It's been a tough week for morale. On Tuesday I was outside in the rain for hours asking the public to be interviewed. Amazingly, not many people like the idea of being on camera, and it's incredible how many old people are suddenly "in a rush". One woman bleated for 4 minutes about how she couldn't afford a bean. I thought it rather diplomatic of me not to remind her of her "triple-locked" pension that ensures it rises above inflation every year without fail.
Having spent my afternoon and some of my evening looking back through the footage of people in raincoats forcing their opinions on me, I decided to take a break and watch the TV debates, where people in suits could force their opinions on me.
These have been a point of contention in advanced democracies worldwide ever since they were invented by I.T. Vee der Beight, a Dutch-American who realised that politics needed to suit America's Hollywood-driven culture of hyperbole to have any chance of success. I'm sure it really works over here, but all the same, I'm an open-minded person, and I was keen on what they had to say.
Which I shall relay to you now:
"Let's have our opening question from someone randomly plucked at total random by our producer who wanted somebody young and male. Totally random. Johnny,"
"As a 17 year old politics student, I've asked to be called 'Johnny' to hide the fact that I clearly go to private school. How would you deal with the deficit - cuts or taxes?"
"Well Johnny, I think it's great you're here tonight and tonight I'll be balanced in a desperate bid to offend nobody, but end up slightly annoying everybody in the process."
"Well, Jonny, it's quite clear what's driving up the deficit, immigration. When you go to the polls, you can tell the Poles where to go!"
"I'm new to this, so I'm going to answer the first question using just my notes."
"Well Johnny thanks very much for your question, it's great to hear from a normal person. I love normal people. Some of my best friends' wives' cousins' servants' drivers are normal people. But what I think you'll find Johnny is that jobs are up, and that's all that matters. If you get a job, you'll be spared from my friend George's humongous axe (yes, I mean that literally)."
"Johnny, let me say this: do I want to answer your question? Yes I do, and here's why: austerity has failed, and let me tell you what I'll do if I become your Prime Minister: tax the rich."
"Austerity has failed. Let's end austerity. Don't be fooled by my voice, I am actually passionate about things. Like the planet"
"Johnny, nothing can stop me running your country anymore. Nothing. Not you, not him, not him, not her, not that, not anybody. I am yours, and you are mine. You WILL be giving Scotland our independence - enjoy Miliband as a PM, losers."
"Thank you leaders, we're now going to open up the floor for debate, let's start with you, Nick Clegg."
What followed next was a hark back to the good old days for Top Gear fans - white people pretending to argue with each other. For AGES. It was expected when you're trying to give seven people space. Absolutely ages. First it was Clegg vs. Cameron (both sounded like scorned lovers in the end), then it was Farage vs. Cameron, then it was Sturgeon vs. Miliband, Then it was Farage vs. Bennett, then it was Bennett vs. Capitalism, then it was Sturgeon and Wood vs. Cameron. Then it went back to Sturgeon vs. Miliband, with Cameron and Clegg egging Sturgeon on.
"Thank you leaders for your interesting comments," said host Julie Etchingham, who in that one sentence lied more than all of the leaders put together, "Let's move on to Terry, who's question is on the NHS."
"As a-" All the questions started with 'as a such and such', because it's much quicker than saying "Hi, I'm Terry, I'm 60-odd, and I used to work for the NHS". We needed those precious seconds so they can interrupt each other later on.
This was a good chance for the left to excel. The NHS is their meat and drink (presumably nuked in a microwave, served on a paper plate and counting as a full on meal in a hospital), so we're expecting them to score well. Yep, nobody stumbles. Clegg talks about mental health, good. Cameron talks about dementia, because people keep saying to him they forgot why they voted for him in 2010. Leanne Wood mentions the others 'point scoring' that's very Cleggy of her - wait, what's Nigel Farage got to say about this... HIV? Wait - WHAT?! Oh... Oh god, I'm not sure about that. That's like a drunk bloke blurting out his feelings about a hurtful ex totally unprompted.
"Err, nobody mentioned Stephanie, Nige?" "I know, I know, I know, I know... I know... I just... I just can't believe her... God I fucking hate her. HATE HER."
Thankfully, Leanne Wood shoots him down and gets some applause from the audience, and we go back to the usual melee. From the mess, like Batman and Bane seeking each other out, Miliband and Cameron round their guns onto each other and start firing blanks. "You failed on the NHS!" "What's that Ed? I can't hear you over the cock up of Mid-Staffordshire." "You keep living in the past!-" "- ALRIGHT, I STILL LOVE STEPHANIE, OKAY GUYS?"
"Let's talk about immigration," says Julie. Farage explodes.
"RIGHT well I've spoken about HIV so basically anything I say from now on is comparatively tame - and off I go!"
