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NI Leaders’ Debate: BBC got the best out of them

Below is a brief review which I put together for the News Letter website’s election section.

Only seconds in and it became clear that, sartorially at least, everyone had learned from the last debate.

Gone was Reg’s strangely brown suit, and gone was Margaret’s angry red coat. In its place, nice Tory blues for Reg and a calming, inoffensive mauve for Margaret.

But most importantly for the SDLP leader, she also dropped the handheld prompt notes this time out. Ritchie was much more settled and fluent. Both she and her advisers had done their prep work and it told.

The Sinn Fein leader again was relaxed, but this time he had some bite in his performance. Adams had a couple of decent lines – dubbing the SDLP leader ‘Margaret in Wonderland’, and turning up with blacked out bills for McGrady’s gardening was a decent move.

Reg Empey is naturally cautious, but he’s good at being indignant. Both Reg and Peter Robinson put in strong performances.

The BBC’s bulk, multiple question format might have tripped people up but the increased audience input and the podium set-up made for a more accomplished, engaging spectacle. Politics has been well served by the leaders debate process – they all upped their game.

With polling day only 24 hours hence, all the leaders should be pleased – it was a good night’s work.

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