Thursday, February 09, 2006

Question Time

An interesting Question Time tonight - setting a trend for broadcasting hustings that Labour will have to match if there is a similar contest in the near future.

Iain Dale live-blogged it.

Hughes seemed to me to be struggling and trying to make up the ground - he's behaving as though he is trailing in the polls (whatever the truth of the various polls of which have heard tell in recent days) and there was a whiff of desperation tonight. He didn't handle comments about his slagging off the other candidates well and denied that this was the case - only for Dimbles to come back and point out that the words are on his website. Hughes seems to me to be out of it. He was going over the traditional muesli-eating LibDem ground - seemingly unconcerned that the YouGov poll points towards an increasing conservatism in the LibDems. Note the small 'c' there. There are a lot of small 'c's in the Lib Dems, but that's not important at the moment.

Campbell struck me as holding on and no more than that. He looked statesmanlike and did a reasonable job. He's never going to excite the electorate or inspire them - he defines 'a safe pair of hands.' He will be a holding candidate for the Orangistas, no more.

Huhne wasn't outstanding, but he did appear reasonably fresh and animated. He had a good grasp of the agenda and looked confident. He looked like a leader and got a decent amount of supportive applause - I'd estimate that around a third of the audience backed him. Given that he's come from nowhere, that's not bad at all.

I still think that this is too close to call, but I'd reckon that Hughes will go out in the first round and leave Campbell and Huhne to divide the spoils. Whatever happens, Huhne will come out of this in a strong position. He'll probably get a decent front bench post and will be able to position himself for a takeover when Campbell stands down in a few years. The rest of the Orange Bookers now have masses of ground to make up and Clegg must be kicking himself every day for not running.

And there's always the possibility of a Huhne win. Guido's called it for Ming, so to be contrary, I'm going to give it narrowly to Huhne.

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