The other leaders round on him, and, back home all those who had the word "scaremongering" in their '#Leadersdebate Drinking Game' are instantly shitfaced.
Then we move onto the EU.
"We should stay!" says Sturgeon and Wood, (both whom receive huge grants from the organisation, it must be said).
"We should leave!" says Farage, who can't really say anything else.
"We should stay!" says Clegg, Miliband and Bennett, for reasons ranging from blind idealism to the fact that it's the opposite of some Tories' opinions.
"We should stay on better terms, with a referendum" argues Cameron. Bennett also says she wants a referendum. "I don't want a referendum, it's too risky." says Sturgeon (at this point, steam started pouring out of my irony gauge).
Miliband steps in calmy, but it looks like he's aloof from all of this debating. He chips in with another soundbite. Don't be afraid to get too passionate, Ed.
Clegg reminds Farage that he's from a family of foreigners, both their wives are foreign. Almost simultaneously, Wood and Sturgeon turn on Cameron, who probably expected to be deflecting two or three people at a time, having gained experience from battling against 20 others in Europe.
Miliband has something to say about apprenticeships, "Let me say this-"
"-Okay, that's all we have time for on the subject of foreign policy, now let's move on to our final question."
It's on the yoof, education, housing, the future - basically everything else.
Wood and Sturgeon immediately wave their arms and say "Look! Over here! Free tuition fees! We did that!"
Clegg, realising he's on the back foot from the start over that promise, says so. Then realises he's still on the back foot for agreeing to join the Conservatives in the first place, which Cameron reminds him of. Natalie Bennett doesn't like the idea of competition between schools. "Schools shouldn't try to be better than one another." What do you even mean by that?? Farage, a public schoolboy, bemoans how Politics is overwhelmed with public schoolboys. All the others agree that education should be free. Cameron replies "I opened up free schools". In unison, the others retort "Yes but not in a good way!".
Moving onto housing, Nick Clegg ANNOUNCES A POLICY. Goddamit Nick, you're not here to promote your party! You're here to debase yourself for our viewing pleasure! "Rent-to-Own" sounds good in principle, but the thought of having Vince Cable as a landlord doesn't fill me with much hope.
Speaking of which, the final point is about being 'optimistic'.
"We have global clout" says Cameron, citing the G8, NATO and the EU. For a moment I me cower in fear that he's going to reel off Hugh Grant's "Love Actually" monologue- but WAIT. He's interrupted by a member of the audience! She has a gripe about homeless ex-servicemen and she has to "speak up".
"Oh dear, dear", Farage mutters.
"Not from the audience, thank you", reminds Etchingham.
"Fuck that! Turn the mic up!" says the producer.
"There are more of us than there are of them!" the woman says. Cripes, she's right! What an enlightened woman! We should be having a sixty-million people debate. Seven is so cliché. I hereby demand that the 2020 TV debates have a representative from the newly-formed "Nesquik and Alfa Romeos For All" Party! Our full manifesto is here.
Zero-hour contracts gets a mention.
"I don't want them - nobody wants them!" says Miliband.
"70% of Wales wanted them when we asked" said Leanne Wood. Then it transpires Labour ministers employed people on zero-hour deals. Then there's some shouting, and the public begin to see the real people underneath the suits and make up - are our leaders finally getting passionate? Is this them fighting for the true future of our country? Yes. Yes I think they are! Go on boys and girls! Scrap it out! Go on! GO ON, NIGEL, DRAW BLOOD!
"That's all we have time for, I'm afraid. Time for your final statements, leaders.
"Ignore the fact that the SNP has run the Scottish Parliament for the past 8 years - Westminster has failed Scotland with it's austerity. Now, let's GTF outta here."
"When you think of voting, think of those less fortunate than you. Your family, your peers. Think of me."
"I am the one who has done the most training on my speech, and I am drilled to the core because my aides don't trust me to speak out of turn. I've smashed their low expectations. Let me break yours."
"Let's not go back to a Westminster rule. You can tell I'm like you, because I'm the only one that speaks your lingo. LITERALLY. Watch me: Diolch yn fawr."
"Ooh, nice! Nigel Farage."
"Well, what did I tell you about these guys? All the bloody same - white, middle aged, privately educated, only worked in London - not like me at all, what what! Let's fuck up the establishment! Come on Britain! Tally-ho!"
"I've been your leader for five years. We've been on an incredible journey, and there's been a bit of give and take. You've given me an earful, and I've taken all your benefits. Security over uncertainty is what's needed. Trust in me. I am superior to you in every practical way."
Will it have any effect on the result? Definitely. Will that effect be big enough to break the deadlock? Probably not, but there's still more to come. What would have been more effective is a QI-style conclusion, where we see just how negatively each of them scored, and simply picked the least-shit one.
That's all we'll really be doing on May 7th anyway.
Well, until NARFA come along, that is.