I’m a media whore. It’s true. Whether it be radio, newspaper, TV or newsprint, I consume media the same way a crack whore or meth-head searches for their next hit. So with the prospect of history-making TV being made before my very eyes, I sat down and steadied myself for the great three leaders debate on TV. The original title of this post was going to be “Let’s Have a Mass Debate”, but the 90 minutes of talking heads wasn’t exciting enough to get even the ardent CameronCleggBrown supporter whipped up into a frenzy of onanistic pleasure.
It was a strange thing to behold. Each candidate had a minute to have their say and when the camera panned around behind the three amigos, you could see large digital timers counting down near the cameras, so each of the protagonists knew exactly how much time they had left. So this rendered the answered into semi-cogent, sound-bite responses…all in the name of fairness.
The lack of applause or any kind of feedback from the audience also made it an almost sterile event as if a large bell glass had been lowered over the proceedings and all the air had been vacuumed out. So in an effort to make politics exciting and relevant and appealing to the man on the street, the complete control of who cheered, who booed, who clapped, who muttered, rendered the whole thing as appealing as a Sunday school lecture. It was a million miles away from the cut and thrust of the House of Parliament and I remembered with fondness the cut and thrust of Kinnock versus Thatchter, Smith Versus Major and even Haque versus Blair. That energy and wordy brinksmanship wasn’t needed here. Everyone had to have a fair crack of the whip – which kind of reflects the sterile, dull “correct” times we live in.
I’m not talking about political correctness – though there is a fair amount of that – but this middle-class need to appear to do “the right thing” to act in “fairness”, when the opposite result is usually achieved. Unfairness abounds in these fair times, usually because we fit rules and regulations and health and safety and human rights until the simple human process of common sense has been bludgeoned to death. Cripes, I sound like a Daily Mail reader there. But the debate would have been much more engaging if we’d been allowed to see the actual character of the three leaders instead of this clipped, precise, “fair” system.
I know that questions of the day were asked by carefully selected members of the audience. Again, they were selected the basis of geographic location (supposedly they were only supposed to come from a catchment area 30 miles from the studio) and a fair spread of political views. So law and order, immigration and MP corruption were trotted out for the three leaders to carefully reply. I know lots of things were said, but because of the presentation (I believe) I have no recollection of the event. I know I sat and watched it. I know that these things happened, but I only have a vague sense of anything actually happening or being said. It’s almost as if Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones walked in afterwards and zapped me with their memory eraser devices…
When the debate initially started I had a weird flashback to the 1980s and a vision of Cilla Black appeared with the three leaders sitting on stools behind a garish barrier and the suitable over-the-top set of “Blind Date” with the electorate on the other side of the barrier quizzing their prospective suitors.
“I’d like to ask leader number one, where would they take me for a romantic first date, ” the electorate would ask and each leader in turn would reply in a suitably witty, pre-written quip.
Then my mind wandered further and I started imagine that the electorate was feeling a little fruity and started asking the leaders about their favourite sexual positions and I started feeling bilious and I snapped to, back to the proper debate.
But seriously folks, my impression of the debate was that it was an interesting attempt to engage with the public, but it failed in so many ways (for me anyway). In terms of performance, Gordon Brown was steady. He’s fairly rock solid in these speaking engagements and little can ruffle him and it is this setting that you realise what a consummate politician he is and how his years of experience speaks volumes. I also though Nick Clegg put in a brave performance, but you could see this was a man who had little to lose and he put in a good effort. He made an impression – though not as personable as “Champagne” Charlie Kennedy (who if was still leading the Lib Dems, I’d probably vote for because he is a true man of the people) – this was someone who was at least trying to impress.
Meanwhile, David Cameron came across as a bit of a wet fish – this was someone who was out of his comfort zone and it showed. He was either desperate to play it safe and not to put his foot in his mouth or he really lacks that real fire required by leadership politics. Of course, some might say that I’m bashing Cameron because I’m a Leftie Socialist, but I’m not. I was expecting him to do well and Brown to take a bit of a drubbing – but it was a bit like one of those heavyweight boxing contests that gets hyped into overdrive and then the reigning champion floors the contender forty seconds into the first round with a well-placed left hook.
Moving away from the debate, the interesting thing about this election is how the media is thrusting the wives of the leaders into the spotlight. I am not sure if it is an attempt by the press to move towards a more American view of politics and to move us towards having a “first lady” or it is the priapic editors of these newspapers backhandedly trying to ask us which of the leader’s wives would we like to fuck.
Of course, I could just be reading too much into all of this…

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