I have a confession to make: I’ve only watched bits of last night’s debate between Tim Farron, Nicola Sturgeon, Leanne Wood (aka Natalie), Caroline Lucas (apparently, also aka Natalie), and Paul Nuttall. It was simply too depressing to watch the whole thing all the way through.
Remember a few years ago when everyone was talking about the death of two party politics; how no one party was ever going to be able to get a parliamentary majority ever, ever again? How young and naïve we all were. Last night was like a parody of that idea. In fact, the whole point of the exercise seemed to be simply to provide Patrick McLoughlan, the current chair of the Conservative Party, the chance to say that the evening was “a glimpse of the chaos you could get in just three weeks with all the other parties propping up Jeremy Corbyn as prime minister”.
Put it this way: were May or Corbyn harmed in any way by not taking part last night? Definitely not. So they won by default.
For Lucas, a little more exposure is always somewhat helpful, particularly considering she is far and away the Greens’ biggest asset. Wood and Sturgeon came out neutral, with no real ground to be gained. For Farron and Nuttall it was a net loss. For Nuttall, simply because every media appearance shines further light on UKIP’s ever growing irrelevance; for Farron, because last night demonstrated how badly wrong the Lib Dems have pitched themselves. The gap in the market the Lib Dems were supposed to be going for were Tory Remainers and Labour moderates, and yet there was Farron, seemingly mostly indistinct from Lucas and the two leftie nationalists. It seems to hammer home the idea that there are four whole parties trying to fish in Corbyn’s already over trawled waters. This is even worse for the Lib Dems as they are least best placed of any of the parties involved to try and gain voters here – they were in government with the Tories just over two years ago, so trying to compete with Lucas and Corbyn for the socialist vote was always going to end in tears.
The one positive of the whole night was the Nuttall thing I mentioned before: UKIP are really finished. Those polling numbers are not going to get any better for them, and considering they are now getting numbers like 2 nationwide, it makes you wonder why Nuttall is even bothering to carry through with the whole charade. They should have just said after the election was called that they were standing aside completely for this one, with the view to coming back should Brexit not be sufficiently adamantine. At least their humiliation will be small comfort in the aftermath of an election that will be a bloodbath for all progressive parties, with the possible exception of the Greens, mostly due to tiny expectations.