So, after the rumoured explosive revelations about Clegg’s expenses turned out to be a bit of a damp squib, tonight saw the second Leaders’ Debate, and it proved to be a more entertaining encounter than last week’s – a more even contest, with Cameron and Brown now not taking Clegg for granted, and several clear dividing lines showing the choices the public face in this election.
But the debate also gave a hint of a potential banana skin for Gordon Brown, namely the issue of scaremongering in his party’s election literature. David Cameron claimed that Labour party leaflets about potential Tory cuts to concessions for pensioners were “lies”, and urged the Prime Minister to withdraw them. Brown replied that he had not personally authorised any such leaflets. He may regret saying that, as he appears to have fallen into a massive, carefully laid trap. Channel 4’s Factcheck team has posted up some of the offending literature in recent weeks, and Alex Salmond, leader of the SNP, was quick to take to the airwaves to claim that in Gordon Brown’s own constituency the Labour party has made similar bogus claims against the SNP (far right, fourth box down). George Osborne was carrying around the evidence with him after the debate.
If the press scents blood over this, Brown is in big trouble. Given that one of the letters is from his own PPS, and the attack against the SNP is from his own constituency, any distancing of himself from authorising the campaign literature seems like a defence that cannot possibly hold water.
I guess we’ll find out in the next couple of days whether this is a storm in a teacup, or whether it gains traction. It’s another interesting twist in the most open election for decades.