The Great Debate - Number 1

Well I realise it's the most important event ever to happen in any British General Election across the whole of history, but we might want to tone down our expectations of the Great Election Debate (Part 1) just a little. The much touted template for why it is so important - the inaugural US presidential tv debate between Messrs. Nixon and Kennedy - seemed to come down to the fact that Nixon wore a grey suit and sweated more than JFK. Oh, and his 5 o'clock shadow looked shifty compared to the sun-tanned Kennedy. But then, Tricky Dick Nixon looked shifty compared to a thrice-charged, money-laundering second hand car salesman who worked part-time for the mafia, so that was hardly a PR triumph.

I'm not convinced that the debate will be watched in huge numbers by a British public which simply spouts the mantra that all politicians are worthless at the moment. There will be some desperate media spinning by all three parties, to say nothing of the media's own ability to spin itself (the debates are, of course, the result of a hugely energetic campaign by the tv channels, desperate for a new election reporting angle and easy to come by video footage). But in the end, perhaps we'll simply walk away with our prejudices still intact, much as the US audience probably did with Nixon and Kennedy. Nick Clegg may surprise us with a hitherto un-noticed wit and charisma. Then again, he may not. Gordon Brown might just come across as a humorous, self-deprecating man you'd definitely want to spend time with. Then again, he may not. And there could just be a chance that David Cameron will drop his snake-oil salesman impression, but it seems unlikely.

More interestingly, perhaps David Cameron will respond to the criticism made by 58 economists today about his economic plans, or Gordon Brown explain away the poll which shows the Tories ahead in 100 key seats. Or possibly, they'll throw out the rules, and have a genuine, policy inspired debate containing rigour and illustrating their geuninely different ideological passions. Think I might just put 'West Wing' in the DVD at the ready.


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