The second British election debate (highlights here) centered on foreign policy and Britain's role in the world - a topic many thought Nick Clegg would show serious signs of weakness. It didn't happen, and although David Cameron had a slightly better showing (and Brown probably worse), Clegg remained largely unscathed maintaining his image as a fresh outsider with bold ideas.
David Cameron and Gordon Brown took turns to hammer the increasingly popular Lib Dem leader for being soft on immigration and weak on defense. Clegg held his ground accusing Labour of supporting useless weapons programs and the Conservatives of 'siding with "nutters, anti-Semites, people who deny climate change exists,
homophobes" when it came to European policy. The three party leaders squabbled over Britain's relationship with America with Brown accusing Clegg of being anti American and Cameron being anti European. The three men took turns in building short term coalitions with each other with Cameron at one point saying 'I never thought I'd utter these words, but I agree with Gordon' (in reference to Britain's nuclear deterrence that Clegg would like to see gone).
It was great stuff and each politician seemed to relish the combat, but Clegg's poise through what turned out to be a much tougher and closer debate carried the day. Writes Andrew Sullivan on his live blog of the debate:
Clegg grasps the change mantle, the Obama message, in a restive and
anti-political country. In that sense, I think he won this. And I would
not be surprised to see his party emerge - historically - as the leader
in this race.
The polls, as it turns out, agree:
Times/Populus - Cameron won
- Clegg won
ITV/ComRes - Clegg won
Reid - Clegg won
YouGov - Cameron won
here's an average of all five polls