HARLOW, ESSEX: It was billed as "the new politics". The Conservative leader would be live, unscripted and unprotected from the tough questions that would be posed by all-comers at a genuinely open meeting. The Tories claimed that their leader would be doing something that Gordon Brown would never dare to do. They believed they were genuinely taking a risk. David Cameron even joked with his shadow cabinet before the meeting that he was ready to dodge eggs thrown by protesters.
The reality last night was very very different. An audience which was largely elderly, largely Conservative-supporting and largely posed sympathetic questions produced a meeting that felt anything but new.
It was not that the Conservatives had rigged this event. Indeed, they'd gone out of their way to make sure they hadn't and insisted that tickets had been given to the first 200 of 600 people who applied for them after posters have been put in the town and adverts in the local newspaper. There were certainly some non-Tories there able apparently to put any questions they wanted.
The problem was rather different. Local Conservatives heard the news that David Cameron was visiting their town first and were so desperate to see their successful new leader that they applied for the first come first served tickets and few independents made it into the meeting.
Is there, though, another problem revealed by what's being dubbed Cameron Direct (due to come to a town near you soon)? Are they soaring in the polls because they're not Labour but they lack the definition required to produce many direct questions for Cameron to answer directly?
PS. Before a member of the Harlow audience writes to point this out, let me admit that I was rather late for the meeting having got lost on the way there! My account, therefore, rests in part on the account of my producer and cameraman who did make it on time!