Jesus, that was depressing, wasn’t it? Unfocused, rickety, characters acting out of type, shameless playing to the audience’s baser instincts. I suppose it’s fitting that last night’s leadership debate, broadcast on ITV, was the most disappointing televisual event since the last season of Game of Thrones – they share all those qualities and more, although no-one emerged victorious this time round.
There was very little of any substance from either Jeremy Corbyn or Boris Johnson, the funny bits weren’t even funny and I’m sorry to say that host Julie Etchingham didn’t seem to have much of a grip on either of them.
This was supposed to be a searing showdown in the build-up to what Etchingham described as “the most important election in a generation”, but neither the Prime Minister nor the leader of the opposite looked like they could even be arsed to be there. Perhaps Johnson had his mind on a strippers’ pole somewhere in Shoreditch. I don’t know what Corbyn’s excuse was.
This should have been Corbyn’s debate. It should be Corbyn’s election. Yet a snap YouGov poll after the broadcast put Johnson in the lead with 51 per cent of the public’s support. In one of his better moments, Corbyn pointed out that “We’ve had austerity for nine years in this country. We’ve had a growth of billionaires in this country. We’ve had a growth of extreme poverty in this country. We’ve had a growth of personal debt from people trying to look after children […] and older people.” You think: everyone knows this, Jez, and they still won’t vote for you. Doesn’t that tell you that you’re going wrong somewhere?
“These two supposed leaders can’t even have a natural conversation without being pre-loaded with answers like dutiful Pez dispensers”
Well, we live in an essentially conservative country, a country of Little Englanders obsessed with looking out for their own little plot of land. But it’s amazing that former NME cover star Corbz has failed not only to capitalise upon his own early success (the great youthquake of 2017 seems like a very, very long time ago) but also the fact that Johnson is essentially a shady billionaire bad guy cut from a comic book movie script for being “too unbelievable”. Quick! Slide down the batpole! No, wait, don’t do that.
The audience seemed weirdly against Jez: they booed him even when he was saying something reasonable, or offering three day weekends every damn week. A four-day week has been proven to increase productivity and is good for “your health and well—being.”
“It is the most massive issue facing the whole world when the poorest people in the poorest countries in the world lose out because of [climate change].”
They applauded him when he sagely pointed that anti-semitism is bad, mind. That’s how far the bar has been lowered in certain areas of the national debate.
For his part, all Johnson could talk about was Brexit. This was yet another depressing aspect of last night’s anti-performance: the transparency of the briefings.
Johnson’s idiotic wannabe-Svengali Dominic Cummings had clearly instructed the PM to bring up Brexit at every available opportunity, even if it seemed embarrassing and weird. And Corbyn mostly just wanted to talk about the NHS, jumping the gun and introducing the topic way before it was scheduled to come up via an audience member’s tremulous question. These two supposed leaders can’t even have a natural conversation without being pre-loaded with answers like dutiful Pez dispensers.
The thinking seemed to be: no-one will remember how weird you were, they’ll just remember that they already trust you with either A) Brexit or B) the NHS. It’s like: can you give us a bit of credit, please?
The whole thing was just so shonky and low-rent. And so childish, too. Say what you like about the BBC, but they can at least do a proper televised debate. It’s always gut-wrenchingly embarrassing when the audience asks the questions, but did we really need to know what these two numbskulls would buy each other for Christmas? Did I really have to watch Johnson lumber over the podium to shake a reluctant Corbyn’s hand in the name of a ‘kinder’ politics? Did I need to hear the Prime Minister ask an audience member’s name to imply he’s anything but a monstrous posho devoid of any much but personal ambition?
Etchingham rounded off by dubbing this dead dog and pony show “a fascinating 50 minutes of debate”. I’m afraid not, Julie. Neither had longer than 20 seconds to say anything. What was this meant to achieve?
Perhaps I found it especially depressing because I’m currently reading Don’t Look Back In Anger, a history of Cool Britannia, which depicts the buzz about New Labour in the mid-‘90s. Whatever you think about Tony Blair, he knew how to be in opposition. Johnson’s the least bad option for many people in our naturally conservative country, and Corbyn’s doing nothing to change minds.
Winter is coming!