Any questions? This time minus Rowan Atkinson...
My overwhelming feeling was I didn't find anything out from the hour of Any Questions? that I didn't already know. Consensus broke out almost constantly and disagreement was almost entirely implicit. The audience didn't get much of a say either.
All the candidates' had a compelling radio manner, although sometimes Menzies sounded like he was addressing a rally. Most of the time he had a warm Scottish burr. Chris Huhne does indeed have a deep, reassuring voice (or is that a deeply reassuring voice). I wasn't necessarily convinced by Chris from his Meeting the Challenge speech - he sounded monotonic but this wasn't the case here.
The first question (How would you do better than Charles Kennedy?) pretty much set up the candidates' 'stalls' which were reiterated throughout the remaining hour. Menzies focused on his experience, maturity and energy. Simon talked about campaigning/vote percentages, appeal to minority groups and social justice. Chris portrayed himself as the candidate with experience communicating with the media and as an economist who could directly challenge Brown's economic failings. Chris sounded by far the most 'policy heavy' and the most well-informed. Both Menzies and Simon had a tendency to fall back onto 'Churchillian' rhetoric. I only felt Menzies sounded as though he had authority when he was talking about Iraq/Afghanistan and Kosovo.
The second question was about Charles' resignation which Simon used to position himself as the 'I didn't knife Charles' candidate, mentioning how he expected Charles to reconsider his position after he'd led the party through the May local elections. Jonathan Dimbleby plugged away at this issue for a while.
Dimbleby proceeded onto the West Lothian question which generated an outbreak of consensus. Following this, around 10 - 15 minutes were spent fruitlessly discussing whether politicians had a right to a private life, whether we should introduce privacy laws and whether Mark Oaten should have resigned. Interesting but told me nothing about the candidates. Simon's response was faintly revealing given today's revelations - it seemed from his reply that he felt sex scandals were 'catastrophic' for the people concerned, which explains his attempts to evade discovery of his bisexuality. The hung parliament question didn't distinguish the candidates in any way either.
The remaining questions were policy-related but focused almost entirely on taxation and the environment. Disagreement was implicit and by focus rather than content. Both Menzies and Simon claimed to be on the centre-left (queried in Menzies case by a hostile questioner from the audience) but they differed in their focus whilst talking about income tax. Simon talked about a higher rate of income tax for the better off but didn't commit to a figure. Menzies and Chris discussed 'fairness in the tax system' and the non-regressiveness of taxation. Chris mentioned that if environment taxes went up, other taxes should come down.
A mildly diverting waste of an hour, but if I was undecided beforehand then I'd have remained undecided.