If the leadership debates were supermarkets – which they're not – ITV's would be Tesco, Sky's would be Morrisons, and the BBC's offering would be Waitrose. The ITV debate felt like a 1990s gameshow whose rules required Alastair Stewart to bellow "Mr Clegg!", "Mr Brown!" or "Mr Cameron!" every thirty seconds; the Sky studio was a poky black cave cluttered with discarded British Airways tail fins and dwarfed by an immense Sky logo. With its mix of cavernous space and high-tech backdrops, the BBC debate resembled a cross between Songs of Praise and current Saturday night talent-show splurge Over the Rainbow: I half expected the loser to hand his shoes to Dimbleby at the end before jetting off into the sky on a rocket-powered podium.
The chief topic was the economy, a subject upon which I have such a poor grasp that from my ignorant perspective all three men may as well have been debating the best way to kidnap a space wraith. Cameron proposed 'efficiency savings' which seemed to boil down to a war on unnecessary leaflets; Brown boomed that this would shrink the economy by £6bn and risk a double-dip recession. Clegg didn't care what happened as long as it was fair. He proposed some kind of cross-party economic fairness committee which, as secret fellowships go, sounds about as much fun as a cardboard-licking party.
Clegg was big on fairness generally. Fairness and difference. He used so many distancing tactics – references to "these two", phrases like "there they go again", constant calls to "get beyond political point-scoring" – he may as well have thrown in a "hark at these arseholes" at the end for good measure. It's a tactic that largely works: he sometimes came across as a slightly exasperated translator sadly explaining to his fellow earthmen in the audience that these two visiting Gallifreyan dignitaries were well-meaning but essentially wrong.
Brown's ears are amazing. I think they're made out of sausages. And he still can't smile properly, which is hardly surprisinggiven his ongoing luck allergy. Following the overblown 'bigotgate' media piss-fight, which saw him force-fed fistfuls of shame, it was vaguely impressive to see him standing at a podium instead of screaming on a ledge. Just as Cameron likes to shoehorn the "change" meme into every sentence (or rather did, before Cleggmania flared up), so Brown mentioned "the same old Conservative Party" so many times he began to sound like a novelty anti-Tory talking keyring.
According to some polls, Cameron won, or at the very least tied with Clegg. Which is odd, because to my biased eyes, he looked hilariously worried whenever the others were talking. He often wore a face like the Fat Controller trying to wee through a Hula Hoop without splashing the sides, in fact. Perhaps that's just the expression he pulls when he's concentrating, in which case it's fair to say he'd be the first prime minister in history who could look inadvertently funny while pushing the nuclear button.
Apr. 30th, 2010