Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Did You Know that Nick Clegg is from Sheffield...?

Last Thursday saw history made in UK politics as we took a leaf out of our Trans-Atlantic brethren’s book and held the first televised election debate between the three main party leaders.

In the blue corner: Conservative leader David Cameron, in the yellow corner: Liberal Democrats leader Nick Clegg and in the, judging by his tie, pink corner: Labour leader Gordon Brown.

Who would win over the British public, who would fail spectacularly and who, if anyone, would make a Joe Biden-esque gaffe? These were just some of the questions posed by the media leading up to Thursday night’s event.

It’s taken me a little longer than anticipated but here is my reaction to what I saw live on Thursday night:

Some shitty 1970’s graphics began the show succeeding in making an historic event that, much like Ron Burgundy, is “kind of a big deal” look cheap and small time less than a minute in – as always ITV: way to go.

On the plus side though, at least Fearne Cotton wasn’t hosting and there was no ‘Debate Extra’ after the show on ITV2 with Ben Shepherd.

As things began I thought Cameron looked the most nervous, but given that he is often billed as being this charismatic orator, effectively Brown’s antithesis, he had the most to lose really.

Nick Clegg on the other hand looked positively excited and why would he not? He had by far the most to gain from this. If he did well it would boost the chances of a party that in all honesty was only there to make up the numbers; and if he stunk up the joint then so what? Nothing lost.

As proceedings began I got the feeling this was being rigged in an American Idol/X Factor kind of way with the producer’s favourite getting to go on last and leave the lasting impression, and the also-rans trotted out first to be easily forgotten, so hence Clegg got to present his opening gambit first, followed by Brown and lastly Cameron.

There was nothing too controversial in those opening statements, so Alastair Stewart quickly ushered in the first question, covering the emotive subject of immigration.

Immigration up first, who picked the running order – The Daily Mail…?

It was about this time I noticed that Gordon Brown looked dead, not metaphorically - he literally looked like a corpse. I don’t know if it was the make-up or the lack therefore of, or whether that’s just how he looks, but the camera is definitely not this man’s friend.

I’d tuned into the debate after watching an episode of True Blood and Brown honestly looked like he would have been more at home there. Whoever was responsible for sending Brown out there with that ‘just out of the coffin’ look, wearing a pink tie no less needs firing; like our embattled PM isn’t finding it hard enough to win over the public without scaring children pre-watershed.

Brown’s corpse like exterior though fits in well with his cold and abrupt personality. Within minutes of the main body of the debate kicking off I had all three leaders pegged: Brown has the warmth of a Polar Bear scrotum, Cameron is like a teacher who wants to be mates with his pupils – friendly, but in a really creepy way, and then there’s poor Nick Clegg: he’s like that girl you like but you know you can never get.

Things all began far too civil and organised, I was expecting arguing, name-calling and PMQ’s style heckling but sadly we had none of that.

My first chuckle came at Gordon Brown’s immigration ideas, which were something along the lines of, and I’m only paraphrasing slightly here:

“We’re a tolerant country… but immigrants can fuck off”

Then we had Cameron doing his best Tinie Tempah impression with his obscure city visits: “I was in Plymouth”. Yes, but have you have ever been to Scunthorpe Mr. Cameron? And more importantly, do you have so many clothes you have to keep some at your Aunt’s house?

Emphasis was placed on stricter border controls during this portion of the debate, but surely we already have those: getting through airport security now is one check short of a rectal exam.

I was absolutely loving the leaders’ anecdotes about who they’d been speaking to on their baby-kissing tours – “I was in… with…”

It made me wonder how many of these were genuine and how many had just been made-up, perhaps they drew them out of a hat backstage: “I was in… oh, a Thai Massage Parlour, with… ooh, Avram Grant… actually maybe I should draw again…”

In spite of the fact he only spoke in sound bites for this first section of the debate I could tell Clegg was off to a good start, and to be fair to the guy: he needed to speak in sound bites, because after these debates everyone will go back to complete ambivalence to the Lib Dems, so why not make the most of his 15 minutes.

Next we moved on to Law & Order thanks to a question from a woman from my home town of Burnley.

In the question, the woman managed to reinforce the majority of the rest of the country’s view of Burnley, which is that if you were to give England an enema you’d stick the hose in Burnley. The highest burglary rate in the country, thanks for that love.

