Vince Cable was the clear winner in last night's debate between would-be chancellors, both according to an online poll of viewers and my own judgement after watching the programme. Saint Vince did remind us that he had been right all long, but was also prepared to think the unthinkable and say we could not ring fence the NHS without leading to devastating cuts elsewhere.
George Osborne was wearing an over tight suit and was in a bit of a tight spot over the promise to reverse the proposed rise in National Insurance contributions. He claims to have discovered even more efficiency savings. We all know that they exist: on Saturday I got six separate letters with an accompanying leaflet about tax codes from Revenue and Customs. Some were for employers I had done a task for once and was unlikely to do again and once was for a pension fund I am not a member of. But as Vince pointed out, many of these efficency savings are 'pure fiction'. And if they can be made, why not use them to pay down the debt?
Darling batted well on a sticky wicket and did himself no harm. Unfortunately, the audience asked straight and clear questions, but rarely got straight and clear answers, although more so from Vince.
As George Osborne pointed out towards the end of the programme, we are either going to have a Conservative or a Labour Government sometime after May 7th, so there is no prize for Vince. One newspaper suggested this morning that we could have a Lib Dem chancellor, but the Lib Dems are not going to tarnish their identity by entering a coalition.