Last night was the highlight of the election campaign so far - the Westmorland Gazette live debate. It was held at Kendal College and chaired with steely resolve and Dimbleby-style discipline by Gazette editor Andrew Thomas.
It began extraordinarily well - drinks, nibbles and cakes for everyone attending. The drinks were served in blue glasses but in the interests of balance they swapped for them for red beakers half-way through.
For the five candidates, this was their 13th husting. At first I thought the table was aligned from left to right, politically speaking, but it turns out they were in alphabetical order. The Labour and UKIP candidates just happened to be at opposite ends.
The Gazette journalists were there in force and I was there in a nice jacket. It was my job to supply a sketches for the debate’s Twitter stream. (Any resemblance to candidates living or dead from the neck up is purely coincidental.)
Conservative candidate Ann Myatt
Green candidate Chris Loynes
Labour candidate John Bateson
LibDem candidate Tim Farron
UKIP candidate Alan Piper
Live tweeting an event is hectic. Last night, for example, I was drawing the candidates, taking photos of the sketches to upload to Twitter, adding comments and dealing with hecklers from the back who were being rude about my drawings. In general, I was undertaking my responsibility to report the event in a fair and unbiased manner. (OK, I lied about that last bit.)
Over 90 minutes, the candidates tackled a wide range of questions. A lot were on subjects you’d expect and some of the answers were pretty predictable too (the UKIP chap managed to blame the EU for something on the 2nd question, winning me a bet with another journalist). The Green and Labour candidates were particularly impressive. LibDem Tim was, of course, the star as he’s used to the Big Boy’s Shouting Club in Westminster. It didn’t all go his way though.
In terms of audience reaction, my count was
LibDem - 4 rounds of applause
Labour and Green - 2 each
Conservative - 0
UKIP - a round of boos (he’s a pub landlord) and a cry of “shame” and “disgraceful”. (It was a job to tell if this upset him as he looked pretty cross throughout the whole thing.)
You can still find the Tweets (look for the #WGdebate tag) and the live blog. Pop back here on Monday for an in-depth, scientific analysis of how the parties are really doing …