Screen shot 2010-03-30 at 12.50.30 Closing statements are strategically vital.  They are the sum of the
debater's argument, his case to the voters – his pitch in a nutshell.

Vince Cable's closing statement yesterday evening in the Shadow
Chancellor's debate
was a emphatic assault on the Conservatives.  He
said that the party wants "another chance to get their noses in the
trough and reward their rich friends".  Sure, the Liberal Democrat
spokesman found time earlier to lay into the Government – after all, he
had an hour in which to do it – but the commentators have picked up
that for much of the debate it was two-against-one: Darling and Cable V

They don't and won't agree about who won.  Did Cable win because he
won the most studio applause and good blogging response?  Did Osborne
win because expectations of him were low, and the only direction he
could go was up – which he did, performing crisply and cooly and (above
all) staying remorselessly on-message?  Who knows?  And, in a sense,
who cares?  The media will have moved on by the end of the day's news
cycle.  (They won't move on so quickly from those coming, pivotal
Leaders' debates.)

No, the significance of yesterday's debate is what it told us about
the dynamics of a hung Parliament, were the election to produce one. 
Cable's background as an ex-Labour man is on the left.  His
positioning yesterday showed that his instincts remain there.  And
what's true of Cable is true of much if not most of the LibDem
Parliamentary Party.  It's impossible to imagine them consenting to a
Conservative/Liberal coalition on Tory terms and no easier to see them
offering any stable support to a Conservative Government.

Come the Leaders' debates, I expect Clegg to be more nuanced, but
what we saw last night was what we'd get in a Parliament with no
overall majority: Labour and Lib Dem V Conservative.  So if voters want
change, or simply to stave off a market crisis, there's only one choice
to make.  We must make this point again and again during the next few
weeks, especially in the marginals and as April turns into May.  Last
night, Cable was Labour's attack dog in a TV studio.  In a hung
Parliament, he'd do the same job on the Commons floor.

Paul Goodman

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