Voters vs politicians -- voters win (finally)

Watching the BBC's Question Time special with the party leaders, you quickly realised why they've been kept away from ordinary voters for so much of the campaign.

Ordinary voters ask bloody good questions, and they don't accept being fobbed off.

Ed Miliband had a torrid time at the start of his half-hour. Hammered over Liam Byrne's "there's no money" note, then hammered again over his insistence Labour didn't overspend when in government.

He looked nervous and desperate to move on -- but after a poor start recovered towards the end.

The audience were unimpressed when Mr Miliband copied David Cameron in refusing to acknowledge the seeming inevitability of a hung parliament.

But the Labour leader did go a little further on ruling out a deal with the SNP -- saying "If it meant not being in government, so be it".

It's a powerful soundbite -- ruling out a coalition or a confidence and supply deal.

But Mr Miliband could still try to lead a minority government, relying on the SNP to vote with Labour to keep out the Tories. That's not a deal. Not technically, anyway.

The Labour leader tripped as he left the stage, a looped video that charged onto twitter within a few minutes -- and will doubtless be seen over the next week as much as Liam Byrne's note.

David Cameron apparently carries it around with him all the time. And had the Labour leader not had such a mauling from the audience, the Prime Minister would have been hoping to forget the night.

He was on the rack too for much of his 28 minutes -- on the bedroom tax, immigration and the NHS.

The Prime Minister said he had "seen the books" and knows what needs to be done -- one audience member immediately jumped in, to ask why in that case he couldn't spell out what he'd cut.

Like Ed Miliband, Mr Cameron continued to talk as if he could win an outright majority.

Nick Clegg later said they needed to lie down in the darkened room apparently reserved for post-election negotiations.

The Lib Dem leader is affable and performs well with an audience. But he also became more and more irritated as the audience asked about the broken promise on tuition fees.

By the time one questioner repeatedly criticised the Coalition, he'd become distinctly snappy.

People seem to want to like Mr Clegg, even though many remain angry at him. And he seems to be pretty angry too, waiting for the electoral kicking that is apparently now inevitable.

This was the kind of debate we should have had far more often during this campaign.

Fiery and angry, the voters gathered in Leeds were not in the mood to be spun -- perhaps bored senseless by 5 weeks of sterile campaigning, they took their only chance to poke the politicians with a stick.

Whether it prompts any decisive shift in the polls, of course, is a different question.