Here’s something I wrote a little while after the 2010 General Election, and in response to the Prime Ministerial Televised Debates that aired during April 2010. I’ve published it today for reasons that should be pretty clear.
Only a few months ago, we were all treated to the Prime Ministerial Debates.
It had never been done before. For the first time ever, a live debate would be held on the economy, foreign policy, voting reform and environmental promises. Nothing was going to be out of bounds. We would witness our future decision makers face the music and answer the big questions.
So, before I go on, did anyone see the debates described above?
I’m not talking about the half-arsed dinner theatre we all got, but rather the fascinating delve into the minds of our political leaders that was advertised by Sky, the BBC and the other one (Channel 5)?
What the fuck happened here? Did I miss the meeting where it was decided that rather than treat those who give a shit about such things, as intelligent, informed and diverse citizens, we’ll instead screw them with their pants on and throw them something we scripted earlier!
Talk about hype, this thing could have been produced by J. J. Abrams… although at times a J. J. Abrams script would have seemed far more realistic and closer to reality.
We had David Cameron looking like a disgraced Geography teacher, Gordon Brown looking for the buffet trolley, and Nick Clegg looking just happy to have been invited.
So with the room paid for, and the band well rehearsed, we all settled down to watch four and a half hours of mutual agreement.
We need more nurses… we need more police… we need more teachers… we need better schools… we need better hospitals… we need a well-equipped army… and we need to cut taxes while paying back billions of pounds in loans.
YES! We all know this!
Honestly, the stuff being discussed was so fucking obvious my pet guinea pig could have stood in for any of these cardboard cut-outs!
These guys were so desperate not to rattle anything, they pretty much echoed each other on everything… and when one of them did forget the script, and foolishly wandered into an actual debate and challenged an opposing policy, they immediately back-paddled to safety.
It was so frustrating. We had the opportunity to seriously debate issues that are going to shape our country for many years to come. We had a stage made up of academics and experts in their chosen fields. And an audience itching to ask questions that will challenge each party.
Fuck that! Let’s just agree that nurses do a difficult job, schools are very important for education, and the police are quite handy for arresting bad people. Holy shit!
This was dumb-down TV at its best.
At a time when stupidity is so readily accepted and catered too on TV, why couldn’t we have used these debates to raise the bar a little higher, and ask people to stretch for it?
We don’t always have to revert to the Wife-Swap formula for lobotomising a nation. If we expect our political leaders to do better, shouldn’t we??
Fast forward a few weeks and Election Night arrived.
The papers and pundits were already calling a hung parliament before a single vote had been cast. In the end, the Conservatives gained 100 seats, Labour lost a ton… and Clegg, the saviour of British politics, actually did worse than ever.
True to form, we found ourselves with a hung parliament – and eventually got a government no one, by a single majority, elected.
And to add insult to injury, Nick Clegg sold out the Liberals and became the Egor to David Cameron’s Victor Frankenstein!
After millions being spent on advertising, even more money spent on boring pundits to cover every boring sentence, and lord knows how much spin and rhubarb, what did the Prime Ministerial Debates provide?
For me, absolutely nothing! All that airtime and money would have been better utilised in an attempt to get Katie Price and Peter Andre back together.
In short, the joke was on us… and continues to get funnier.
Paul Millard 2010 (revised)