NINETY minutes is now a long time in politics. In the second TV debate between prime ministerial contenders, the stilted exchanges of last week’s debut performances gave way to old-fashioned squabbling.
The party leaders got stuck in to a series of cut-and-thrust exchanges, with the Liberal Democrats’ Nick Clegg stranded in the middle of fundamental disagreements.
Gone were the pleasantries of the previous programme, with both Mr Clegg and Tory leader David Cameron pointedly using each other’s surnames, while only Prime Minister Gordon Brown stayed on first-name terms with his opponents - even comparing them to his two small sons squabbling at bathtime.
On international affairs, the focus of the first half of the Sky News debate, Mr Clegg was predictably swift to highlight his party’s opposition to the Iraq war, only for the exchanges to plunge into old divisions over Europe as the discussion widened.
The only area which generated a measure of agreement was when all three leaders looked equally taken aback to be asked about September’s Papal visit and their views on Roman Catholic sexual and social doctrine.
When the discussion broadened out with questions on pensions, a hung Parliament, trust in politics and immigration, the exchanges again became much sharper.
If viewers and voters wanted to see where the three differed they were not disappointed as the leaders laid into each other’s manifestos and swapped claims about each other.
The twin-track approach of all the participants seemed to be to directly quiz each other on the one hand, while delivering a pre-prepared message down the barrel of the camera on the other.
The audience also at times seemed poised to break their vow of silence as they murmured approval or discontent during a heated debate on immigration.
Mr Brown’s final statement warned viewers directly about the dangers of "David" or "Nick", only to be dismissed as "desperate" by the Tory leader.
Mr Cameron most often placed himself as the outsider, taking advantage of his position on the left of the screen looking across to his opponents - the podium occupied by Mr Clegg last week.
The Lib Dem leader delivered an old-fashioned rallying cry for his closing comments, saying nobody should believe there could not be radical political change.
There had certainly been a radical change in tone in the TV election.