I could of course be watching the debate. I could be doing karate too.
I’m not. I’m here.
Despite the huge interest these debates have apparently stirred up – I even personally know someone who is watching them – I can’t quite bring myself to join the panting throng. It all smacks a bit too much of the competitive job interview; each candidate knows he’s got to make sure he gets three or four key sentences squeezed in somewhere; they have to look presentable and appear like ordinary friendly folk, just like you and me.
If they don’t smile, especially if their first name is Gordon, they will be described as dour and out of touch. If they do smile, again especially if their name is Gordon, it will be suggested that they have been prompted by a voice in their earpiece so to do and bring to mind an uncomfortable shark.
If they attempt concerned sincerity, particularly if they are called David, we will be instantly reminded of dodgy second hand car dealers,eager to make a sale of an unroadworthy vehicle. If they don’t attempt it, again particularly if their name is David, we’ll remember their education cost as much as some of us will earn in a lifetime, and damn them as out of touch.
Or if their name is Nick, however disingenuous they might seem, we will blame them for the tons of paper that local Lib-Dem activists have been shoving through our letter boxes with a fine disregard for the green issues they say they espouse, and out of touch.
So, no. I’m not watching. I’m deeply disappointed that Outnumbered isn’t on. I blame Margaret Thatcher. That may seem irrational, but most things are her fault if you look hard enough. And even if it’s not her fault for once, if I had to send anyone out into the wilderness with thorns tied around their horns it’d be her. I’m fond of goats and I don’t see how they get the blame.
I shall rely on the wonderful Armando Iannucci to tell me the interesting bits and to make me laugh. For those of you who haven’t a clue who he is, here’s a snip from last Saturday’s Independent:
“So what does it all mean? Have I managed to get a sense of the convulsive shifts taking place in British politics and a more intimate reading of the mind-sets of the three parties? Well, after a fashion, yes. Being a professional watcher of the debates does force you into analysing every verbal tic. Sometimes, this gets too detailed. Did David Cameron really say “I was with some of our forces in Afghanistan and I was really blown away”, did Gordon Brown really refer to “guys and girls” and say “I was speaking to young people only yesterday”, and did Nick Clegg actually argue that, if only we came together, we could do something different this time about the Pope?
But underneath it all, I can detect a sense in the room of where this is all heading. For me, these debates so far have been about the increasingly large question mark over David Cameron’s head. Cameron is having an existential crisis. This is partly because Cameron himself has no single identity but is a composite of other people’s; a bit of Blair here, a bit of Thatcher there. His “big society” idea resembles Lyndon Johnson’s “great society” pitch of the early 1960s, while his “the great ignored” phrase is a reworking of Richard Nixon’s “silent majority”. Going into the debates as “the other bloke” seemed a good idea, but falls apart when there is indeed another bloke there too.
Nick Clegg has become the David Cameron it’s actually OK to like, and David Cameron, who always thought he was the most likeable David Cameron because he was the only one, doesn’t quite know how to respond. This week, his way out of the identity theft was to thieve one back and his best moments came when he tried to be the most Nick Clegg of the three. He stared down the camera, but also distanced himself from Brown and Clegg and, at one point, reworked Clegg’s pitch from last week by pointing to the other two politicians squabbling and telling everyone he was the only man to do something different.”
And anyway, I can’t do karate.