Did the big debate give us anything but tedium?

UK: History was made last night as the three major party leaders in Britain faced each other in the first-ever prime ministerial debate.

But while the programme undoubtedly attracted a massive audience, overall it was a very sterile affair – with moments of real tedium.

There were some flashes of passion between the three leaders, but there was a feeling they had been over-coached and were so afraid of making a gaffe that they really didn’t set the world on fire.

Nick Clegg was the sharpest off the mark – emphasising that he was different to the other two. But he soon seemed as keen as the others to avoid putting a foot wrong.

The first question was on immigration – and that was probably the wrong subject to start with. It is a very difficult issue for politicians to deal with and one that makes them very careful.

It really didn’t lend itself to off-the-cuff responses and set a sterile tone for much of the debate.

Gordon Brown seemed very keen to agree with Mr Clegg whenever possible and to try to get him to gang up on David Cameron – a temptation the Liberal Democrat seemed determined to avoid.

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Mr Cameron worked hard to get his message across – but essentially the problem we had with all three leaders was that no one will have learned anything new about them or their policies as a result of this 90-minute extravaganza.

I suspect very few people will have changed their views as a result of this debate.

Mr Clegg spent a great deal of time talking about his Sheffield constituency which will no doubt have gone down very well in the steel city.

But most of those who stuck with the programme throughout will have already made their mind up before it started and there was little to change the mind.

Once the debate turned to defence and dealing with the recession, it did start to get interesting – but again there were no knock-out blows or memorable one-liners.

On Trident, Mr Clegg certainly had a different argument to the other leaders.

The highlight of the show was the last minute when Gordon Brown rushed down to shake hands with the audience and the other two leaders looked slightly awkward before realising that was a great idea!

So who won? It was probably the person you wanted to win in the first place.

This was no game-changing moment but overall it was a welcome addition to the election campaign.

n What did you think of the debate? Write to Your Letters, The Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send us an e-mail to evening starletters@eveningstar.co.uk

n Visit www.eveningstar.co.uk/news/blogs for top analysis by local government correspondent Paul Geater and political editor Graham Dines.

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