I quite enjoyed the fact that she also managed to reinforce the uneducated stereotype as well by reading her two sentence question of a cue card.

All three of the leaders were referring back to the questioners by their first names, which I enjoyed. I can just imagine the press officer backstage thinking that would make them come across better- well it didn’t, it felt coordinated and false and made all three of them look even smarmier, which in Cameron’s case is quite an achievement.

Nick Clegg was really winning me over by this point and had mentioned that he was from Sheffield, which being the ignorant fool that I am: I was unaware of. If I found out Clegg was a Wednesday fan I may just kiss him – I bet he’s a Piggy though.

The main point to take note of up until this juncture was how utterly oblivious to Clegg, Brown & Cameron were. The big two were far more concerned with attacking each other – I bet that won’t be the case this Thursday…

It was about this time that Cameron coined the phrase “College of crime”, which is an Adam Sandler movie waiting to happen.

I was yelling at the TV though when he was telling that story about the man who’d had his flat robbed 5 times and had asked: “why can’t this stop?” I have a retort for that poor man: “why don’t you move, dickhead?” How many burglaries does it take before you decide maybe this isn’t the property for you…?

Amid some bizarre camera angles and movements at this point, I was convinced one of the sudden jolts was one of the cameramen nodding off; Gordon Brown came out with a couple of zingers.

He was laughing it up and bee-bopping and scatting all over the place, I doubt he’ll be laughing when he gets turfed out of number 10, but you’ve got to hand it to him, his: “you can’t airbrush your policies even if you do airbrush your posters” line to Cameron was inspired. I just wonder how long he’d been sitting on it waiting to use it.

Next up was expenses and it was nice to see someone else having to read the question off a card to remember 2 sentences, proving its not just people from Burnley who are morons.

Cameron emphasised his delusional side at this juncture with the phrase “value for money”. If there was ever a phrase that was irrelevant to politics then that was it. The only people worse value for money than politicians are premiership footballers.

I noticed the little countdown monitors they had at the foot of the stage during this portion of the debate and although I’m assuming they were there to let whomever was speaking know how much time was left, it got me thinking how much more interesting the debate would have been had each of them received an electric shock if they ran over.

Or even better, if they’d been played off by music like at awards shows if they went long. Actually the whole evening could have been spiced up slightly by just having the three of them fight to the death instead – I bet that would have bumped up viewing figures by at least a million… But if they wanted those Britain’s Got Talent numbers, they at least needed a dancing dog.

Brown constantly saying he agreed with Clegg was slightly disturbing and made me wonder what he was up to – at least Clegg seemed to find the PM’s ass-kissing amusing rather than flattering.

As each contestant, sorry, leader scribbled away at their notes I realised this was a missed opportunity, they could have had a little table-cam like they do in Texas Hold ‘Em so we could see what they were writing. I bet at some point when Brown was talking that either Clegg or Cameron wrote ‘Brown is a twat’… probably Cameron.

Speaking of Gordon Brown, I’d never really noticed his eye before Thursday night. Once I did though, I couldn’t not look at it when he was on camera, and by the end of the night it was really starting to freak me out.

Has there ever been a less photogenic leader than Gordon Brown?

As we moved onto education they actually trotted out a high school student who didn’t even look old enough to vote to ask the question.

He used the phrase “under taught and over examined” in his question – under taught was right: the dude could barley speak.

As the audience looked on with what I can only describe as utter disdain, Cameron stepped up the war imagery by using the phrase “front line” for about the fifteenth time.

Brown then spat out this pearl: “every school needs to be a good school” – you want to come to Burnley mate; because we had good schools, then you closed them all and opened new ones which are all now just about in special measures.

I kept waiting for the inevitable ad break but it never came, I’m surprised ITV didn’t go bankrupt.

As a “Quango” was mentioned for the fifth or sixth time I began to get bored – why didn’t Stewart make them define what that was? Am I to assume that the public are expected to know? Because I studied politics and even I couldn’t remember what it stands for… It’s no wonder people aren’t interested.

Nick Clegg was really flying by this point but I just couldn’t get past the fact that Brown was rocking a pink tie. Seriously who told him to wear that!?

As talk moved on to the dreaded deficit, Brown revealed himself to be a Seinfeld fan by using the expression “double dip recession” a couple of times. It’s a shame Brown is actually more incompetent than that other famous double dipper George Costanza though.

