Thursday, April 2, 2015

Election Diary - Day 4: Seven Swans A-Swimming

Thursday 2nd April
The Day of the Leaders' Debate1

7.00am, Athens, 400 B.C.
Socrates and Plato were meeting for a good old breakfast and bailout.
“Good morning, Socrates.”
“What is good, Plato? What is morning? And what makes a morning good?”
“Not this again.”
“Care for a bailout?”
“Thank you,” said Plato.
“And where are you going today, my pupil?”
“To the Ekklesia, good Socrates, for there is a debate that interests me.”
“And what is a debate?”
“Jesus, do you ever stop?”
“Who is Jesus?”
“No idea,” replied Plato. “A debate is a discussion of great ideas that affect us all. It is where we pursue truth, and not victory, and determine the best course for the populous. It is where we talk and where we listen, and where we dwell on the truths of science and metaphysics, and consider what the purpose is of these transient lives of ours.”
“Is that normally how it goes?”
“Of course not. It always turns into a slagging match.”
“And why is this?”
“Well, it is easier to attack the person than the idea.”
“Is not true debate achieved by someone deconstructing an idea by constantly asking questions?”
“Good heavens no. That sounds tedious. A true debate would be two people, stating their cases, attempting to persuade and to discover.”
“Only two?” asked Socrates. “Why two? Why not seven?”
“Because,” replied the student to the master, “that would be a load of nonsense.”
“Yes. I suppose you’re right. Fancy a quick bailout before you go?”

7.00am, London, 2015 A.D.
For the next 13 hours, it is a phoney war, and what it’s actually about is the media. Tonight’s debate is The ITV Leaders’ Debate, broadcast on the BBC News Channel, and the Sky News Channel. Somehow, ITV have also secured the rights to their own debate. Elections may divide the country, but they bring the media together in such a sweet way. Why fight for viewers when we can share them?
If Election Night is politics’ version of the last day of the Premier League, with results flooding in from across the country and loads of endless, inane, shouty analysis to follow, tonight is the F.A. Cup Final, with one straight shoot-out and loads of endless, inane, shouty analysis to follow.
But imagine a football match contested by 7 sides. That’s what we’re in for. With loads of endless, inane, shouty analysis to follow.

So it is that the BBC’s Ross Hawkins – a sort of good-looking, adult-sized Jennings – is allowed to go and creep around the studio for tonight’s debate.
“This is so exciting,” he says. “ITV don’t know we’re here.” (They do, but to acknowledge that ruins the wheeze). “This is where David Cameron will stand. You can almost feel the anxiety already.”
Tell me about it, Ross. Tell me about it.

Quietly, as the coffee drains in, Nigel Farage thinks: “There’s no getting round this: today is probably the biggest day of my life so far.”

Quietly, as the free-trade, organic coffee and shot of Day Nurse drain in, Natalie Bennett thinks: “There’s no getting round this: today is probably the biggest day of my life so far.”

Quietly, as the weak tea drains in, Nick Clegg thinks: “There’s no getting round this: today is probably going to be a bit like getting repeatedly kicked in the balls. A bit like school really. Or Coalition cabinet meetings.”

There’s been a lot of comment on the positioning of the leaders for tonight’s debate. Ed Miliband is in the centre (about which Neil Kinnock is outraged), Nick Clegg is surrounded by people who don’t like him, and David Cameron is on the far-right. Initially, everyone thought this was a bad thing for Dave, but now people seem to think it may be an advantage.
It transpires that the studio being used for tonight is the same as the one used for BBC One’s The Voice, which presumably means that is going to find a way of crowbarring his way into this as well.

Labour have been holding a people’s question time this morning with an audience of “mostly swing voters”. It has become apparent that these are the sort of swing voters who are members of the Labour Party. To be fair, there are quite a few of those these days.

Nick Clegg says he’s going to go for a walk to prepare for tonight’s debate. This announcement came after the idea of Clegg “going for a walk” polled well with focus groups.

David Cameron is bringing some fighting talk. Talking to a school pupil who has ju jitsu as a hobby, he said "So I get Nigel Farage and get him on the floor?"
Well, we know from Heat magazine that the PM likes wrestling rats.

Farage, meanwhile, is sticking to his key campaign strategy, namely, to always have just under two drinks in him at any given moment. He tells the Telegraph’s Asa Bennett that he will be preparing for the debate by “having a couple of G&T’s”.
You see, I thought I was making this shit up.

Those broadcasters who don’t have news channels are scrapping for viewers tonight. Fortunately for them, a widely held perception of the debates is that they are “boring”.
So, the biggest question that will be answered tonight is this: “Which is more boring: the debate, or The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 (9pm, Channel 4)?

And so the build-up continues to the Rumble in Salford. We can expect a lot of blather, half-truths, downright “statistics”. However, we must applaud Nick Clegg for being an honest politician today, no doubt inspired by his new admirer, Joey Essex.
When asked if he can revive 2010’s Clegg-mania tonight he replied “I doubt it”, before retiring for some final debate prep with his key-advisers, Eeyore and Marvin the Paranoid Android.

5.00pm, Athens, 400 B.C.
“How was the debate, Plato?” asked Socrates.
“Disappointing. Depressing in fact. Much was said, but little was learnt. I felt condescended to as I listened to the cacophony, and in my mind I questioned the meaning of Democracy at all. Would it not be better to have a benevolent dictatorship? A rule of the friends of wisdom, perhaps? Philosopher-kings, if you will.”

“Ah, dear student. What is Democracy? What is debate? I know not. But, the evening is drawing in now. Fancy a pre-prandial bailout?” 

1 Events depicted may differ from actual events. In fact, this is a work of fiction, with some facts. But mostly, it's nonsense.

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