First off I was glad to see that Campbell was asked the question about having a hand in Kennedys fall although of course he ducked it completely.
Clearly some of the audience felt that Hughes had lost some credibility over the revelations of his sexuality. Hughes response looked fairly nervous and flaky and seemed to have a touch of desperation about it although a later comment got a more supportive reaction from the audience.
Hughes made an aside about the decision on the Iraq war and the fact the Huhne had not yet joined the parliamentary party at that point which was I felt a little below the belt. Campbell was very strong on the Iraq withdrawal question and his response was well received by the audience. Huhne made a better case for withdrawal than Hughes I felt. The Huhne line being that we are in danger of being part of the problem whereas the Hughes line seemed to be that we had to withdraw following the election otherwise we might be there for ever.
The redistribution of wealth issue was interesting. I thought Huhne was good and I liked the linking of taxation and redistribution of wealth in with pensions policy which is a big area for us to address. Hughes started well on this question but his statement about the increase in the property values near a new station will have left many people cold.
The Hung Parliament / Coalition Question. Campbell would banish the words hung parliament. Huhne wants to get our policies through. Hughes said we need to get a larger number of MPs so that every vote is decisive and people can see how Lib Dems affect things. All seem to concur that Electoral Reform is a critical precondition to entering coalitions. Hughes was also very strong on elected regional government and removing powers from Quangos.
Experience in Parliament . Huhne argued that he has other experience as well as being an MEP good point but Hughes also made a valid point about long experience of holding governments of different hues to account. Huhnes comeback about journalists having the skill to ask pithy questions went down well. Campbell said that in order to take advantage of Kennedys legacy it was vital to have that long experience. Hughes stated that the general public feel that MPs are out of touch and make laws that are not needed. Parliament needs to better reflect the UK society as whole.
Hughes was questioned about his digs at Ming being a safe pair of hands and Huhnes lack of campaigning experience and denied it all.
They were asked about their biggest mistake. Huhnes was slagging off a German MEP and then realising that he needed his vote on another issues and that you had to learn to respect other points of view. Campbells was believing that rational argument will always prevail – you need battalions (of MPs) to win votes. Hughes did not provide a personal mistake and opted for the party making a mistake by missing out a core statement of values at the last election –freedom fairness and trust should have been in the manifesto
My overall thoughts were as follows : When Hughes was strong he was better than the other two but at several points he looked shaky and worse than the others. He also ducked the mistake question and there is clearly a problem about what has or has not been said by his campaign about the other two candidates. Huhne I felt did well and is definitely in the running from being a complete outsider. Campbell seemed to start a little nervously although he got better as it went on. He ducked the Kennedy Assassination question and also bizarrely repeated the fact that he had been in hospital during the anti war march two or three times. I will be interested to see how they do on Saturday but my current leaning is as follows
Tag Lib Dems