Let's start off by saying that yes, my hand really does hurt a lot this morning. Last night, during the debate, the anaesthetic finally wore off and boy did I know it. Thankfully, the wonderful and beautiful Mrs Dizzy - who doesn't really 'do politics' wrote me some sporadic notes down at things that came up so I could put them in this post which will probably take me an hour to type!
So anyway, last night I thought the debate was a draw between Cameron and Clegg with Brown coming last, on reflection this morning though I'm changing that to a win for Clegg, and this is why. He simply didn't sound as scripted as the other two and that's why he appeals to people. That doesn't make him right, rather it just makes him the more natural looking of the three.
Brown, whether you like him or not, is someone in his element when reeling off statistics and irritating cliches of New Labour-speak. The result is a man who sounds like a politician speaking with a forked tongue. He may very well be all about substance over style as he said in his opening statement, but you need style in the debate arena and frankly he just hasn't got it.
In comparison, Cameron has a lot of style and does passion well when he's angry, as he did when dealing with the free eye tests issue and the Labour leaflets that have basically been making stuff up. When he goes "off script" he's brilliant, the problem last night is that he didn't go off script enough, and so sounded - and perhaps this is because I'm a politics junkie - a bit repetitive.
It was also obvious that he had taken every criticism of him from the last debate on board and was obviously trying to hard to resolve them. In his opening statement he talked about "your values" rather than "my values", and during the whole thing he kept switching from the audience to looking down the camera, but he did it at odd times so it didn't seem natural.
Clegg on the other hand, just looked relaxed in his own skin. He played the guy flanked by the "two old parties" (something he kept saying) very well, and he didn't talk in as many soundbites (that I recall at least) as Brown and Cameron did. This made him, whatever the quaintness of some his policies, look natural. His denouncement of the silliness of Europe sometimes was very good too. His USP seemed to be just one phrase "do something different" - which, banal as it may be, is actually going to be quite appealing.
Don't get me wrong here, I'm not converting to the Lib Dem position - although I do support their income tax threshold changes - rather I just think that Clegg suits the format very well because the way he speaks means he doesn't "look" like a politician. The newspapers can write what they like really, as Clegg's appeal I think is targeted at the parts of the population that vote but probably don't read the papers very much.
I've not looked at any polls yet apart from the immediate one on Sky after the debate, but as I said last week, all the Lib Dems have to do is sustain their polling figure for a week at a time and then, when Clegg comes on screen, they get their boost again that keeps them going just a little bit longer.
If Cameron wants to stop the Clegg juggernaut he needs to give Clegg a killer blow, but I just don't see it happening because of how Clegg has positioned his party as the "alternative" to the "two old parties". Yes, of course it's bollocks to suggest that the Lib Dems are a fresh and new party, they're not at all really - but the electorate tend to think in terms of living memory and the Lib-Lab Pact of the 70s was so brief and fleeting, most people won't actually think about it.
After last night the election is definitely still wide-open, the people who should be most worried though are Labour, because if the Clegg bandwagon keeps running, it could yet become a two horse race between the Lib Dems and Tories, and Labour could be thrown into the historical dustbin for many years to come, and it will be "the debates wot done it".