All pundits seem to agree that Mr Clegg of the Liberal Democrats has emerged as the clear victor in the first televised election debate. He was certainly impressive. He looked straight into the camera, and mixed general principles with concrete policies in a coherent manner.
Mr Clegg managed to keep a clear distance from the other main parties, by representing the Liberal Democrats as the true alternative, the true change to the old politics dominated by Labour and the Tories, but also maintaining a possibility for a role in case of a hung parliament. On the big issues, such as public sector pensions and the care for the elderly, he called for people’s interests to be placed before party politics. This indicates that he would work with another party to form a coalition government or support a minority government, if conditions are right.
Electoral reform – proportional representation – will be the sine qua non for the Liberal Democrats to join or support a government, and if Mr Clegg and his colleagues could show the British electorate that coalition governments can work, the results of this election will really transform British politics. Instead of adversarial politics dominated by two political parties, and a government formed by a party with much less than 50% of the popular vote, a more consensual politics in which the government enjoys broader support from the population may emerge. That may be what the British electorate will choose, whether intentionally or unintentionally, on 6 May.
Interesting times ahead.