The final leaders debate is THE debate in many peoples eyes – The economy has been central to the campaign and this is the last opportunity to promote their economic policies whilst also denigrating those of their rivals. But what am I hoping for from the three of them.
First, I want to see genuine debate, with Clegg, Brown and Cameron really engaging with one another, rather than just focussing on the cameras and the audience. It is important to me that our next Prime Minister can debate, influence and negotiate alongside other strong personalities and, to date, I am not sure we have seen this side of their personalities.
Regardless of what the rapid-response polls might say I think (and hope) that Cameron will struggle badly tomorrow night – he never sounds entirely confident on the economy and I think Brown’s mastery of the subject will unnerve him. I want him to explain how major cuts in the public sector this year (and through them private sector contractors) will help to boost our economic recovery – the irony of using a public sector bad, private sector good argument at this point in history has so far been lost on him, hopefully he can improve on this. I also want him to tackle head on how cutting inheritance tax on the wealthiest can be morally defended at a time when so many poorer families are struggling -expect both Clegg and Brown to target this.
As for Clegg – this his is opportunity to show that he much more than just Vince Cable’s head cheerleader when it comes to the economy. He needs to show that the Lib-Dems will centre on a progressive, radical economic agenda that helps those most in need by redistributing from those who need it least. I think he will again focus on the philosophical differences between the Lib-Dems and the other parties – encouraging people to break with the past and try something different. Expect him also to make the debate more real – talking less about billions here and %GDP there and more about how it affects those people watching the debate. This is his final chance to convince the public of change… and will be a key factor in how I vote on 6th May.
After a difficult 48 hours Brown will be keen to reassert his authority in a debate that he feels he very much owns. There is no doubt that on detail he can smash the other two into the ground but for him this needs to be much less of the clunking fist and much more charm and disarm. With media expectations running so high this has the potential to be the toughest campaign so far – he has to be careful not to retreat into loft macro-economic talk and instead carefully explain how his policies will improve peoples lives (and equally how the others will make them worse).
In my dream of dreams come 10pm tomorrow night Gordon Brown would have reminded me all the reasons that I fell in love with the Labour Party and proved once and for all that my current flirtation with the Liberals is no more than a passing crush. Is this going to happen? It seems doubtful, but is it even possible? For that we are going to have to wait and see.