I watched the ‘Battle For Number 10’ television debate this morning. I’ve recently discovered that if I watch political debate programs while on our exercise bike then I seem to pedal much harder out of sheer frustration for the entire affair. When attempting to fix my life and get healthier for the umpteenth time in my existence, I did start watching stand-up comedy specials while stationary cycling. But it seems converting all the energy I’d use shouting at the telly into pedalling instead means I burn a lot of calories. Once again I’m at that odd realisation where if, for some bizarre reason, the government we get in May is actually a decent one – and it won’t be – then as well as losing a ton of tried and tested stand-up material, I’ll also probably get a lot less healthier. There is, as I often say pretty much daily, often to myself, no winning.
I hadn’t been able to understand why David Cameron wanted to avoid doing TV debates. One of his skills is to be able to PR spin any old crap into the camera while smiling afterwards as though he’s just eaten your pet. Last night’s TV ‘debate’ made me realise that actually though, having him or Miliband on TV is far more detrimental to them than useful. If anything, it made me realise that what I’d prefer is for all political leaders, in the run up to the election, be locked up in a small windowless room with no avenue to spout on about anything and ultimately we’d all have to vote based on previous offences and gut instinct.
Paxman looked like a sad Muppet, putting the show on one last time. Jeremy did his trademark frowning glare when it occurred to him to he probably should. Paxman made odd contradictions such as questioning the last Labour government’s faults before contradictorily stating that whatever Tony Blair did was his own affair. He still referred to Salmond as a threat, failing to understand that Nicola Sturgeon has been leader of the SNP for some time, a mark of how long he’s been away from Newsnight maybe. Kay Burley looked as though she had been accidentally beamed into the studio and had to remember to blink so people wouldn’t be suspicious. So fielded audience questions as though biting her tongue to stop asking them to reveal their own personal tragedies in part of attempt to understand how emotions work.
Cameron was up first and was asked some half interesting questions on employment. As with all political questioning now, it wasn’t pushed far enough. Why are people on workfare schemes that haven’t worked in 6 months classed as employed? Why are people who work in public services such as firefighters or police having their pensions classed under ‘welfare’? Why would they make young people do unpaid work for two years? Why does he think that lowering taxes is better than making work pay better with a living wage, dealing with the housing crisis and cost of living? Why do they keep selling off profitable UK assets? That’s what should have been asked with graphs and official government reports on stand-by to contradict his statements. Instead we got tiny ice cube tips of icebergs and responses that danced around an answer with well rehearsed moves.
It was boring, predictable and in no way endearing. The public then got to ask Cameron questions, which must be something he’s not particularly used to. I’m not sure he’s aware of the public most of the time and so it was probably quite a shock to see them actually there, like in the stories he’s been told. While pressing him on police cuts or the government’s constant neglect for those with disabilities, time was pressed and so audience were unable to respond to Dave’s non-answers to each of them. Kay Burley temporarily remembered she was alive and asked Cameron about eating Shredded Wheat. It was a weak, supposedly jovial comment on his third term resignation promises. Thank god she asked as we discovered that here is a man who hasn’t eaten three Shredded Wheat for ‘a long time’, helping secure votes all around the country from cereal haters alike, pretending that there is some sort of human connection to a man who seems like he has to be plugged in before each appearance. Maybe that was why he was only down to do one debate, due to energy costs or technical issues? Perhaps his warrantee runs out in 2020, hence the need to step down, be put in a box and left in an attic.
Then Miliband’s turn. I’m no fan of Ed either, but recently on BBC’s Free Speech – a show, which, as far as I’m concerned, has presented the best election Q&A’s and debates so far – he came across fairly amiable for the first half. Then after being probed about whether his government would still sell weapons to Saudi Arabia or his views on the banking system, it became clear that he is just definitely another lost cause in the search for actual political difference. On the Battle For Number 10 sadly we didn’t even get this far as instead he was asked instead important political questions about why he looks gloomy, would his brother have been better, doesn’t he get upset at all the things people say about him? He could have been questioned on his party’s agreements with much of the Conservatives austerity policies and welfare cuts, or his refusal to reverse NHS privatisation entirely and tackle the TTIP proposals in the EU. But as we know, the main thing we have to have with a Prime Minister is for them to appear to be competent, even if they aren’t. Brush the crap under the rug and no one can see it.
I’m not saying it isn’t at all important to come across as confident. It is. And Ed isn’t. The most awkward moment was where felt the need to tell us all he was ‘tough enough’ to be PM after stuttering through the sentence before and saying ‘tuffy nuss’. Y’know, like a tough person would. His attempts to be empathetic didn’t work yet his attempts to be direct and stern contained too much human err. At the end as the credits rolled, you could hear Paxman say ‘are you alright Ed?’ reminding me vividly, as politics increasingly does, of the end of a BrassEye episode, as Chris Morris comments on the condition of an elephant with it’s trunk up its own arse. An hour and 15 minutes later I was no more or less enamoured with either of them than I was before.
I am sort of excited about May’s election. Excited is probably the wrong word, but it’s definitely some sort of nervous curiosity for what we’ll end up with. More importantly whether whatever we’ll end up with will change anything, or not at all. It will probably be the latter, regardless of government. We’ve stifled ourselves so much with a need for gloss and shine rather than substance. Easy ways out for politicians to not have to answer or be held responsible for anything anymore. This being even more so the case as their responsibilities are sold off and privatised so they can’t be accountable for any of the areas they should be in charge of. Last night’s TV debate made me realise just how much it was all for immediate gain. ‘Let’s win the race in 6 weeks, why on earth would we care about how our actions will affect the world in many years’ time?’
I will watch the other TV election debates. I now think it was clever for Cameron to refuse to do so many. They are awful events. But addictive. Like watching a fascinating drama. Incredible scripts that give us characters who are nearly real people but not quite. The narratives as good as well written sitcom, though repetitive enough that we can zone out a bit like all shit TV. Sadly, unlike most TV, these shows have actual consequences. So I suppose we can only hope nobody involved gets recommissioned for a further series. Though if they do, I suppose at least it’ll help me get very fit. So there’s that.
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