They're done, the last of three, and it was the turn of the economy, probably the single biggest issue of this whole election. It was better than the Sky one, maybe not as good as the first one on C4. So who won?
They all started with their opening statements, Cameron starting with an attack on people who abuse the benefits system, Clegg with his fairer economy speech and Brown mentioned yesterday's gaffe before saying that he does get the Economy right.
Let me briefly mention the 'Bigotgate' debacle. I'll sum it up in one phrase, 'storm in a teacup'. The press are always going to want to be the first to break the first gaffe of the campaign but they went overboard, they reported it more than they have any other policy that's been mentioned in the election. It was silly of him to say what he did, I won't defend that, but who hasn't made comments in the heat of a moment that they later regretted. She might not be a bigot, but talking about 'flocking' eastern Europeans is getting close to it.
So, back to tonight.
On the economy the party's stuck to what they've been saying all along. Brown attacked with a bit more venom than he has in the past on the Tory's plans to reverse the NI rise and its effect on the budgets of schools and policing. Cameron carried on with his line about not taxing jobs and Clegg pushed his idea of a new system which is fairer to the masses. I've already written about these sorts of things in other posts here so I won't go over it again.
There were other questions going over what's been said before so I'll stick to what's new. On benefits Cameron has taken a much harder line in recent times than he has in the past, sparked by the release of his new poster campaign. They all said what they'd do to get people back to work, with them stressing that there needs to be incentives for people to be back in work and Cameron arguing for stronger punishments. Brown mentioned the future jobs fund which was opposed by the Tory's and Clegg mentioned his plan to scrap tax on the first £10,000 earned. It's been missing from the rest of the campaign so it was good to see it debated.
The things most repeated were the tax credits and the Tory inheritance tax plan. Without knowing who would be affected by the cut in tax credits under the Lib Dems its hard for me to argue against them, in principle I'd agree with Brown (surprise, surprise) that we shouldn't e removing tax credits ahead of other savings. Children are going to be the ones who push this country forward and they have to be supported in the early years, but in some cases I do agree that over a certain income family's simply don't need that extra money to look after the children. And I simply can't get my head around the inheritance tax idea from the Torys, it's simply mad. You cannot justify, at a time when other services are being cut, handing money back to some of the richest estates in the country. Cameron's attempt to defend it was farcical, the way it came across was that only millionaires were considered wealthy, not those estates earning hundreds of thousands a year. In a time of financial belt-tightening that is truly laughable. And I really wish Cameron would stop harping onto about the massage parlour, it doesn't cost the taxpayer money like he claims, it funds itself because it charges for its use.
My verdict, for what it matters, is that Brown came back strongly after a battering from the press, Cameron held his ground on his policies but was weak on substance and Clegg was good at defending his policies but would probably have preferred to tag Vince Cable in for this one. Clegg said that some of the criticisms on him were desperate, and I'd agree with him, which is odd considering Cameron has told he's campaigning on a 'positive' message. All I ever hear from him is negative campaigning on the EU, the jobs tax, the death tax, Trident, the amnesty, the economy, the hung parliament and more. The others have made negative remarks, I accept that, but the others aren't always claiming that they're the only ones not sinking down to that level. Okay, maybe I'm letting my bias come through, but I really can't stand the man, he's a slimy career politician with no integrity who isn't fit to run a corner shop.
I suppose there's always two sides to any view though.