Sunday, 2 May 2010


I wondered then as I wonder now why Brown agreed to a teledebate. What on earth possessed him, his advisors or his boss (the Noble Lord) that this was even remotely anything other than a car crash waiting to happen?

Teledebating is always harder for the incumbent, especially when things are going badly (and none could deny that things are going BADLY). The prime minister faced a huge challenge which clearly he thought he could rise to. I will be charitable to him, just for once. I think that he believes that he knows how to fix the mess we are in and that he thought he could get his argument across and convince the peoples of Britain of his capabilities. I think that, as was shown in his encounter with Mrs Duffy, he just doesn’t understand the peoples he is paid to lead. Prime time telly on a Thursday isn’t about deep philosophical debate. It’s about reality tv. If Mr Brown’s decision to let these things happen was based on the fact that the public likes this sort of tv with a vote at the end of it, he didn’t think the whole thing through.

In reality tv we vote for the good looking one, the one from our home country, the one with the nicest dress, the biggest boobs, the body we wish we had. We are not used to substance; froth is fine....

I didn’t think it would work. I thought that the figures would be dismal. Ninety minutes of politics? ... No thanks. I’m off to the pub. But I was spectacularly wrong.

Millions have watched. The course of the election has been changed. People may be concerned about local matters; they may be swayed by windmills, roads, schools, and hospitals locally, but the opinion polls have been all about who performed best in the debate. In many cases not the substance, but the stance, the way they looked into the camera, their wrinkles (Brown), their shiny forehead (Cameron) their easy manner (Clegg). That’s what swayed people used to judging reality tv shows.

But they conveniently forgot some stuff. They based it on the American presidential debates. Who do you want as your president? But from Kentucky to New York City, California to Idaho, everyone in the US has a vote for the president.

I can’t vote for any of these men.

And the exclusion of UKIP, Greens, Socialists, Nationalists, the Irish parties of all shades, and sundry others has distorted the game. People are voting on what they saw on the telly; they didn’t see any of these parties so they won’t vote for them. That has hit what little democracy we have in the UK. The Liberals were nowhere till the debates propelled them to first or second, depending on which opinion poll you believe. Anyone who has been left out of this reality tv show has been left out of the election.

It would have been difficult, but not impossible, to arrange leadership debates including all parties. They do it in Canada, and they seem to do it well despite having all manner of parties including those representing first nation Canadians as well as French and English-speaking immigrants. Needless to say that takes work, effort and ingenuity. So we just had the big two and put in Nick Clegg as a sop to everyone else, and the producers got on with ticking the health and safety list.

The SNP will probably suffer. Well, so be it. You can’t cry over spilt milk. We will never be able to stop these debates in the future, but what we must do is sort out a way of making them more representative. And, we can make it work for the SNP.

In the Scottish General Election we should have STV and BBC Scotland debates on the smaller number of matters that concern our government. An hour and a half of questions with Annabel, Alex, Tavish, Patrick, Iain and whoever leads the other parties currently unrepresented in the Scottish parliament....... seems like a plan, yeah?


  1. Thing is, I don't feel the debates themselves actually changed the core support for the parties and whilst Clegg got a boost from the first debate it fell apart when people studied what he actually stood for.
    Over all though if we must have them, then yes all parties standing for Westminster should get a look in.

  2. Well QM, although some polls show that the Tories are pulling ahead, the Liberals have never slipped back to the 19, 20, 21% they were before the polls, and of course much of what they stand for is what Dave says the Tories stand for. Of course, that doesn’t mean it IS what the Tories stand for. What they say before and after the election, particularly this one, are two very different things, but in fairness that goes for all of them. Labour started around 33 and has dropped. I haven’t seen a poll that has them above 28.

    I agree that we have to have some way of doing debates that will reflect all parties. I appreciate that it will be difficult. But we have people in government to whom we pay handsome salaries. I’m sure that if someone was paying me over £150,000 a year, I’d be able to get together a group of minds on a committee that could find a reasonably fair way of doing things.

    We have to start with the premise that it will not be totally fair, but it needs to be a bloody site fairer than the assumption that there are 3 parties. It is not a prime ministerial debate. Most of the population can’t vote for the prime minister. It should be party leaders (not the prettiest person in the party). They are best placed to make on the spot decisions about how things would be if they had some share of the power.

    How they work out what to do about the small, peripheral, and seemingly largely unimportant Celtic countries may be one of the big problems. No one in England wants to be bothered with the Northern Ireland education debate; no one in Wales cares about Scottish justice and no one in Scotland cares about council funding in England. Perhaps we should ask Canadians or Australians how they do it.

    But no, as usual we asked the Americans. Never mind that they have an entirely different system. Doesn’t matter. Whatever they do must slavishly follow.

