Election 2015: Debate - The Ed v Nicola Show (part two)

Ed Miliband Image copyright Getty Images

On the morning after the debate before, it is clear the election is increasingly being defined by two competing narratives.

On the one hand Ed Miliband is slowly and steadily introducing himself to voters as a potential prime minister.

The Labour leader has always argued that the more voters see of him the more they will rate him.

Last night he was able to use attacks from the left - on austerity and Trident - as well as assaults from the right - on Europe and immigration - to look statesmanlike.

David Cameron's absence gave Mr Miliband the chance to taunt the absent prime minister for his lack of political courage.

It also allowed him to focus his fire on the SNP's Nicola Sturgeon, trying to create a distance which he has, so far, struggled to create. He rejected her repeated invitations to work together to "get rid of the Tories".

On the other hand the debate confirmed that the battle for Scotland is the defining drama of this election campaign. The images of the night, the video clips and the memorable sound bites are all of Ed v Nicola.

Conservative HQ and the Tory press will take delight in using them to conjure up the spectre of a weak minority Labour government being forced to deal with and placate a rampant SNP. They will point out that for all the times the Labour leader rejects the idea of a coalition with the nationalists he does not - he cannot afford to - rule out the need for a deal or deals to get him into Number 10.

What remains totally and fascinatingly unpredictable is which narrative will have the greatest hold on the electorate - growing respect for Ed Miliband as a potential occupant of Number 10 or growing fear of what a government led by him, which was dependent on SNP support, might be like

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