So the Big Debate with five Party Leaders…Arlene Foster (DUP), Mike Nesbitt (UUP) Martin McGuinness (Sinn Féin), David Ford (Alliance) and Colum Eastwood (SDLP).
I enjoyed it despite it seeming very low-key. These Debates now seem to be part of the Election process itself. The whole point is not to screw up (nearly) live on TV.
So it is a “defensive” game for those with most to lose and an “attacking” game for those with most to gain.
The après-Debate is as much part of the process as the Debate itself. The Party “Tweeters” follow the lead of their Party “Spinners”. The pattern is always the same. Five Parties will claim that their man/woman won and the others lost.
So ….SDLP seem to think that Colum Eastwood was the best performer tonight. More to the point, a lot of neutrals seem to think he won.
In part, this is expected. The advisors would have told Martin McGuinness and Arlene Foster “dont screw up”. Both seemed nervy and seem uncomfortable when forced to defend their joint while trying to persuade people they have no connexion at all.
Mike Nesbitt did very well. In part because, he is not part of the governing coalition.
I am happy to report that David Ford performed poorly. He looked like a man who knew he would be resigning as Alliance Leader and going to House of Lords in the very near future. Alliance are guaranteed the Justice Ministry.Thanks to a shabby deal, it props up DUP-Sinn Féin. With the number of Departments being reduced, Alliance might be the big loser next month.
SDLP…Colum will have done himself a lot of good. His best lines have all been rehearsed over recent weeks. And he looked at ease.
These things are morale boosters. And SDLP feels pretty good tonight.