TV DEBATES ARE NEARLY OVER… GET ON WITH THE REAL ELECTION

JOHN McGURK

You have one minute to tell us how your policies would benefit the country…starting now!

Surely these TV debates are no better than crazed game shows where unless the contenders can spit out their messages without stumbling over their words, they are condemned as incapable and voted off.

The knack is to know exactly what to say, no matter what the question, and to finish off with a memorable line which will get the audience to respond preferably with lots of cheering.

In the pre-prepared world of modern politics in front of the cameras, there is no discussion and no way of knowing who is disguising the truth.

There’s plenty of finger-wagging, raised voices, and disagreement — but there is no clarity.

The soundbite, and the ability to deliver it in ways that convinces viewers who is passionate and who is genuine, may well determine who will enter Number 10.

But while this Presidential style of debate may well work the States, where the choice is between two candidates and two parties, here in the more complex politics of the UK, voters deserve better.

Not surprisingly, after three party leader debates and the Paxman interviews with the two contenders for the job of Prime Minister, we appear no further forward as the polls nudge up a few points here and there and then drop back again.

The Tories still have a slight lead; Labour is stuck not that far behind; the SNP is still heading for a Scottish landslide; UKIP is on the slide and the Lib Dems and Greens may just as well pack up and go home.

David Cameron has deliberately appeared statesman-like, Ed Miliband has been determined to prove he’s not gormless and Nick Clegg, once the darling of the TV debate, has been desperate to convince us that he is not a busted flush.

In Scotland, Jim Murphy has probably been making up some ground for Labour, but not enough, while the Lib Dem man north of the border, Willie Rennie, has been doing the opposite.

The star, Nicola Sturgeon, perhaps because she is new, female and fresh with a recent attraction make-over, is the only one who’s managed to get positive reviews across the UK so she immediately had to be shot down by a smear that she preferred a Conservative rather than a Labour victory.

Having categorically denied that she said this to the French ambassador, the difficulty is that it’s probably true.

She is at pains to remind voters that she and Alex Salmond would work to support any Labour government because this helps to convince Labour supporters who voted Yes in the referendum that it is safe to vote SNP.

But another Conservative-led government would prove to be a very useful tool for the Nats to demand a second independence referendum after the 2016 Scottish Election no matter what David Cameron says currently.

Besides, no matter how hard Cameron may campaign to maintain the union, this view is not entirely consistent across the Conservative party.

What the Tories can never admit is that an independent Scotland would mean that Labour would hardly ever be able to form a government in Westminster while they would be guaranteed to get rid of a bunch of Lib Dem MPs as well.

While it’s possible for Labour to win enough seats in England, these victories of the past were before UK politics became fragmented and unpredictable.

Yesterday, the dirty tricks continued as the Tories reminded voters that since Ed Miliband had stabbed his brother in the back to become leader of the Labour Party he would stab the country in the back by doing a deal with the SNP over the renewal of Trident.

The Conservative strategy all along has been to portray Miliband as weak, ineffective and not up to the job of Prime Minister; who would say and do anything to get into power.

But attacks like these, cooked up by campaign spin doctors who have mapped out their attacks well in advance on a daily grid, are worthless and pathetic when the debt, the deficit and the economy are the issues that really matter.

While it continues to look like David Cameron will be back in Downing Street, but short of a majority, there is still time for either the Conservatives or Labour to pull the proverbial rabbit out of the hat with an idea which will appeal to those aspirational “strivers” that both parties need to win over to achieve an outright majority.

Thank goodness the TV debates finish next week. Now we can get on with the real election.

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