No TV Debates Please, We're British

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Ben Cohen
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http://www.reuters.com/resources/r/?m=02&d=20100416&t=2&i=92922435&w=&r=2010-04-16T165320Z_01_BTRE63F10PE00_RTROPTP_0_BRITAIN-ELECTION

Guest post by Jessica Furst

Us Brits aren’t used to this debate malarkey; three men standing around saying things people want to hear. We’re above spin and rhetoric. We’re about substance and policy. Oh no, wait. That was until last week.

This was the second debate, one where the leaders had figured out when to look at the cameras at the right point, when to smile (Gordon Brown is truly frightening, like something from a Tim Burton film), when to call people nutters (Nick Clegg, Liberal Democrat Leader about the European Union), when and how often to use the word change and when to compare David Cameron and Nick Clegg to their squabbling children (Gordon Brown).

Because, let’s be honest, there were no new policy announcements. These debates are about presentation; about looking and sounding good; about saying the right thing at the right time; when to look in the camera and when to stare in to the audience.

Immigration and foreign policy were the main talking points, though not discounting a heated discussion on free eye tests, pensions , the economy, discipline in schools and travel. Frightening conversations were had about the dangers of Iran and the Liberal Democrat’s insistence that they would get rid of Trident, Britain’s nuclear submarines (another war, really?).

But this debate was really about how to bring the Clegg-machine (TM Jessica Furst) down. This was helped firstly by The Daily Telegraph today publishing the news that he has had money paid directly in to his personal bank account from three senior businessmen, not a surprise given the paper’s political stance. But can Clegg’s new-found popularity last until the polls which open two weeks today?

Post-debate polls in The Sun show that David Cameron is now on 36% and Nick Clegg on 32%, with Gordon Brown trailing a distant third. It seems this debate has produced a more even feel, with no clear winner.

The best part of these debates (is that possible?) has been the ‘spin room.’ A media room set up next to the debating hall, filled to the brim with every political journalist known to man. They proceed to tell the viewer what just happened after the debate has just finished (weren’t we just watching the same thing?), with any number of gadgets (even something called ‘the worm’), and then, the best part, the politicians descend on to every journalist with a camera pointed at them to tell the viewer who actually won (who knew that each leader could win at the same time?).

And because all the best things come in threes, there’s another debate next week.