Firstly, they’re not really debates, I do not really recall anything being actually debated during Thursday night’s infotainment; there was a lot of sound and fury, but little of anything resembling genuine discussion. This is partly owing to the adversarial nature of politics, it is clear that the three participants rightly viewed the event as a competition; indeed I have heard many lazy journalists compare the Leaders’ Debates to Pop Idol numerous times, each of them believing that they were the first to say it. Politicians, even more than the entrants to Pop Idol, seem to be peculiarly attention-seeking, one only has to watch the BBC’s Question Times for confirmation of this, and unlike many would-be celebrities most of them are not exactly blessed with good looks or genuine charisma, which perhaps explains their need for approval.
Secondly, there is a slightly alien feel to the Leaders’ Debates. Of course, the USA does this kind of thing very well, but it fits into their culture, which was founded on consumerism and advertising. This was evidenced prior to the Leaders’ Debate when the BBC showed a clip of Ronald Reagan delivering a witty quip during a Presidents Debate, but it seemed so rehearsed, false and clunky that I could not imagine it working in a cynical society like the UK. Presidents are all about appearance, and although that factor is becoming increasingly important in the UK, it is not yet decisive. Furthermore, US Presidents have nothing resembling the amount of power that UK Prime Ministers have; the President is a figure-head with little ability to truly influence policy (witness Obama’s problems in regard to delivering Healthcare), whereas Prime Ministers can hire and fire, and Blair was well-known for his ‘sofa politics’ whereby he met with aides and Blairite MPs in private to avoid having cabinet meetings.
Thirdly, the conclusion of the debates would have us believe that Nick Clegg is PM material. Anybody with any knowledge of politics can tell you that the Liberal Democrats historically promise the earth to the electorate, knowing that they won’t have deliver on their promises. If they won the election it would be diarrhoea-time for them. The irony is that the Liberal Democrats politics now resemble what Labour ought to be advocating; a fairer income tax system, withdrawal of the troops, and so on. Nevertheless, we all know that Clegg will not be elected PM, irrespective of how well he is doing in the polls.