The first televised Leaders’ Debate last week changed the face of British politics. The second is tonight – will Cleggmania continue, or will the old order be restored?

NO ONE knows, or even understands, where Election 2010 is heading. The pollsters, though, tell us there has been seismic change. The Liberal Democrats, traditionally the third party, have been the major beneficiaries following the composed performance of their leader, Nick Clegg, in last week’s debate.

Quite how this change will be reflected in the ballot box is uncertain.

But tonight, in the second of three televised debates, the leaders have another chance to create a political earthquake.

The topic is foreign affairs, and it starts on the Sky News channel at 8pm.

Tomorrow, in the aftermath, The Northern Echo will record its regional discussion show, Northern Decision Makers, which will look at how the political landscape is changing. Here we ask the “three legends” from our sofa how they think their leaders should approach tonight’s debate.

The Northern Echo: Nick WallisNick Wallis
A Darlington councillor, former European candidate and member of Labour’s National Policy Forum

GORDON BROWN famously “doesn’t do” celebrity politics, so expectations for the first American-style television debate were predictably low.

In fact, Gordon pleasantly surprised many of us. He was concise, and threw some good challenging points at David Cameron. In many polls after the debate, he beat Mr Cameron to second place.

In difficult times, being the agent of change may not be the winning line the opposition think. Continuity – a safe pair of hands – can become an increasingly attractive option for baffled voters.

And this debate on foreign affairs should suit Gordon. He has an impressive track record dating from his time as Chancellor on international development, in which Britain is now a highly-respected nation. Remarkably, he has forced the Tories to mimic Labour’s pledge on overseas aid.

Gordon has a strong narrative for the audience in Bristol tonight. On all the key international issues – from terrorism to climate change and the global financial crisis – Britain has been in the forefront of nations seeking practical, agreed solutions. In an increasingly interdependent world, Labour knows our future lies in co-operation and consensus – something that is an anathema to the Tories’ “little England” tendency.

So tonight, I expect Gordon to accentuate his role as the “elder statesman” of the three. He mustn’t miss the chance to highlight the Tories’ failings, though. For all the fluff about the Lib Dems, this election boils down to whether voters want a Labour or Tory Government on May 7. There is still everything to play for.

The Northern Echo: David StokerDavid Stoker
A Durham City councillor who stood twice as a Lib Dem Parliamentary candidate in the city

IWOULD like to thank Nick Clegg for last week. He brought an electric feeling back to British politics, getting people talking and thinking.

Living in a county that has been a one party state for 75 years, hundreds of thousands of voters now feel their votes can count and make a difference.

Of course Lib Dems are not surprised. Nick has been the best kept secret in British politics for some while.

I hesitate to give him advice after such a stunning performance, but I hope he will:

● Keep being Nick – straightforward, honest, fair, and offering us something different from adversarial politics. Remember, lots of us want to vote with our hearts;
● Keep being positive. The two old parties will gang up on him on the principle that “my enemy’s enemy is my friend”;
● Keep being confident – let them nitpick our manifesto costings; they didn’t dare cost their own;
● Keep it simple. Only the Lib Dems are simplifying the tax system and making it fairer.

Only the Lib Dems voted against the Iraq War.

Only the Lib Dems are serious about reforming politics;
● Keep prioritising issues important to voters.

The bankers are still taking greedy bonuses – the Lib Dems are right to tax the banks. We know Trident is an expensive answer to a world that no longer exists – we are right to propose a cheaper nuclear deterrent;
● Keep being different. Only the Lib Dems will work with others to solve the £170bn deficit, the public sector pensions timebomb, and providing care for the elderly without them having to sell their home.

I wish him good luck! Like lots of people, “I agree with Nick”.

The Northern Echo: Graham RobbGraham Robb
A Conservative activist who has stood twice as a Parliamentary candidate, most recently in the Sedgefield by-election

DAVID CAMERON is a strong leader with a formidable set of policies. He should punch his weight and show viewers that he understands the wider world and how to make it better.

In dealing with the other party leaders he should deploy a sense of humour together with sharp policy points to expose their arguments.

The shine has already started to come off Nick Clegg’s last performance, he’s not such a novelty now and his policy weaknesses can be exposed effectively. However, David should resist calls to have a go at Nick Clegg personally and keep the arguments to the facts. Facts are stubborn things and they favour the Conservatives.

This debate is on foreign affairs and defence.

David Cameron needs to tell people that he will never join the Euro and that any future EU Treaties will be decided by a referendum. Both these points are strongly made in his manifesto.

He needs to reinforce his commitment to look after the Armed Forces and their families – the military covenant.

He also knows that Britain is a generous country and should explain his policy to spend 0.7 per cent of national income on aid to help the poorest countries grow and develop.

He should relax and give the type of performances he’s been giving in stump speeches.

These speeches are convincing and authoritative.

It’s time for him to enjoy his moment in the spotlight in the knowledge that millions of people want him to succeed.