  3. They will be hard pressed to deny the SNP the spotlight in a years time when the important elections for Scotland are on. Can't see Tavish recreating the Lib Dem bounce somehow!

  4. Oh Munguin, ye're makin' me laugh. The Tavish bounce. Ah'm like you, ah cannae see it.

    Oan the subject o' the debates, haein' watched aw three, apairt fi when ah nodded off, they didnae really shed ony light where there wis dark afore.

    Auld Mr Broon is nae Charlie Chester, he should gie up tellin' jokes, he disnae have the face fer them. An' ah ken he wis tryin' tae make the best o' a bad job, bein' aw serious an' Prime Meenisterial, but it jist came across like he wis the elder fae the kirk, gettin' oan tae ye fer no trimmin' yer hedge. Wee Dave scared aw the bairns oan the first debate wi his shiny hair an' his shiny face, so he went aw cuddly fer the next twa. Mibbe it wis jist me, but ah thocht his voice went aw posh by the third yin, mibbe he wis jist bein' hissel. Young Nick oan the other hand didnae have tae dae mair than show up. The LibDem bounce wis jist folk suddenly realisin' they didnae have tae vote blue or red, somethin' we're kind o' used tae up here. Sae long as he didnae wet hissel oan stage he wis awright.

    Ah'm probably in the minority when ah say ah hope they dinnae happen again, they werenae refreshin' they werenae enlightenin', an' they damn sure werenae funny.

  5. I have to agree with Sophie here, the Tavish bounce- yeh, I'll believe it when I see it honestly.

  6. I hardly think that the LibDems are "going back to their constituencies and preparing for government" so they can make as many election promises as they like and not have to follow them up.

    Even if they were in a coalition government they may get a couple of minister but they would probably achieve as much as the LibDems in the Scottish parliament achieved when they partnered Labour.

    At the time of the Iraq invasion - which they opposed - they were quite happy to stay in partnership with Labour who were involved in initiating the invasion.

    They could have struck a telling blow if they'd said at the time "We are not supporting you because of the invasion" and caused a crisis for Scottish labour which would not have gone un-noticed by the electorate who opposed the invasion.

    Of course they would have lost their ministerial Mondeos and perquisites were probably more important than principles.

  7. The LibDems will struggle to hold on to Berwickshire Roxbrugh and Selkirk in the borders and they will do well to hold onto Argyll & Bute for gains? Nah, sorry- I will say it here and now, the LibDems will struggle to hold onto their 11 Scots MPs.

    Tavish? No one I bet even knows him, and if they have heard of him they probs refer to him as the smarmy one.

  8. Ahhhh year, right Munguin. Tavish bounce... more like Tavish bouncing....

  9. Well Sophia, I didn't watch any of them so I can comment from a position of relative, one may say, I do on many things....but I think that they were wrong. And they have raken away some of the little democracy we have... on the other hand, if they help, by making the Liberals known, to bring in some form of PR they will have helped increase democracy.

    I think it will be hard to stop then now. I think they are with us for life.....

  10. No if we aw stop watchin' them they'll no.

    Mind, ye could say that aboot votin' fer Labour an' Tory. Folk'll jist no see sense, nae maitter how hard ye hit them.

  11. You've hit the nail on the head Brownlie. Ministerial cars and perks are rather important...and they don't come around too often for Libs. Principles only cost a few bob at Tescos... you can easily get come more if you ditch your current ones.

  12. Tris

    personally i see the Leaders debates as weakening of democracy you have the media and the Major(or those political parties favored by the media)partys conniving in who will speak and what will be discussed....

    And you have the outcome of a even more powerful prime minister which most people seem to believe is not good for a parliamentary democracy.

    Although it is more beneficial for Rubert Murdoch et al to be able to speak to one person
    when they wish to present their demands.

  13. I hate to say this, but I do tend to agree in part with Mr whatever here.

    Aren't we risking slipping into a presidential system without any of the safeguards? Do these TV debates get people to vote for the correct reasons?

    I don't think so, all it does is boost the power of the conventional media [which is part of the establishment, not its watchdog].

  14. Deano

    sorry for putting you through that I'm sure it wont happen very often.

  15. Well, I agree with both of you. It's wrong and it shouldn't have happened, but the genie is out of the bottle guys and there's not a lot we can do about it.

    The press have wanted it forever Niko. Murdoch will be rubbing his wrinkly old hands together in glee, and , as you say, now that he has one it (or as good as) for Cameron, doubtless he will be on the phone directly to Downing Street starting next Friday morning. It wouldn't do if after a week the Sun and The Times, not to mention Sky Noise were saying in their editorials what a pile of pants the new government was.

    We should be wanting a less powerful prime minister; one that our parliament, and the people that WE can vote for, be we Irish, Scottish, English or Welsh can hold to account.

