My Election Notes 2019: E-Day – 23

by Pseud O'Nym

The main problem for me with last night’s debate was the lack of any debate. Did we really learn anything about them, other than they stuck to the key messages they wanted to hammer home? And secondly, I doubt very much if anyone was going to change their opinion about either man, if anything it’d reinforce them. What was a revelation was the readiness of the audience to openly laugh at both leaders when they said something worthy of ridicule.

But the format was the main problem and the audience’s laughter only served to highlight it. Two men, each stood on a stage in front of a lectern, facing the audience, answering questions asked by a host with her back to the audience, what century are we living in? She’d ask the question and then they’d parrot off their clearly very well rehearsed answers. Interventions were far to few for my liking and I wished that John Humphreys had been in charge. But therein lies the problem. It was no good telling us how important this election was, how this was our chance to get answers from the two candidates, if they weren’t challenged, robustly if need be. They politicians who want to be the next P.M, for Darwin’s sake! However, a journalist who knows how the system works and plays the game, isn’t going to be as forceful as a member of the public, who, when confronted with a politician who they think is lying to them, pulls them up on it. Conversely, the politician, no matter how angry or irritated by this they are, can’t show it, because, after all, it’s a member of the public

And of course, only a cynic of the very highest order would suggest that one reason politicians are nervous about meeting or having any interaction with the general public is because of this their irritating propensity to ask unhelpful questions. One’s that don’t allow for carefully scripted and on-message answers to be given, and with presentation and social media being an ever present factor in elections, this presents a problem for politicians. Of course they say they like to meet to the public. It’s not just because they can’t control what they say or they don’t play the game, but they are not dependent on access to boost their journalistic career, and therefore don’t have anything to lose. I think of course of Diana Gould’s famous questioning of Mrs. Thatcher over the sinking of the Argentine battleship ‘The Belgrano’ on the BBC’s ‘Election Call’. Thatcher was visibly frustrated by being challenged on this, but couldn’t be rude to a member of the public, not in an election campaign. Unfortunately, the sinking of ‘The Belgrano’ happened during the Falklands War and I can remember being in a shop, when someone burst in, shouting, “We’ve taken Port Stanley” and everyone, including me, cheered.