Nicola Sturgeon: An impressive performance

Leaders’ debate verdict: A win for Nicola Sturgeon

Leaders’ debate verdict: A win for Nicola Sturgeon

David Cameron has spent the past few months trying to convince English voters that the prospect of the SNP having any influence in government is a terrifying spectre.

But far from cowering behind the sofa, many English voters watching tonight's debate will have wished that they too could lend their vote to Nicola Sturgoen and the SNP.

Sturgeon tonight was confident, relaxed and articulate throughout and it showed in the polls.

A snap YouGov poll found her to be the overwhelming winner of the debate.

Another poll for Comres/ITV  found that 20% thought she had performed best, just 1% behind the prime minister, Miliband and Farage. More importantly, just 4% thought she had performed worst, the lowest of any of the seven leaders.

Overall her net best/worst ratings exceeded every other candidate. And these were nationwide polls. Given that the vast majority of people watching at home will never have seen her in action before, this was an incredible result and will only cement the SNP's expected gains in the general election.

Farage by contrast was the most divisive candidate. While the public picked him as having performed best during the debate alongside Cameron and Miliband, according to Comres, many more people also said he had performed worst. For every person who applauded his comments about tackling health tourism, there were almost equal amounts angered by his comments about immigrants with HIV. 

In a multi-party system, being a polarising figure is not always a terrible thing so I would not be surprised to see Ukip get at least a temporary bump from tonight's debate.

But being divisive is not the way to win over an entire country and here Sturgoen has the great advantage.

All is not bad for Labour. An ICM poll tonight gave a narrow win to Ed Miliband and he appeared calm and confident tonight. However, the strength of Sturgeon's performance tonight will cause Labour far more problems than any benefit their leader's performance will have brought.

As things stand, the SNP are set to win the overwhelming majority of seats in Scotland. Sturgeon's performance tonight will have done a great deal to help them on their way.