Clegg is top performer again in second debate
THE leader of Britain's Conservative Party, David Cameron, came back stronger in the second televised prime ministerial debate last night as the Liberal Democrats' Nick Clegg again turned in an accomplished performance and Labour's Gordon Brown appeared to trail behind the other two.
Mr Cameron was more successful in engaging with the television audience than last week and repeatedly styled himself as a premier in waiting, beginning several answers with the words: "If I were your prime minister..."
Mr Clegg again used the ploy of referring to "the old parties", a line which inevitably seemed to lack the impact of a week ago. And he also referred to Barack Obama more than once in an attempt to assume the mantle of change. However, he came under sustained attack from both other leaders over his policy not to renew the Trident nuclear missile system.
Mr Brown appeared more passionate than last week but spent less of the debate engaging with the audience and more of his time attacking his two rivals. The debate was more intense and the result harder to call. One early poll, by YouGov, put Mr Cameron in first place, another put Mr Clegg first.
However, another poll showed Mr Clegg to be the best performer with Mr Brown and Mr Cameron tied. Mr Cameron was also forced to concede for the first time that he would be prepared to work with Mr Clegg in a hung parliament.
With Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg appearing to pull away from Mr Brown the prospect arose of the Lib Dems proving the main challenger to the Conservatives although, because of the quirks of the electoral system, Mr Brown could still win the most seats even if he comes third.
Mr Clegg seemed unfazed by the pressure that was on him after last week's performance that sent the Lib Dems' poll ratings soaring and again repeatedly referred to the "two old parties". For the second week running, the first instant opinion poll, by ComRes for ITV, found that Mr Clegg won the debate, although by a smaller margin. Mr Clegg scored 33pc, while Mr Brown and Mr Cameron were neck and neck on 30pc, with 7pc undecided.
Both Mr Brown and Mr Cameron improved their standing significantly on last week, when Mr Brown was said to have won by only 20pc and Mr Cameron by 26pc. Mr Clegg's performance was less impressive than during the first debate, which he won with an overwhelming 43pc. But Mr Brown's stronger performance failed to translate into support from voters, with only 24pc saying that they would vote Labour, the same figure as a week ago.
The Lib Dems continued to enjoy their extraordinary post-debate "bounce", with 36pc of voters who watched the debate saying that they would back them on polling day -- 1pc more than last week -- pushing the Conservatives into second place with 35pc, down one point.
The Lib Dems' leader struggled when forced to defend the Lib Dems' policies towards Europe.
His views on defence also appeared not to have proved popular with voters. (© Daily Telegraph, London).