    Huh, fat chance.

  16. I can't tell you how happy I am Dean, that you and Niko are singing from the same hymn sheet.

    Seriously it is a matter for concern.

    I accenpt that in a constitutional monarchy, the prime minister may have some presidential powers, but it's going too far, and has done for too long. (It's the result of this much vaunted strong government that Labour and the Tories tell us is essential.

    With it comes the power to ignore parliament, so that is what they do. Thatcher to a certain extent, Blair to such an unholy extent that they'd forgotten who he was on the door.

  17. Much better was the Scottish debate, mibbe because it wisnae aboot electin' a president, but mair aboot the issues an' whaur the pairties staun. Ah'll admit, personalities count an' cannae be ignored, but this time ye got tae look past that, mair so than Broon Clegg an' Cameron let oan.

    It wis a recognisably Scottish audience, obviously dragged awa' fae their Sunday efternoon drinkin' sessions, an' gi'ed immigration a cheer tae warm yer bunions. Gled Welcomin' Caledonia!

    Murphy got hissel a bit skewered oan his flip-flops, haein' tae take the "ah wis only follaein' orders" line, an' had tae shout "Ah'm tellin' oan you!" at Glen Campbell tae get him tae stop tormentin' him. Murphy must've kent this wis comin' an' ah dinnae think he took it oan as bravely as he should've.

    If he had nothin' tae be ashamed o' that is.

  18. I was out and missed it Sophia, but I guess I'll get it on the net later.

    Scots have a different attitude to immigration, perhaps because they haven't been swamped by it like the Enbglish have, pehaps because Scots are bright enough to realise that the demographics are telling us that if we don't import some younger people, or the middle classes have some kids soon, older ones will have to look after themselves (in every way) when they get on a bit, and perhaps because it's part of Scottish cluture to be warm and welcoming (as long as you've had your tea!)!

  19. Aye, an' partly through a long history o' emigration, no aye voluntary, so we share an idea o' whit life is when ye're far fae yer origins. We're aw Jock Tamson's bairns an' aw that.

    Plus we've got lots o' braw hills, jist waitin' tae hae hooses built oan them.

  20. Tris,

    The differen is however that even Thatcher showed a respect for convention in parliament, something that Blair frankly did not.

    The loss of convention has been critical in the loss of parliamentary authority over the exective. This can change, but I will never support PR in Westminster unfortunately- it makes for poorer governance and places power in the hands of politicians to 'cut deals' in smokey rooms away from the public eye.

  21. Yes Sophia. Scots have so often been the ones who had to take themselves off to other parts to make a decent life for themselves, so maybe there's an inbuilt understanding about people who do just that. There's hardly a family who hasn't got family members or friends in the USA, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, Australia ... or wherever.

    And almost all have better lives than we do here. And aye, it’s not like we are short of space.

    Personally I see the influx of people from different cultures as a wonderful opportunity to travel vicariously by befriending them, learning about their culture, language, ways of life. It’s like a personalised travel programme. And I’m always proud to show them around Scotland too. I’ve got the most amazing friends from all over Europe, Africa, India, etc.

    Without exception they have great manners, incredible hospitality and are marvellous company. I've got all manner of invitations for when I can afford the air fares.....

  22. Well Dean... we've argued over this for ever, and I don't think we are going to see eye to eye.

    But let me ask you, would you consider it a good idea to get rid of PR in Scotland? The Tories would be all but obliterated, and Labour would reign supreme for ever....!

  23. I realise that what works for Holyrood is not necessarily what is best for Westminster. I did support devolution since dot, it was a Heathite policy which we should never have abandoned. That said, PR is not the best system to my mind, and when it comes down to it- I would rather have four Scottish Conservative MSPs, by FPTP in Holyrood than a legion of half hearted List is about what is good for the nation and the people, not my political Party. Perhaps the LibDems would do well to learn this lesson?

  24. I can't see the difference between Holyrood and Westminster Dean.

    After all, everything that is done in Holyrood for Scotland, is done in Westminster for England. By and large it is done better in Scotland.

    If you only had four members in Scotland you would be a rump party, in a FPTP system unnoticed and disregarded. As it is, as you have often pointed out your leader has been able to wring concessions from the government and this has resulted, you say, in more police and better business conditions; thus benefiting us all.

    Your own leader, a not inconsiderable politician in my opinion, and one I’d be happy to welcome to the SNP, would not be in parliament but for the PR system we operate.

    In my opinion in a FPTP Scotland there would be a permanent Labour Government with small opposition parties from SNP, Tories and Liberals. Labour would constantly be in government, and even the staunchest Labour supporter, never mind a Tory could not think that that would be good for the country.

    Imagine Iain Gray for ever.....