Campbell started slowly and sounded at a couple of points as though he had some talking points and soundbites memorised and wanted to make sure he mentioned them all, but improved later on, especially when he was accused of being almost a Tory by someone in the audience. In contrast, Hughes started well, but then seemed to lose focus later on and seemed to not be on the surest footing on some of the economics questions, especially skipping a bit round the 50% tax issue which the other two straight-batted to the Tax Commission. Huhne was consistent throughout, and was good at linking ideas together and emphasising his extra-Parliamentary experience. He wasn't hugely inspiring, but then neither were the other two and sounded perfectly comfortable and at home in the debate.One thing I am sure I heard did not make it into Nick's summary. The three candidates were debating taxation, and in particular Chris Huhne's idea of using environmental taxes to lift the low paid out of income tax altogether.
Having first sounded warm about it, Ming went on to say that we should be careful because in a rural constituency like his a car was a necessity not a luxury. There is something in that, but all the same my heart sank. It is precisely the argument you used to hear Liberal MPs using 30 years ago when we were a tiny party representing a few Celtic fringe constituencies. Have we really not moved on since then?
Much as I respect him, I fear that choosing as leader Menzies Campbell would not represent a step forward. If the MPs were determined to remove Charles Kennedy, they should have united behind a younger candidate, even if he or she would have proved more controversial with the membership.