Although they have been hawking their wares before some exotic audiences before now (most recently local estate agents) tonight was potentially the defining moment for Darlington's 3 hopeful PPCs (together with UKIP representative Charlotte Bull) at the traditional Churches Debate.
I estimate over 200 people packed themselves into the school hall at Polam to listen to Jenny, Mike, Edward and Charlotte. This is the first election since the 1983 by-election when none of the main parties are fielding a sitting candidate, so the stakes are high. The debate ran for 2 hours. For me, these were the highlights;
Edward responding to a question about what he would do for young people by responding he would make voting compulsory for the under-25's. Not a policy to rouse the nation's teenagers out of bed anytime before lunch.
Mindful of Gordon's predicament, Jenny cracking a joke about not wanting to be wired up after problems with the sound system.
Edward accusing Jenny of going on "frolics" not mentioned in Labour's manifesto, before setting out on a jaunt of his own by suggesting he supported the re-regulation of the bus industry.
Mike engaged in a tortuous form of words when responding to a question about future VAT rises - faced with the awful possibility that might actually be part of the next Government, LibDems are finally having to give responsible answers to sensible questions!
All the candidates pledging they would spend 100% of their time on working for the constituency. (I think this got the biggest cheer of the night).
On balance, I was impressed by all the candidates. Edward was a bit too sure of himself, and heavy-handed on the politics (he rather misjudged the auduence in this respect, I thought). Mike and Jenny scored heavily in their contrasting styles, whilst Charlotte probably helped explode the stereotype some of us have of UKIP members being a bunch of gin-swilling golf club bores.
Needless to say, I felt that Jenny gave the best all-round performance, but there was something to cheer for the supporters of each of the main parties. Roll on May 6th!