TV debates part two: the most exciting moment in politics ever in the world ever?

Election 2010: Guffwatch!

You'd never know that round two of the debates was tonight. It's quiet as volcanic ash out there - no hype, no spin, no hilariously hysterical newspaper attempts to batter a popular opponent. So in the midst of this smothering silence, and following on from last week's advice, some further tips for the leaders tonight.

1. Cambo, don't panic. The more you say you're "really, really" enjoying every second of the election campaign, especially the debates, the clearer it is that you are actually thinking, "How the bloody Cotswolds HELL did I mess this one up so comprehensively?" The panic, though, is a bad look: you go all tight-eyed and clenched and false-friendly and rolled-up sleeves and everything's FINE and I feel you might be a danger to yourself and those around you. Take a leaf out of Gordo's book: be unnaturally, strangely calm.

2. Cambo and Gordo, for God's sake, don't think you can pull off the Clegg tricks without anyone noticing. The first time one of you a) looks straight into the camera, b) repeatedly uses an audience member's name or c) insouciantly plunges your hands into your pockets, the entire country will simultaneously erupt in a giant groan of contempt before turning off the television and deciding that doing the Heat crossword would be an activity packed with greater integrity and insight.

3. Try and sort out what on earth happens at the end. Last week there was the weird Cameron-tugging-Cleggoland's-sleeve debacle. This week I can imagine Cambo rugby-tackling Gordo round the knees if he tries to gladhand the crowd again. Just mutually agree to spend the last five minutes wrestling on stage or something. Or a song? A song would be lovely.

4. Clegg, hold it together. Yours is the hardest task - after all that "look! he's Obama!" and "look! it's Jesus!" stuff, unless you juggle while balancing on a unicycle with a ball on your nose the whole way through you're inevitably going to disappoint everyone. My tip? Every now and then, break into that fluent Spanish of yours. Impressive, and it's foreign affairs isn't it? Must be allowed.

5. Adam Boulton, heir to the mighty Alastair Stewart. Just be better than Stewart - less barking, less debilitating nerves - that's all I ask.

(Predictions: Clegg, overwhelmed by the sheer force of his own insubstantiated popularity compulsively lies the whole way through - no once can take that much spontaneous love. Cambo, knowing this is his moment of truth, lists so many people he's met that he loses control and starts fabricating them ("And then I met Miss Piggy and Lady Gaga, who hadn't managed to have their hips done on the NHS, and it's a scandal I tell you!). Brown, coached on joke-cracking for the whole week, will randomly insert gags at entirely inappropriate moments. Eg, in the middle of Boulton's intro, "How many Lib Dems does it take to change a light bulb?!", before cackling away to himself in the corner.)

Sophie Elmhirst is features editor of the New Statesman

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Commons Confidential: What happened at Tom Watson's birthday party?

Finances, fair and foul – and why Keir Starmer is doing the time warp.

Keir Starmer’s comrades mutter that a London seat is an albatross around the neck of the ambitious shadow Brexit secretary. He has a decent political CV: he was named after Labour’s first MP, Keir Hardie; he has a working-class background; he was the legal champion of the McLibel Two; he had a stint as director of public prosecutions. The knighthood is trickier, which is presumably why he rarely uses the title.

The consensus is that Labour will seek a leader from the north or the Midlands when Islington’s Jeremy Corbyn jumps or is pushed under a bus. Starmer, a highly rated frontbencher, is phlegmatic as he navigates the treacherous Brexit waters. “I keep hoping we wake up and it’s January 2016,” he told a Westminster gathering, “and we can have another run. Don’t we all?” Perhaps not everybody. Labour Remoaners grumble that Corbyn and particularly John McDonnell sound increasingly Brexitastic.

To Tom Watson’s 50th birthday bash at the Rivoli Ballroom in south London, an intact 1950s barrel-vaulted hall generous with the velvet. Ed Balls choreographed the “Gangnam Style” moves, and the Brockley venue hadn’t welcomed so many politicos since Tony Blair’s final Clause IV rally 22 years ago. Corbyn was uninvited, as the boogying deputy leader put the “party” back into the Labour Party. The thirsty guests slurped the free bar, repaying Watson for 30 years of failing to buy a drink.

One of Westminster’s dining rooms was booked for a “Decent Chaps Lunch” by Labour’s Warley warrior, John Spellar. In another room, the Tory peer David Willetts hosted a Christmas reception on behalf of the National Centre for Universities and Business. In mid-January. That’s either very tardy or very, very early.

The Labour Party’s general secretary, Iain McNicol, is a financial maestro, having cleared the £25m debt that the party inherited from the Blair-Brown era. Now I hear that he has squirrelled away a £6m war chest as insurance against Theresa May gambling on an early election. Wisely, the party isn’t relying on Momentum’s fractious footsloggers.

The word in Strangers’ Bar is that the Welsh MP Stephen Kinnock held his own £200-a-head fundraiser in London. Either the financial future of the Aberavon Labour Party is assured, or he fancies a tilt at the top job.

Dry January helped me recall a Labour frontbencher explaining why he never goes into the Commons chamber after a skinful: “I was sitting alongside a colleague clearly refreshed by a liquid lunch. He intervened and made a perfectly sensible point without slurring. Unfortunately, he stood up 20 minutes later and repeated the same point, word for word.”

Kevin Maguire is the associate editor (politics) of the Daily Mirror

Kevin Maguire is Associate Editor (Politics) on the Daily Mirror and author of our Commons Confidential column on the high politics and low life in Westminster. An award-winning journalist, he is in frequent demand on television and radio and co-authored a book on great parliamentary scandals. He was formerly Chief Reporter on the Guardian and Labour Correspondent on the Daily Telegraph.

This article first appeared in the 19 January 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The Trump era