A number of commentators have in the last few days been attacking David Cameron for so actively pursuing the idea of live TV debates between the three "main" party leaders, on the grounds that – with the huge lead in the opinion polls the Tories had at the time the debates were agreed on – he had everything to lose and nothing to gain from tackling his opponents face to face in front of the nation.
To be strictly fair to Cameron, though (and I'm doing so purely as mental exercise), the debate wasn't theoretically such a bad idea.
Brown is abysmal on TV. Cameron vs Brown alone would very likely have sealed the deal for the Tories, and I think it was reasonable for Cameron not to be too scared of Clegg either. I saw him give a speech in Wales on the news this morning, and he was awful – slow, hesitant and vague.
But the thing that really struck me this weekend was watching Have I Got A Bit More News For You on Sunday night. (I don't bother with the initial broadcast of the show these days, because why would you want to watch a shorter, inferior version when you can get 50% more jokes and less clumsy editing a couple of days later?)
Shown at the same time as the debate, and therefore in ignorance of it, the disdain and contempt shown to the Lib Dems in the show looks quite extraordinary now in the context of them leading the opinion polls. The London media mocks and/or ignores the Lib Dems so relentlessly in this way, and has done so for so long, that it's quite understandable for the closeted denizens of the Westminster Village to dismiss them as a threat with barely a second thought.
But I believe that both Labour and the Tories still hugely underestimate the degree to which they are loathed by the public post-Expensesgate (and post-Iraq and post-other stuff too), and the extent to which voters are sick of their cosy turn-about carve-up of government. And a precedent exists even within these very islands for what happens in that situation.
So much of recent events parallels what those of us who take an interest in the Scottish Parliament have been observing for years. Like the Lib Dems, the SNP have almost no support in the media, which ignores it when possible, is mocking at best, and openly and viciously hostile the rest of the time. It came as quite a shock to everyone when in 2007 the electorate refused to do what the press told them, and voted the SNP into government.
We were then told, much as we're being told by Labour and the Conservatives now, that a minority government would find it impossible to govern, yet the SNP has enacted the large majority of its manifesto pledges. Others for which they couldn't generate a consensus have fallen by the wayside, which is the way it should be in a democracy.
(I'm personally not necessarily all that fond of democracy as a method of governance, but if you're going to have one that's how it should work.)
And in Scotland Labour constantly – and I do mean constantly – shrieks in its panic that a vote for the SNP (a social democratic party positioned to the left of Labour on most issues – sound familiar?) is really a vote for the Tories, a party still despised in Scotland since the Thatcher era.
It continues to do this, amazingly, even as a Labour chancellor openly and publicly promises public-service cuts worse than Thatcher's, using those very words. Apparently, and fairly incredibly, Labour expects the electorate not to notice this contradiction. (In fairness, voters in the urban west of Scotland have spent the last 20 years showing that they might actually be that thick.)
The reaction of the two big dinosaurs to the surge in Lib Dem support shows just how little they grasp what's happening. Clegg generates a big political advantage out of pointing out the negativity of his two opponents, and their reaction is to crank up the negativity, except turned against the Lib Dems rather than each other.
This is exactly the same strategy Labour has employed in Scotland against the SNP, where it has brought them no success whatsoever – the SNP still has a comfortable lead in Holyrood polls, despite being the party of government, in a recession, facing a uniformly hostile media which blows up the tiniest stories into drawn-out scandals, and having had to abandon several of its highest-profile policies.
Labour and the Tories have announced their intentions to go on the attack against the Lib Dems over issues like Trident and Afghanistan, seemingly arrogantly oblivious to the fact that the Lib Dems actually speak for the majority of the electorate on these matters. If the next TV debate, which is on foreign policy, follows these lines (and assuming Clegg doesn't turn up drunk or wearing a swastika armband or something), expect another surge in Lib Dem support.
I've been resisting accepting the possibility of a hung parliament, because I didn't want to deal with the awful pain of having my hopes crushed when it didn't happen. But it seems more and more to be the will of the British people, and it appears to be more unlikely with each passing day that even our sick, cynical travesty of a "democracy" will deliver any party a majority.
That would be the most exciting thing that had happened in UK politics in my lifetime. Because it's very hard to see that even Clegg (who I'm far from convinced by) could fail in those circumstances to deliver major electoral reform, of a sort which could well prevent any party from ever again trampling over the expressed wishes of the British electorate by achieving a huge Parliamentary majority – effectively a dictatorship with bogus "elections" once or twice a decade – from a small minority of the vote.
(It's particularly intriguing, and indicative of the bemused arrogance of the media and the two "main" parties, that even now the best-case scenario being proposed for the Lib Dems is being kingmakers, holding one of the other parties hostage until they agree to electoral reform. But if the polls stay as they are and the Lib Dems win the popular vote, even though our corrupt system would almost certainly still give them far fewer seats than either of the other two, Clegg would have the moral authority and mandate to lay a claim to the keys of No.10 in his own right.)
What's on offer in just two and a half weeks' time is, for the first time in the history of the United Kingdom, a true democracy. Bizarrely, it's not possible to directly vote for the thing that we want. But the power is – for the first time in generations – genuinely in our hands. We're smart enough to figure out how to make it happen. Pray that we don't blow it.