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Seeing the effects of personal style on the outcome of last week's debate, all three leaders tried to put their personality into the defence and security tussle; not an easy thing to do when trying to be a world figure.
By Michael Clarke, Director of RUSI
As expected, Gordon Brown lost no opportunity to stress that he was the man of international experience, 'like me or not' he said, disarmingly. David Cameron presented himself as the man with a hard-headed sense of the national interest, and still he represented 'change'.
Nick Clegg had big ambitions for a reorientation in Britain's international posture and claimed lots of experience, but still managed to tell us about his mother, wife and children.
All three were relaxed enough to jump in at each other. The effect was a rough equality of bullying. Mr Brown and Mr Clegg ganged up against Mr Cameron on EU issues; use your involvement to fight for Britain inside the EU, they said. But you people actually don't fight when you're there, he retorted.
Then Mr Clegg and Mr Cameron ganged up on Mr Brown for running the Afghan campaign without supplying the troops adequately. The Prime Minister was testy in his defence. Then Mr Brown and Mr Cameron both turned on Mr Clegg over Trident. He needed to 'get real' they said - on nuclear weapons as well as power. Mr Clegg scrambled to show how realistic he was on costs, on the timing of decisions, and his understanding of the opportunities President Obama offered.
In the end, Trident aside, it is difficult to see much difference in principle between the three on foreign and defence issues. At most, they offered differences of emphasis. They all see Britain playing an important role as a liberal internationalist power.
Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg claim some difference over whether they would work with our European partners inside or outside the EU framework. Mr Brown's emphasis was that he simply knew how Britain should cope with events, dear boy, events.
In the end, the public will probably feel they are being asked to choose between the management competence of the three leaders to speak for their security and prosperity in a dangerous world. Mr Brown came across as a man with no overwhelming interest in international affairs, but valuable experience; Mr Clegg as a man who cared deeply about situating Britain internationally, but whose experience was limited. And Mr Cameron had the hardest task; to be as statesmanlike as a prime minister but still, somehow, to emphasise the 'change' theme with comparatively little to change. He tried to find some clear water, but it was really about the character of the leadership he would offer.
This article first appeared in the Daily Telegraph on 23 April 2010
The views expressed above are the author's own, and do not necessarily reflect those of RUSI