Last night’s leaders’ debate. I don’t want to say I was breathless with anticipation in the run up, but I was looking forward to the whole thing. But by the half way point of last night’s proceedings, I really had to push myself to keep watching. Not because it was a depressing indictment of modern politics or anything that grand – it was just really, really boring.
The format didn’t work at all, I mean at all. I figured it wouldn’t, but not in the way it actually played out. I thought it would be a sort of entertaining mash-up, a kind of postmodern, Burrough-esque random word selector type thing, with all sorts of hilarious arguments between these seven people who had somehow ended up on a stage together. Instead, the weight of the panel ground everything down.
There were some key talking points afterwards. The biggest in terms of the overall general election campaign was the fact that Miliband once again had a mini-triumph over David Cameron. Labour’s “silent man” jibe was effective – it really did look and feel like the prime minister was trying to hide the whole time. Miliband meanwhile sounded confident in a way that I certainly wouldn’t have expected a few weeks ago.
The whole thing would have been much more coherent and watchable had it been limited to Cameron-Miliband-Clegg-Farage. And before you think it, this has nothing to do with those being the men on the panel and the other three all being women. That’s an unfortunate coincidence. The reason I would make those cuts comes to the fact that Sturgeon and Wood had nothing to say to anyone outside the sole nations in which they are running (although, to be fair, Sturgeon at least tried), and Natalie Bennett was – how can I say this in a nice way – Natalie Bennett. Not her worst performance, of course, but that’s a high bar to volley.
I get that we’re in a an age of multi-party politics, and as someone who has done his own share of ranting agains the red-blue duopoly, I’m happy for that to be the case. I just wish the end result of that wasn’t so painfully dull as what we got last night. Even when I examine the basics: do I feel more informed about the party leaders and what they each stand for now having sat through that interminable thing was last night? No, not really. I supposed one could say I live and breathe politics, so I came in with a pretty firm understanding anyway. However, I still don’t think the layperson would have been made any the wiser either. There was simply too much noise with seven people up there.
I’m glad at least that Cameron’s plan hasn’t worked out the way he thought it would. He figured it would be smooth sailing last night, the quacks would dominate and he could hide in the back. At least Ed was up to making sure that didn’t happen (just to be clear, I’m not saying this to be pro-Labour in any way – just given how Cameron tried to duck out of the debates altogether, I’m happy to see him get his comeuppance). I can’t think of much else positive to say about last night though, other than at least that was a one off and we don’t have to sit through it all again next week. There’s something I can be grateful to David Cameron for.