Yeah, I know, not the thing bemoaning how shit the BNP are. But hey, we already know how execrable the BNP are, so I reckon it can wait a bit (until I’ve finished writing it). I want to talk about the leader’s debates. I’m assuming you know what I’m talking about, but for any non-UK readers, this is the first time we’ve had televised debates. The last (of three) just finished. Personally, I think the debates are fantastic. They make politics more engaging; I heard kids on the bus who would usually be talking about the football result talking about the various leaders and their policies. While I abhor the X-Factor and that sort of nonsense, I do think that this is a good way to get people interested in politics.
One could make the argument that it makes the debate too ‘personality-driven.’ There’s definitely something to that, and it must be remembered that the leaders aren’t the whole party, but while the policies are definitely the most important thing, it’s worth bearing in mind that these people will be the ones in power/opposition, and that the leader’s personality will affect an awful lot, and their leadership style is important. Personality may not be the most important thing, but it is an important factor to consider, as it will affect an awful lot.
Another (unintentional) side-effect of the debates was the sudden popularity boost it gave Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats. I dislike the Lib Dems least out of the three main parties (although it was clearly the Guardian’s dream come true, all those “is he the new Obama/Churchill” headlines… for goodness sake) so it was nice to see them getting a little more attention. The Lib Dems were always going to gain the most from this additional exposure, not having the bottomless non-dom pockets of the Tories or the union support of Labour. Clegg managed to steal victory in the first debate, with David Cameron spending the following week doing damage control and Gordon Brown just keeping his head down. The right-wing press then scrambled to fight this opponent against which they had not reckoned, and the best they could come up with was an article in the Guardian from eight years ago. Which made an entirely sensible point. Not to say Clegg was perfect, but it showed that he could be something other than a shocking nonentity. How the topical comedy panel shows are going to deal with this is anyone’s guess.
The debates have also been quite challenging to me. I have no particular party affiliation (although I have an aversion to the Tories and don’t mind Labour and the Lib Dems) because I find the sort of tribalist, ‘everything on that side of the fence is wrong and everything over here is right’ mentality rather annoying. I much prefer the Private Eye ‘there’s good and bad on all sides’ perspective. The trouble is, that makes it difficult when thinking about who I’d want to win. Really, I suppose, I’d prefer the Lib Dems, if only because they’d bring in proportional representation, which I think would be quite a good thing. There might be a hung parliament. The Tories might win. Labour might (somehow) manage to cling to power. The most fascinating thing about this election is that nobody knows! Not the pundits, the columnists, not even Murdoch, this time around, really knows who’s going to win. And that’s tremendously exciting.