OO:43 - Quick pan over the audience, who, by the looks of it, are the Countdown audience who missed their coach.
00:50 - 'Hello. I'm Julie Etchingham. I had my hair cut in 1997 and decided that low-maintenance barnets are for me. How do you like my tunic? Aren't I sexy?'
00:47 - Nick Clegg hastily sinks a gin, his head filling with swear words and a crippling self-doubt setting in.
02:27 - Camera turns to Natalie Bennett of the Green Party, who looks rather like a Pastoral Deputy from some challenging inner city school. "We start with hope", she begins, her eye mysteriously going slack, much to our concern. Still, already an improvement on that radio interview, the one which made a post-match interview with Alex Ferguson sound like a lost Pinter play.
03:18 - Wongy-eyed UKIP frontman Nigel Farage appears. How long before the 'I' word? 0.2 seconds, seemingly. "Immigration yadda yadda and all these youngsters yadda yadda. Something about ordinary people yadda yadda. Don't say 'white'. They don't like that yadda yadda." Even from Salford, the sound of Chorlton residents slinging their sustainably-sourced quinoa at the screen can be heard.
04:24 - Enter Lib Dem Leader, Nick Clegg in a yellow tie for Easter, courtesy of his Mum going to Burton's for him. "I'm not gonna pretend I haven't made mistakes," he begins, waving his hands around like some Rotary speaker. At least he can apologise, I s'pose. *shrug*
05:23 - A mild Scottish accent and a Crissan suit heralds Nicola Sturgeon of SNP's opening piece. Scathing attack on money used to fund nuclear arms and not the futures of young people. Ears pricking up everywhere. But, oh, damn it, she represents a party we'd have to vote tactically for. Drat and bother. Oh, and I'm out of dried mango...
06:28 - A distant rumbling of thunder. Oh, 'ere he is! Hello, Gru AKA PM David Cameron. "We have the fastest growing economy of any of the other Western countries," he begins. At whose expense, we wonder? Ah, yes. Those grubby poor folk whose benefits we cut and those pesky disabled folk whose benefits we cut and those pointless arts institutions we robbed senseless and and and....I'm gonna need a Coke Zero. *takes deep breaths*
07:43 - Leanne Wood next up for Plaid Cymru, who wants to create 'Wales's voice in Westminster.' Fair enough, says I. And what a lovely bun. Smashing. *slurps Coke Zero*
08:47 - It's Ed Milliband next, whose face is rubberier than Arnie in the first Terminator. "I believe Britain succeeds when ordinary, working people succeed. But that's not the way it's been," he declares, gloomily. You can almost hear Albinoni's Adagio in D minor beginning as he speaks. Eerie and imploring face. It's all a bit Paul McKenna. And then Beyonce with a repeated motif for the night. Sing it with me! 'If I were PM, even just for a day...'
09:00 - Lad called Johnny Tudor asks a question about austerity. I am now angry. WHY WAS MY NAME NOT JOHNNY TUDOR?? I must look at deed polls and stuff...
14:30 - Milliband turns from Tudor direct to cam. Could this be more, 'Hey - you at home. Put down the Pot Noodle. I'm-a-talkin' to YOU!'
22:10 - Farage, who hasn't had a fag for at least twenty minutes, goes more apeshit than that guy in Network at Sturgeon and reaches into 'Acting Faces: Volume 3' for our first taste of his facial dramatics. Priceless.
25:05 - Another weird direct-to-cam moment from Milliband. What's that he's pinching between his fingertips? My money's on a purple Skittle.
40:50 - Cameron talks of his disabled child. My piss boils at the hypocrisy here. And then Clegg calls mental health 'the poor relation of physical health' in terms of its NHS handling. Yes. Sense, Nick. Finally!
50:45 - Tell me Nigel Farage didn't do the whole 'Foreigners = AIDS' thing. Tell me he didn't. He did, didn't he? And thank you, Leanne, for knocking him down.
01:00:38 - A sense injection from Sturgeon on immigration rejecting 'scaremongering' and 'intolerance' driven by UKIP. Oooh, we like her! Go, Sturge!
01;04:46 - Clegg makes up a slogan on the spot: 'Opt for business, not for abuse.' It's so self-congratulatory, we can only thank our lucky stars that the podium obscures his groin...
01:20:10 - Natalie Bennett wants 'local jobs for local people'. Great sentiment, but now I'm picturing Papa Lazarou. Which isn't very Election-y.
01:20:41 - Wood controversially agrees with Farage on immigration control and Farage decides to congratulate her. "Well done", he barks, patronisingly, stopping just short of calling her 'love', thank fuck.
01:28:16 onwards and there's Natalie Bennett asking for Relationships and Sex Education to be as important as other subjects. I applaud my screen. I then applaud harder when Sturgeon talks of 'breaking the All-Boys Network of Westminster.' Cue Aretha and Annie.
01:31:12 - I make the sudden realisation that Farage's initials are N.F and shudder. Coincidence? Nope!
And then the final statements where Cameron tries to sell you the same old shit at the same old price, Milliband talks of the Government being your enemy and Sturgeon sounding the loudest by talking of a progressive alternative. And then my Coke Zero supply dries up completely. Bugger.
But was this just the same old much-of-a-muchness we get in political debates? Somewhat. Cameron ducks questions and insists in the face of figures that contradict him that we're 'on the right track' whilst Milliband thinks we're in a worse condition than ever before. And Nick Clegg just wants an egg sandwich. Nothing new there, then. Sturgeon, however, in line with all the other women, spoke with compassion, a compassion that's been lacking from politics and she wasn't cowed into silence by other, louder opponents. And that's not to leave Wood and Bennett out of this. Sure, they may have needed more prompting than Joseph in the school Nativity on occasion, but their connection to us, the public, was more evident than from the blank resignation of Clegg, or the dreaming of Milliband, or the denial of clueless Cameron, or the obnoxious divisiveness of Farage. Sturgeon is certainly not the tallest opponent of the seven, but certainly the most sensible and the one to most be reckoned with.
I, for one, believe Round One was a clear victory for the girls.