Aidan Smith: In an old abattoir the leaders hacked one last chunk out of each other

Martin Compston has revealed the Line of Duty stars’ vow that if their cop drama smashed audience records they would mark the achievement with “AC-12” tattoos. Now, do I feel the urge, having sat through all of the leaders’ debates, to get inky with “Parly Heidyins’ Barneys 2021”? Er, can I get back to you?
The final leaders debate was held this eveningThe final leaders debate was held this evening
The final leaders debate was held this evening

This was the last one so the pressure was on. The buzzword - snoozeword - of this election has been “lacklustre”. Not helped by Covid, of course, but still, here was the chance for a blockbuster finale. Line of Duty’s denouement had left some feeling flat. Would the leaders go out with metaphorical guns blazing and “I” being nailed once and for all?

“I” is jammed right up next to Line of Duty’s “H” in the alphabet and, standing for Indyref, it’s been equally obsessed about. But first: holibags and will we get any? A soft start, although Nicola Sturgeon - who can count on Compston’s vote tomorrow - didn’t miss a chance to repeat an oft-quoted line: “Scotland needs an experienced First Minister on this and everything else and, just so we’re clear, that’s me.”

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The setting was a former abattoir and it would almost have been remiss of the leaders if they hadn’t tried to hack one last chunk out of each other.

What the debate didn’t need, though, was anyone attempting to beat the new all-comers’ “No comment” record of 34 set by Line of Duty’s Kelly Macdonald.

Presenter Glenn Campbell had asked the quintet to promise there would be no kicking, strangling or gouging. In short: they weren’t to interrupt each other. That was because the interrupting was his job. And he had to do it, especially when the leaders were coy on costing in their manifestos. “I’ll tell you what, I’ll ask the questions,” he reminded Sturgeon when trying to find out who’d increase income tax.

Anas Sarwar jumped on Douglas Ross and claimed the Tories’ man would, in fact, be seeking a tax cut for himself as he tried to get by on “three salaries”. The debate was getting more niggly so Campbell changed tack, quite literally, by asking who was in favour of Boris Johnson’s Royal yacht idea.

“Absurd,” said Patrick Harvie. “Ludicrous,” added Willie Rennie. Sarwar: “A stunt.” Sturgeon: “An attempt to deflect from sleaze.” For a moment Ross looked like he might wobble and sweat like Ian Buckels in Line of Duty until suggesting it would provide investment and jobs.

Ross got his chance to interrogate Surgeon on “I” and tried for the umpteenth time, with the relentlessness of Ted Hastings, to have her agree that if No 10 wouldn’t counsel another referendum she’d stage a wildcat one. For the umpteenth time Sturgeon stressed she wouldn’t.

Campbell asking the questions had a hard act to follow, coming a few nights after Scot Squad’s Chief Constable Miekelson persuaded the leaders to show their humorous sides. But there was little scope for laughs here and maybe that was only right.

There was consensus at the end, though, when they all expressed the same fond post-Covid hope: to be able to hug. Mums, dads, grannies. “At a beer festival,” suggested Harvie. “After I’ve completed a masochistic hill race,” insisted Rennie

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