Tag Archives: Ed Miliband

Party Leader Election Debates

Bear with me on this one, I actually wrote it last week prior to last night’s 7-way leader’s debate broadcast. Although I’m feeling perfectly vindicated as the whole thing more or less confirmed my suspicions as detailed below….

UK politics were treated to another novel concept this election cycle, the slightly oddly formatted affair on Channel 4 that saw Cameron and Miliband grilled separately in quick fire succession by the tenacious Jeremy Paxman, in addition to a small studio audience. It felt like a dense affair with little breathing room, as both leaders were put under no small amount of pressure by their inquisitors. Snap opinion polling gave the nominal win over the affair to Cameron by an order of 54 to 46, but the small margin has seen some commentators claim that, due to low expectations, Miliband was the actual victor.

Various other subsidiary metrics were gleaned via polling, relating to matters such as leadership quality, world standing, likeability, veracity etc., but really it’s hard to measure what if any genuine impact the event will have on the election. Reactions from journalists, politicos and the average observer seem to pretty much boil down to confirmation bias, and the much vaunted “undecided” are unlikely to pin their ultimate decision down to what they witnessed. It largely felt like a vapid presentation piece during which we learned nothing new, and the best a sceptic might say is that it was entertaining to watch both leaders squirm a bit.

Frankly, these leadership-oriented events are something of a betrayal of the traditional nature of British politics and a further step in the trend towards imposing a presidential sort of perception on things. For anything that adequately and accurately represents how the Westminster machine still really ticks you would have to include at least the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Home Secretary. But given the tedious palava that were the negotiations to establish this year’s varied set of cross-party forums, such an eventuality would probably be beyond the capabilities of the broadcasters and parties to achieve.

The seven-way debate on April 2nd could be fairly forecast as a complete debacle, unless ITV’s Julie Etchingham has moderating qualities of supernatural proportions. If you’ve ever watched an early-stage US presidential primary debate, in which there are multiple candidates still in the field, you’d probably agree with that statement. They either descend into noisy and cluttered diatribe, or the moderator wields an iron fist and the strict time allocations reduce proceedings to a stilted competition of who has the best sound bites. And that would be referring to the relatively mild Democratic primaries. The Republican iterations are downright outlandish.

As for the other main formats, the April 16th BBC five-way will offer little by way of improvement for lacking Cameron and Clegg, despite Dimbleby’s formidable experience, though at least the April 30th Question Time between Cameron, Clegg and Miliband carries the familiar and tested feel of a UK political staple. The town hall vibe feels marginally more genuine, as even if the core questions are guaranteed to be pre-approved, there is no grooming the often visceral reactions of the crowd. The people in the audience that night will hopefully feel entitled to express themselves as freely as they often do on many an ordinary Thursday night.

One wonders if the broadcasters considered something completely different though, something that might have offered the electorate a proper look into the parties in a fashion that is actually representative of UK politics. The cross-party aspect possibly does provide an adversarial entertainment element, but really it is completely meaningless. Going back to the notion that the Chancellor and Home Secretary should be representing their parties as well, you could expand further and include other major portfolios, and have broadcasters host single party events that more fully delved into individual party legacies, policies and promises.

Line them and give them a treatment on par with Paxman’s uncompromising assaults on Cameron and Miliband for Channel 4. Perhaps it may appeal less to those who don’t already have a healthy degree of political engagement, but considering a major complaint of the Channel 4 spectacle was that it broadly lacked substance, perhaps not. The format would provide proper focus and strip away the chaff of who is a better debater or performer, which is an utter irrelevance to political competency and ideology.

There’s no doubt the parties would still find a way to moan and quibble over how the broadcasts were released, which day of the week, timeslot, order, interviewer, proximity to election and more, but it would be worth pursuing in future elections if the British public are keen on more accessible modes of having their political options presented to them. The spirit of televised pre-election political broadcasting is in that sense very worthy. But clearly as they are still a newfangled thing in this country, there’s great room for improvement on what we’ve seen so far and are yet to be served up with.


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Forget Deference for a Moment

The blood boils. With an early evening cup of tea I watched Prime Minister’s Questions, seeking my usual dose of political theatre, hoping to glean a few hints between the lines of the questions, answers and raucous cheering and jeering. It’s usually an eye-roller, but today it was an eye-bulging, vascular ruining, aneurysm inducing affair. The leader of the opposition, Ed Miliband, is not fit for purpose, and that’s a very restrained assessment.

I’m loathe to repeat my general criticism of the Labour leader, I’ve already done so enough, but he drags me back in time and time again. The void of ideas, the steady stream of attack on government and the hypocrisy of his machinations in relation to his party’s time in government are bad enough, but he has sought new means by which to make tatters of the prestige of Westminster. I would advise you to watch this Wednesday’s edition and see if you don’t agree.

Being generously gracious, the coalition is not having the best time of things. It’s approaching shambolic territory really, and this is well understood by everyone. Criticism of this ill-matched union is well-deserved, as even their lingering claims of progress are being drowned out by the obstacles and regressions. Improved employment and increased exports aren’t enough to distract from huge benefit and public sector cuts, against a backdrop of an otherwise lame economy.

Cameron is visibly under fire. He looks tired, embattled, fearful of the whispers of a leadership challenge. The Conservative Party surely realises how utterly self-defeating this would be and yet I have a brewing dread based on their previously suicidal political blunders, not limited to becoming embroiled in social issues and the ever looming European question. Solidarity is beginning to waver and the struggles of government are plain to see.

So I say this of Mr. Miliband. If there is nothing he can do other than gesticulate like a precocious infant while riling up the Commons with petulant and entirely disrespectful rhetoric of precisely zero value, he should resign. Today was the end of my tolerance for his pathetic brand. Immediately to his left sits Harriet Harman, an infinitely better prospect for the party thanks in part to her maturity and experience, but also much more.

She at least is dynamic. Forget this talk of Teresa May taking over the Conservatives, unless Thatcher 2.0 is your thing, Harman should be the next female leader in British politics. And the sooner the better. God help us all if the dismal antics of Miliband and Balls are actually appealing to anyone, as their dereliction to the whole meaning of opposition spells doom for their potential in government.

I have no doubt Harman can dish out the salty Commons jibes with the best of them, and indeed has in her capacity as deputy under Brown. The difference between her and her two colleagues is that when offering criticism she also tends to offer alternatives. Not always fully formed, it must be said, but then I’ve never even demanded that of the increasingly symbiotic abomination that is the Labour leader and shadow chancellor. Just more than playground sarcasm.

Miliband was shockingly awful today. I can only hope people were paying attention. If they liked what they saw, they shouldn’t, because in every nasal taunt and scoffing assault were the signs of his total inadequacy. On their own it would usually only amount to the typical buffoonery of Prime Minister’s Questions, but coupled with his negligence and vapidity it’s an insult. Socialist ideas man? Thinker? Intellectual? My left nut. Prove it.

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