Chancellor Alistair Darling, shadow chancellor George Osborne and the Liberal Democrats' Vince Cable all took part in a debate in front of a live audience, broadcast on Channel 4 last night.
During the hour-long debate, Darling attacked the Conservatives for proposing ‘premature' spending cuts while George Osborne called the Government ‘wasteful'.
CIPR board member Keith Johnston said of the debate: ‘In what was a pretty dull performance, none of the contenders gave a clear idea of what their party stood for.'
DLA Piper head of media and director, global government relations, Eben Black added: ‘For the first ever such debate in British electoral history, this was more than a little disappointing. Nixon versus Kennedy it was not.'
Osborne has received criticism recently for being ‘young' and ‘inexperienced'. The Observer ran with a front page story on Sunday which claimed Labour was targeting Osborne as the ‘weakest link' in the Tory team.
Johnston said of Osborne's performance: ‘Osborne came out better than expected, sure footed on his "death tax" attack but occasionally appearing pale and petulant.'
As the debate finished, a survey on the Channel 4 website suggested viewers had seen it as a three-way tie.
Cable was one point ahead, on 34 per cent, with Darling and Osborne each on 33 per cent.
‘Vince Cable seemed to get the most applause, which may not bode well for the other two parties,' said Black. ‘But the audience, all of whom must have actively wanted to be there, was struggling to appear interested.'
Cicero Consulting director and chief corporate counsel Iain Anderson added: ‘Osborne confounded the planned Labour election attack tactic with a safety first performance. Saint Vince went for populism attacking the Tories harder, clearly now the Lib Dem strategy. Darling, more nervous, let the cat out of the bag on long-term care reform. They all talked consensus, warming us all up for potential coalition politics.'