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Don't waste your vote on no-hopers; OPINION.

If they hadn't got it before... they get it now.

Gordon Brown and David Cameron spent most of last week convincing themselves that the Lib Dem surge was no more than a sudden squall.

But after Thursday's debate and Nick Clegg's refusal to buckle, they realise his sudden rise popularity may be - to deploy the spin-doctors' clich of choice - a game-changer.

Of course, they had already reacted to the Lib Dem ascent.

Labour dangerously decided Clegg might keep them in power in a hung parliament while the Tory attack dogs were unleashed to rubbish him with smear and innuendo.

Of course, the Lib Dems' bubble might still burst. The sudden climb in the opinion polls might turn into a vertiginous drop on election day.

But this time, it might - just might - be more than that.

If the leaders of the two big parties thought they had survived the expenses scandal relatively unscathed, their activists knocking doors up and down Britain have told them otherwise.

The obscene free-for-all was the greedy, venal straw that snapped the patience of many voters.

But it is easy for Clegg to claim he is a new broom ready to sweep the Commons clean.

He is no different to the other leaders, just less familiar. He has a fluency and common touch that must be envied by his rivals. But, beyond that, what? He has never taken the decisions that will affect the lives of millions or cost the lives of our bravest. He is a blank sheet of paper, where disaffected voters can scrawl their protest.

Brown has been torn between cosying up to Clegg and exposing the Lib Dems' empty posturing.

Yesterday, he decided to take the gloves off. Good, it is the right move at the right time in a campaign that has forced Labour to adapt and improvise to overcome a new threat.

Meanwhi le, Cameron and his unspeakable l ickspitt le George Osborne claim Britain is broken - a facile and shameless claim from a facile and shameless party.

Yes, we have been buffeted by the winds of recession but broken? No.

And, when the gales subside, we need leaders of substance with a vision for a brighter future.

We need not waste our time - or votes - on callow careerists with an eye for the main chance.

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Experience: Brown yesterday
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Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Apr 25, 2010

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