Did Nicola Sturgeon, the formidable SNP leader and current First Minster of Scotland, emerge as the winner from last night’s televised debate of the “challengers” in the UK general election? She certainly seems to have put Ed Miliband on the defensive more than once, though much of the centre-left media in Britain is spinning the Labour Party leader as holding his own against his rivals.
David Cameron, the Tory leader and incumbent British prime minster, was of course not present since he is seeking to avoid future head-to-heads with his opponents, judging that he has everything to loose and very little to gain by such contests. Some observers believe that he may regret the decision to try and appear statesmanlike and above the torrid fray of party politics. His absence was notable during the debate. This of course also meant that Nick Clegg, head of the Lib Dem minnows in the coalition, was automatically excluded – which is a disaster for him as he needs every opportunity he can get to sell his shop-worn case.
On the other hand it left the field open to Sturgeon, and to a lesser extent Leanne Wood of Plaid Cymru, to get the digs in to both the Tories and Labour (the Green Party leader Natalie Bennett was largely an also-ran, her performance and impact somewhat marginal when compared to her previous televised effort). Of course the first two politicians were appealing to very different markets. Nicola Sturgeon to the people of Scotland first and foremost, followed up by some very public overtures to British Labour insiders who may wish to form some sort of partnership in the event of a “hung parliament”. Which Miliband very publicly – and very foolishly – rejected. Wood on the other hand was pursuing her previous tactic of concentrating on her domestic audience in Wales – and by all accounts with some modest success (albeit much to the irritation of the metropolitan-obsessed London media).
Nigel Farage of UKIP, a party that has tried to seize the nationalist “Greater England” mantles of both the Conservatives and Labour, was his typical self, turning on the audience when sneering at his opponents was not enough. It might satisfy the atavism of the party’s core vote but new voters it will not make.
Wee Ginger Dug has a typically acerbic take on it all that does more justice to the debate than my few brief lines.