The would-be chancellors
A statement of fact? Scaremongering of the worst kind? Desperate stuff?
You pays yer money and you makes yer choice.
Those were the responses of Messrs Osborne, Cable and Darling to Ken Clarke's warning this morning that a hung Parliament could lead to the IMF having to sort out the nation's finances. This was after the former chancellor had described the last Lib/Lab pact in the late 70s as "a farce" and "a fiacso".
It produced the most memorable exchange in BBC2's highly watchable and revealing debate between the would-be chancellors.
The other highlights were:
• Vince Cable being put on the back foot about claims that he'd "double-counted" some of his planned savings; about allegedly implausible claims about how much could be saved from cutting tax avoidance and why he had attacked the Tories for planning to hike VAT when he wouldn't rule it out himself.
• George Osborne wriggling when asked to explain what his plan to reduce the bulk of the structural deficit meant and why he'd stopped warning about an age of austerity and the shadow chancellor taking the gloves off to attack the chancellor as a failure (a rehearsal of David Cameron's next game plan perhaps).
• Alistair Darling (and Vince Cable) struggling to explain how planned Tory cuts of £6bn could possibly effect the course of an economy which was worth over £1.5 trillion.
• the chancellor looked the most comfortable throughout the debate - his friends will say that was a reflection of his competence, his enemies that the focus of this election has moved into a Con/Lib Dem spat.
What was most memorable, though, was the fact that the whole course of this debate was set by the rise of the Lib Dems.
So, on a day when unemployment rose to the highest level seen since 1994 and at a time when all parties agree we are facing the worst budgetary crisis and the biggest spending cuts in decades, these three argued about the only fact that has electrified this election - opinion polls which suggest the likelihood of a hung Parliament - and which, whisper who dares, might turn out to be wrong.