“This is the voice of the Mysterons,..we know you can hear us, earthmen.”
According the national press, the general election is over and we can all get back to concentrating on Britain`s got talent. But the novelty of the televised leaders` debates seems to have produced a level of hysteria in the printed and broadcast media that is not reflected in the electorate.
An average of 7.5 million people watched the final debate compared to an average of 9.5 million that tuned in to the first. This drop in ratings must have been expected as the prime ministerial game show was up against Corrie, the snooker and the attempt by Liverpool to overturn a one goal deficit against Atletico Madrid.
Nearly 7 million watched Coronation Street and 3.5 million watched the football on Channel 5. Two goals from Yossi Benayoun and an extra time winner for Madrid were of more interest to some voters than the level of National Insurance. For some, Inheritance Tax was not a priority compared to the love tussle between Audrey and Rita over, of all people, Nigel Havers playing a male escort. Brown, Cameron and Clegg sharing a stage proved less attractive than Tracy Barlow and Gail sharing a prison cell. Perhaps immigration policy would attract more interest if Lionel Messi could be persuaded to leave Barcelona and join the Saddlers on loan.
If, as some are claiming, this election has been won and lost on television, what does that say about our political future? The lighting technicians and make-up artists on all three debates managed to give the leaders a waxy, polypropylene complexion reminiscent of Captain Scarlet and his Spectrum colleagues. Those characters were operated by Supermarionation, which involved solenoid motors in puppet heads making the mouths open and close as the words came out and we could not see the strings or, as ever, the people pulling them.
The press sent themselves into a feeding frenzy over the leaders` performances and were offering instant verdicts on who had “won” probably written the day before after a memo from the newspaper proprietor. The following morning, fans of Coronation Street and Benayoun reading those papers that openly support Cameron, might be forgiven for expecting a report that witnessed Dave walking on water and raising the dead.
To back up demands for sainthood, opinion polls were quoted seconds after the debate ended proving victory. Sadly, the details of the demographic of those polled or the questions that were asked were not included in the reports. They may have been something like this:
Answer only one question
A: Did Clegg loose the debate?
B: Did Clegg loose the debate badly?
C: Did Clegg insult the Queen?
A: Did Brown punch somebody?
B: Did Brown beat up a pensioner in Rochdale?
C: Is Gordon a moron?
A: Did Dave win the debate?
The opinion polls therefore prove that we will have a new Prime Minister on May 7 based on three television performances rather than on substantive policy. Policies which, mysteriously, were given very little airtime amongst the point scoring, back biting and “I`m a celebrity” stage-managed confrontation. The presidential style of this campaign takes much away from the process of democracy and parliamentary representation. Unless you live in Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, Witney or Sheffield Hallam, you will not find these guys on your ballot paper.
Instead you will find some folks who parrot what their party leader says, shying away from what is relevant to the local electorate and some other single issue minority parties and independents who do not own a nice suit or face paint.
If the press, and not the people, decide the election, then it looks like the days of Brown, Rafael Benitez and Nigel Havers as an escort, are numbered. Thunderbirds are go.