The sentiment where I was watching was why can’t we have women politicians as articulate and as politically attractive as Leanne Wood and Nicola Sturgeon. Although it was pot luck the Plaid Cymru leader got to perform the takedown on Nigel Farage over foreign HIV patients getting NHS treatment, it was what people will remember her by.
Much as the SNP and Plaid gained profile, it comes at the detriment of Carwin Jones in Wales and Jim Murphy in Scotland. The decision to exclude NI parties (four plus seven would have been farcical) means that ITV not only ‘unvoiced’ Northern Ireland as a constituent part of the United Kingdom, but devolved unionist voices everywhere else.
So Plaid was raised to the voice of Wales status it aspires to, Welsh Labour who are already that (for now) were effectively silenced. It’s a trick of the TV light that can only benefit Plaid at the expense of Labour. And it is this Welsh coup that may prove to be Labour’s five o’clock shadow moment here rather than Scotland which already seems lost.
This exemplifies a issue which Jones (Murdo Fraser has made similar arguments here on Slugger) has been making for some time: ie, that further constitutional reform must continue not simply in the devolved areas, but in London. In effect ITV were grappling with a problem that Westminster has been diligently ignoring, and coming up with similar illogical part answers.
One reason people in England (and Northern Ireland) are purring over politicians they cannot vote for and regretting the poor choices facing them is the unfair mixed of politicians who if elected to power will be responsible for tax raising with those who will mostly spend them. The latter were clear, fearless and mostly policy free, the former technocratic and devoid of resonance.
On the mainstage of UK politics unplugged, the PM lost out because many of the sensible points he made were drowned in the cacophony. Although the Tories will feel they were amply compensated with the damage wrought on Labour in Scotland (and Wales).
Nick Clegg too, came out of his long silence with the only really personalised (if political) attack of the whole game. In the limited game available to his party, that qualifies as a win. He needs that much even to win his own seat in Sheffield Hallam, never mind hold his party’s apparently outsized assets elsewhere.
Nigel Farage will bolster his base, but I suspect having had one gin too many (and just one might have been enough to do it) before curtain up and a debate thick with other (dare I say more attractive) oppositionist voices may have dampened his capacity to appeal to the wider group of voters he needs to turn to take seats rather than just damage the big two.
Biggest loser on the night, I suspect, was Ed Miliband. Not so much through anything he said, what we got to hear was sound enough, but the format effectively mugged Labour to a far greater extent than any other party in the debate.
One important thing to add though is that Miliband himself has been subjected to the most sustained and nasty personal attack (which is also becoming a feature, rather than a bug) imaginable over the four years or so he has been leader of the Labour party, and yet last night he seemed to have cut through all of that.
If it is not too condescending a thing to say, last night he never looked more human since taking over as leader, or more ready for a fight. As one friend put it last night, ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’.
Yes well, we’ll see about that on the seventh of May. Even after that it is clear the UK is on journey of evolving territorial sovereignty. UKIP and Brexit may prove to be the least of unsighted London’s worries.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty