Gordon, Cambo, Clegg. This is your last chance.

Election 2010. Guffwatch!

And so, the day arrives. The final TV debate is upon us. As David Dimbleby wraps up tonight's show, I will let a single tear descend my cheek in tribute to one of the most pumped-up, super-hyped televisual and electoral events of all time. But hasn't it been fun.

Given it's the merry trio's last chance to woo and wow us with their performances (sorry, policies), here are some tips for them to make their mark, to lodge themselves in our minds, as we embark on the final countdown to polling day itself.

1. Gordon. My colleague James Macintyre has suggested a serious speech. An alternative: "You know what? I've had it with pretending I'm relaxed and happy. I actually want to take a swing at most of you. I KNOW BEST."

2. Cambo. You've really got to do something radical after the lacklustre simperings offered up in the first two debates. What about shaking things up from the start and sauntering on to the stage in some surf shorts, flip-flops, a backwards-turned cap and . . . yes . . . a hoodie! It would be like your own little private joke with the population. Look at me! So comfortable with you normal folk that I can even wear a hoodie! I'll hug myself! It would drive Clegg mad if nothing else -- his hands-in-pockets manoeuvre is pure down-with-the-kids stuff.

3. Clegg. DON'T MESS IT UP. You have mostly stormed it so far, so for God's sake don't think you're safe and start busting out leftfield lines for the sake of catching a few extra votes. You can almost imagine it -- Clegg, tired of his "old parties" routine, thinking that he's got it all sewn up and announcing a few off-the-cuff initiatives. Free Spanish lessons for your pets! Release all violent prisoners and send them to work in Gordon Ramsay's restaurants! Cut the deficit by turning the Houses of Parliaments into luxury flats!

4. Dimbleby. Really, after Stewart and Boulton, I think you'll have a good time tonight, showing all that natural chairing authority and silver-foxed cool. Just remember, though, this is not Question Time. There'll be no time for your quippy asides or long interventions. But perhaps he'll have an aide on hand to restrain him physically when Gordon gets out of hand.

5. The post-match analysis. Please tell me you've got someone good doing the interviews afterwards, someone (mentioning no names) who won't look over their shoulder like a bored person at a party while interviewing a cabinet minister. (Kay! Why did you do that?) Also, a profound, heartfelt plea to the BBC to drop their very own initiative -- the worm. Watching the worm chart the audience response (to summarise: "Oh look, Clegg's speaking, I like Clegg" -- yellow worm goes up. "Oh, but now Cameron's speaking, maybe I like him now" -- blue worm goes up) is possibly the most blood-icingly boring and pointless thing I have ever seen on TV. And this is someone who has watched Doctors talking.

Predictions? Brown will try to make light of The Gaffe but will ruin it by smiling. Clegg and Cambo will battle it out for the title of "youthful people-lover King". But Cambo will get lost in his big/broken/brazen society guff and Clegg will clinch it. The worms will win Guff of the Night, though, no doubt about it.

Sophie Elmhirst is features editor of the New Statesman

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Andy Burnham and Sadiq Khan are both slippery self-mythologisers – so why do we rate one more than the other?

Their obsessions with their childhoods have both become punchlines; but one of these jokes, it feels to me, is told with a lot more affection than the other.

Andy Burnham is a man whose policies and opinions seem to owe more to political expediency than they do to belief. He bangs on to the point of tedium about his own class, background and interests. As a result he’s widely seen as an unprincipled flip-flopper.

Sadiq Khan is a man whose policies and opinions seem to owe more to political expediency than they do to belief. He bangs on to the point of tedium about his own class, background and interests. As a result he’s the hugely popular mayor of London, the voice of those who’d be proud to think of themselves as the metropolitan liberal elite, and is even talked of as a possible future leader of the Labour party.

Oh, and also they were both born in 1970. So that’s a thing they have in common, too.

Why it is this approach to politics should have worked so much better for the mayor of London than the would-be mayor of Manchester is something I’ve been trying to work out for a while. There are definite parallels between Burnham’s attempts to present himself as a normal northern bloke who likes normal things like football, and Sadiq’s endless reminders that he’s a sarf London geezer whose dad drove a bus. They’ve both become punchlines; but one of these jokes, it feels to me, is told with a lot more affection than the other.

And yes, Burnham apparent tendency to switch sides, on everything from NHS privatisation to the 2015 welfare vote to the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, has given him a reputation for slipperiness. But Sadiq’s core campaign pledge was to freeze London transport fares; everyone said it was nonsense, and true to form it was, and you’d be hard pressed to find an observer who thought this an atypical lapse on the mayor’s part. (Khan, too, has switched sides on the matter of Jeremy Corbyn.)

 And yet, he seems to get away with this, in a way that Burnham doesn’t. His low-level duplicity is factored in, and it’s hard to judge him for it because, well, it’s just what he’s like, isn’t it? For a long time, the Tory leadership’s line on London’s last mayor was “Boris is Boris”, meaning, look, we don’t trust him either, but what you gonna do? Well: Sadiq is Sadiq.

Even the names we refer to them by suggest that one of these two guys is viewed very differently from the other. I’ve instinctively slipped into referring to the mayor of London by his first name: he’s always Sadiq, not Khan, just as his predecessors were Boris and Ken. But, despite Eoin Clarke’s brief attempt to promote his 2015 leadership campaign with a twitter feed called “Labour Andy”, Burnham is still Burnham: formal, not familiar. 

I’ve a few theories to explain all this, though I’ve no idea which is correct. For a while I’ve assumed it’s about sincerity. When Sadiq Khan mentions his dad’s bus for the 257th time in a day, he does it with a wink to the audience, making a crack about the fact he won’t stop going on about it. That way, the message gets through to the punters at home who are only half listening, but the bored lobby hacks who’ve heard this routine two dozen times before feel they’re in the joke.

Burnham, it seems to me, lacks this lightness of touch: when he won’t stop banging on about the fact he grew up in the north, it feels uncomfortably like he means it. And to take yourself seriously in politics is sometimes to invite others to make jokes at your expense.

Then again, perhaps the problem is that Burnham isn’t quite sincere enough. Sadiq Khan genuinely is the son of a bus-driving immigrant: he may keep going on about it, but it is at least true. Burnham’s “just a northern lad” narrative is true, too, but excludes some crucial facts: that he went to Cambridge, and was working in Parliament aged 24. Perhaps that shouldn’t change how we interpret his story; but I fear, nonetheless, it does.

Maybe that’s not it, though: maybe I’m just another London media snob. Because Burnham did grow up at the disadvantaged end of the country, a region where, for too many people, chasing opportunities means leaving. The idea London is a city where the son of a bus driver can become mayor flatters our metropolitan self-image; the idea that a northerner who wants to build a career in politics has to head south at the earliest opportunity does the opposite. 

So if we roll our eyes when Burnham talks about the north, perhaps that reflects badly on us, not him: the opposite of northern chippiness is southern snobbery.

There’s one last possibility for why we may rate Sadiq Khan more highly than Andy Burnham: Sadiq Khan won. We can titter a little at the jokes and the fibs but he is, nonetheless, mayor of London. Andy Burnham is just the bloke who lost two Labour leadership campaigns.

At least – for now. In six weeks time, he’s highly likely to the first mayor of Greater Manchester. Slipperiness is not the worst quality in a mayor; and so much of the job will be about banging the drum for the city, and the region, that Burnham’s tendency to wear his northernness on his sleeve will be a positive boon.

Sadiq Khan’s stature has grown because the fact he became London’s mayor seems to say something, about the kind of city London is and the kind we want it to be. Perhaps, after May, Andy Burnham can do the same for the north – and the north can do the same for Andy Burnham.

Jonn Elledge edits the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric, and writes for the NS about subjects including politics, history and Daniel Hannan. You can find him on Twitter or Facebook.