Tonight’s Question Time special with Cameron, Miliband and Clegg provided the best television of this campaign so far. A well-informed audience relentlessly pressed the three leaders on their weakest points. At the end of the evening, an ICM poll for the Guardian gave the evening to Cameron by 44 per cent to Miliband’s 38 per cent with Clegg garnering 19 per cent support.
Miliband’s didn’t have a great night and his most awkward moment came on the record of the last Labour government. The audience were audibly irritated by his repeated refusal to concede that the last Labour government had spent too much money. Under questioning from the audience, Miliband also went further than he previously has in ruling out a deal with the SNP. He said that he would prefer not to take power than to do so if it required a coalition or a confidence and supply deal with the SNP.
For his part, Cameron turned in his strongest performance of the campaign so far. In a deliberately high energy performance, he managed to get across many of his key talking points. Cameron had even brought a prop with him, a copy of that infamous Liam Byrne’s ‘there’s no money’ note, which he brandished about. It might have been cheesy but, I suspect, it was effective.
Clegg was the last of the leaders to take the stage and he turned in a typically impressive performance, dealing well with a graceless question about the prospect of him losing his job. He also had a good line about how if either Miliband or Cameron think they are going to win a majority they need to go and lie down in a darkened room.
I suspect that the real significance of tonight is that it has set the Tories up nicely to try and squeeze out that extra few points they need from the 1 in 5 voters who are currently undecided. The question now is whether they can do that between now and election-day.