This is the Tory’s Achilles Heel.

A straight debate on finance between Brown and Cameron would produce one decisive winner, and it wouldn’t be Cameron.  (How I wish there was to be a television economics debate between George Osborne, Alastair Darling and Vince Cable – actually that would be cruel and inhuman punishment for the Boy George …. but it would be fun!).

Cameron looked like the school sulk, clearly the less liked of the three by the others.  You could imagine Brown and Clegg finding an accommodation, and a Chancellor Cable would appeal to many.

Cameron may have polled well amongst Conservative supporters but did little to convince undecided supporters to vote for the change he is advocating. 

But there was something lacking in this debate, something that could have made a real difference.  It wasn’t a debate stifled by too many rules.  It was definitely enhanced by Nick Clegg’s presence, and the Lib Dems will receive a massive boost from this.  No, what was missing was a woman’s input. Can you imagine what a difference Caroline Lucas would have made.  Clegg would have responded positively, she would have brought out the best in Brown (as does Sarah), but it would have exposed Cameron further.  Have you noticed how he manhandles Sam Cam, holding her by the wrist and guiding her with an arm up her back?

First round to Clegg.  Brown did ok.  Cameron must learn not to come across as the spoiled school boy he is.  Actually I hope he doesn’t learn!