Ask the Chancellors: Cable comes out on top

Well, readers, I hate to say I told you so - but I did. And so it was that, with 36% of the vote and almost unanimous agreement in the papers that in a better world, he would not only be our next Chancellor but also take over the throne when the Queen's turn is over, Vince Cable came out of last night's Chancellors Debate looking more competent, more experienced and far, far less silly than the other two.

But as Tory shadow Chancellor George Osborne rather meanly put it during the debate, 'there's never going to be a Liberal Democrat government' - so for now, at least, the man who should be in charge of running the nation's finances, if not the entire world, is forced to take the back seat while the other two battle it out among themselves.

The debate was a polite affair: as someone on the Guardian Daily podcast put it, this is what the media looks like when you ask someone a question and let them answer without interrupting. There were a few accusations, but generally, the tone was mild; the questions were answered and the politicians all left feeling they had done a jolly good job.

The only real moment of excitement came when Alistair Darling reprimanded Osborne over his plans to put off a 1% rise in National Insurance Contributions.

"For the last year you have been saying that you needed to cut debt further and faster, and yet today, the first opportunity you had when you thought you had identified some savings, instead of cutting debt you have promised to change the National Insurance contributions," Darling spat.

"You are spending nearly £30bn over a Parliament and you can't identify the credible way with which you can pay for that.That really is an irresponsible risk. It is poor, poor judgement."

Oh dear, George: although I can't help but suspect that particular announcement had been rushed out somewhat after someone at Conservative HQ realised unless there was some sort of solid fiscal measure somewhere in Tory policy, Osborne wasn't going to have a lot else to talk about during the debate.

Still: the point is, Cable, who can lay claim to having predicted the recession, came out on top. Darling, who has gone a long way to solving the recession, could certainly carry himself with a certain amount of pride afterwards.

Osborne has yet to prove himself. While he didn't make any stupendous gaffes during last night's performance, he certainly didn't surprise anyone. His challenge now is to demonstrate to voters he is experienced enough to lead the economy. Otherwise, well, I know I'm not the only person who believes there are others who might be better suited to the job.

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