Conservative Diary

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Labour and the LibDems did not win a debate they expected to win

Instant judgments on tonight's debate:

No big winner.

Osborne was up against Labour's best performer other than Mandelson and against the LibDems' most popular figure, Cable, but neither even came close to flooring him. Osborne came through unscathed and looked like a Chancellor.

Indeed, better than unscathed, he actually appeared to force a U-turn from Darling on the £20,000 death tax. The only 'new news' of the debate.

My own view of Cable took a hit tonight. He was consistently populist, playing to the gallery particularly with his attack on 50p taxpayers as "pin-striped Scargills." That was student politics and not worthy of a prospective Chancellor.

And what a gallery it was. There seemed noisy support for Cable. I'd be interested in how Channel 4 selected its audience and whether the LibDems flooded the application process.

Osborne's one minute introduction wasn't great but over the hour he clearly delivered the key messages (1) Labour's banking regulation had failed; (2) deliberately wasteful spending cannot be a solution to the recession; and (3) for all Labour's attempts to obfuscate by attacking the Tories, it is Labour that has been in charge for thirteen years, they've made the mess and it is up to voters to decide if it's really sensible to believe they're the people to clean it up.

In conclusion: Osborne 7 out of 10, Darling 6 out of 10, Cable 5 out of 10. Labour and the LibDems did not win a debate they expected to win.

Tim Montgomerie


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