Nick Clegg has based his campaign for the leadership of the Lib Dems on the fact that he is seen as a "great communicator," so he ought to be worried by the fact that his rival Chris Huhne is widely seen to have shaded last night's head-to-head debate on Question Time in Buxton. This thread on Lib Dem Voice gives a good flavour of the reactions from party members who watched the programme, while there's also a useful round-up of blogospheric reactions so far from Paul Walter.
For my part, I agree that Huhne came over as the more impressive candidate. He seemed both more assured than Clegg and noticeably more passionate, particularly on the issue of Trident which will go down well with many party members.
Clegg seemed in difficulty from the first question, which incidentally came from my friend Gill Reade, of Belper, on whether the party had been damaged by the way it had despatched its last two leaders. When David Dimbleby picked up the "nasty party" theme to challenge Clegg over an attack he made on Huhne last year, the frontrunner seemed flummoxed and unsure of how to respond.
Huhne also dealt more intelligently with the second question, on who the Lib Dems should form a coalition with. He made the very valid point that, in the current climate of political cross-dressing, a coalition between Labour and the Conservatives would make rather more political sense than a coalition between either main party and the Lib Dems.
It was only when they got to the third question, on Trident, that it threatened to get nasty. Clegg accused Huhne, by a rather roundabout argument, of being a unilateral re-armer, not a disarmer. Huhne said that anyone who imagined Trident would be any use against Afterdinnerjazz was "living in cloud cuckoo land."
"Chris for now, Nick for the future" seemed to be the general verdict on Lib Dem Voice. It is one that I would endorse.