It turns out that voters really do judge personality in 5 seconds. Nick Clegg sealed the deal when voters looked into his eyes during his closeup at the start of the debates and decided they liked him. Cameron's eyes are too small (like Kinnock's) and our poor Gord is blind in one eye, legally blind in the other and couldn't locate the camera to look into it in the first place.
The polls since the debate have been stunning:
BPIX CON 31%(-7), LAB 28%(-3), LDEM 32%(+12)
Comres CON 31%(-4), LAB 27%(-2), LDEM 29%(+8)
ICM CON 34%(-3), LAB 29%(-2), LDEM 27%(+7)
YouGov CON 33%(-4), LAB 28%(-3), LDEM 30%(+8)
As recently as Tuesday YouGov had the Tories on 41%, so the implosion has been swift.
What happens now? Furious tactical voting. In Lab-Lib marginals, the Tories will be voting LibDem. In Lib-Con marginals, Labour will be voting LibDem. Lab-Con marginals could go either way as the LibDem voters decide who they'd rather have.
Whatever happens we shall have a hung parliament, and I predict a second general election this year, possibly after the referendum on electoral reform delivers it's results.
All this has come about because David Cameron challenged Gordon Brown to a debate. The Tories didn't think Brown would accept, they only challenged Gord so they could set him up to be labelled "bottler" or "chicken", chortle chortle. Gordon took the risk and said yes knowing that he wouldn't win and that he could be made a fool of, but also knowing that Cameron's appearances hitherto were all controlled set pieces and there was no saying what would happen if he had to go 90 minutes in a debate. Gord was sacrificing himself and risking humiliation for the good of the party.
Cameron then foolishly bigged himself up - on Tuesday, just two days before the debate, his handlers were feeding the line to the Guardian that Cameron's new manifesto was a "JFK moment" and the Guardian duly headlined with it. If Cameron is JFK, Gord must be Nixon, geddit, chortle, chortle. What a childish bunch of tossers they are at CCHQ.
The thing is even JFK didn't bill himself as anything special before the debate - the impact of his debate against Nixon was largely down to how he surprised the audience. Cameron's achilles heel is his collosal vanity. Viewers looked at him and thought "You are no JFK" and then looked at Clegg and thought "I like you, maybe you are". And the Tory lead collapsed, just like that.
Some Tories have been complaining that Cameron shouldn't have agreed to let the LibDems into the debate, but he could hardly refuse now that they have a substantial amount of MPs, and in any case, if he was as good as he thought, he'd have seen Clegg off.
Lots of people have been remarking how cheerful Labourites have been at the LibDem surge. The truth is that though we disagree with them very seriously on lots of policies, the cold hand of fear doesn't choke us when we think of them taking office. We think a LibDem govt would try to govern for the whole country (the way we have these last 13 years - people in Tory and LibDem constituencies prospered as much as people in Labour constituencies). We also don't believe they would vindictively try to hurt Labour voters just for kicks.
In a democracy no party can govern forever, but you always hope to hand over to people with some decency. And that was the case till 1979. Everything changed then. Labour voters were systematically singled out, make jobless, their families impoverished, their self-esteem shredded, just because some Tory boys in the Thatcher government thought it was amusing.
The changes Cameron wrought were largely cosmetic, the nasty core of the Tory culture remained intact - witness Osborne's glee at the idea of making public sector workers pay for the mistakes of his banker friends. It's no wonder that the Tory lead started to slip at around the time of the Tory conference when they started to take power for granted and the mask slipped.
That's the reason Labour has been fighting the Tories so hard. It's too dangerous to let them back into government while the vicious side of their culture goes unchecked. They'll have to return to the culture of Macmillan for real before they are let back into government.
If Labour has stopped the Tories from taking govt, we have achieved our goal, regardless of what happens to us. Gord can be content that his suicide bomb mission in agreeing to the debates paid off. As for the LibDems, I wish them luck. I certainly hope that Labour voters in Tory constituencies switch their vote en masse to help remove Tory MPs.