In case you missed the debate, let me sum up very basically what came out of about twenty minutes on the deficit: the economy is fucked and none of them have any idea what to do about it so they’re just going to try and baffle you with numbers.

Actually that’s not true, Brown has an idea: “let’s spend our way out of debt!” and was it just me or did Cameron actually refer to Mothercare as a “big business” at one point? Microsoft, Apple, Santander – big businesses. Mothercare: not so much.

Moving on to the military gave all three of our subjects the chance to play the patriotic card and suck up to the troops.

Clegg then revealed that he wants to scrap our missile defence system, which I’ve got to admit was his first major misstep of the night for me. His argument for this was that we don’t need it anymore, we’ll see if he still feels that way when one of the psychos who run North Korea or Iran finally decide to fire on us.

Did anyone else cringe when Brown brought up writing to the parents of dead soldiers? Ixnay on the itingwray Gord. It did make me wonder though if rather than a pen for his notes, Brown had his patented big crayon.

What city are you from again Clegg I think I forgot for a second…? Oh that’s right…

The more he mentioned that he was from Sheffield, the more I started to doubt it – being Northern doesn’t make you a man of the people Nick – just look across the stage.

90 minutes without some sort of snack break was too long for these schmucks, I imagine the majority of people were bored by this point and were starting to flick over to Pineapple Dance Studios.

Brown gave me another laugh with this line: “the Taliban changed tactics”. He said it as if they weren’t playing fair - it’s the Taliban what does he fucking expect. Imagine during Vietnam if Kennedy or Johnson had said “the VC don’t fight fair”, although to be fair Ford probably did say something along those lines.

Health care was up next and I’m glad the three leaders all at least pretended to understand the question, because I couldn’t tell a word the woman asking it said – “wisions”? At least she didn’t need a cue card to remember it though.

About this point, there was a very nice lingering camera shot of the most interesting part of David Cameron’s body: the back of his head.

Burnley got a second mention during the health care discussion, thankfully not emphasising what a dump it is second time around, just that the A & E department has been closed.

I think this is the most mentions Burnley has had on national TV since the race riots.

I don’t remember hearing about Clegg being here though, as per his story, so that’s how important he was considered before this debate. I had to laugh at his revisionist geography mind you: Blackburn 25 miles away? Maybe if you go via Bolton Cleggy.

Apparently members of the SNP and Plaid Cymru were angry at being excluded from this debate which is fair enough really, where were the other parties? I would’ve loved to have seen Griffin up there with his melted face getting booed every time he spoke.

Grimmest stat of the night alert: the UK has a “worse cancer death rate than Bulgaria”. Fuck me, that’s depressing.

Old people? What a bizarre topic to end on.

As the guy from Accrington slurred his way through the last question I remembered the debate was being broadcast from Manchester, which kind of explained why a quarter of the questions had been read out by people from East Lancashire, something that had struck me as kind of odd for a national debate.

Seriously, old people? Is this really that big of an issue? Surely the other stuff is more in need of consensus.

The audience looked so bored by this point – I bet they’d have enjoyed it more had it been filmed in 3-D. Imagine Cameron leering over you in 3 frightening dimensions.

What other way could they end, this being ITV and all – than with a Jerry Springer final thought.

So I guess we now know what Clegg had been scribbling down all night – everyone’s names. Nice work though.

At least Brown’s realistic - if X Factor had been on no one would have been watching… Diana Vickers for Prime Minister!

A million digital spy readers just got a boner reading that comment - did you know that every time some says the words Diana & Vickers a digital spy reader ejaculates?

Even in his closing argument Brown was going after Cameron. He really needs to spend less time worrying about Cameron and more time worrying about the colossal mess of the country he’s made.

Cameron was featured in the pimp spot again but a big well done to ITV for over-running, because as I was watching on a slight delay my fucking Sky+ cut out in the middle of Cameron’s final thought.

All in all, a very interesting night’s viewing. It did get a bit sleepy in parts but even if it only convinces a handful of extra people to vote then it will have been worth it, sadly though I feel it may actually have the opposite effect.

The overall winner has to be Nick Clegg and while I’m not quite yet jumping on the Clegg bandwagon, if he continues to perform like that in these debates it could at least add a third horse to the race.

The scariest statistic to come out of the aftermath of the debate though?

Just under 10 million tuned in to watch, yet roughly twice that figure watched The X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent finals last year.

Says it all really doesn’t it?

The next Leaders’ Debate airs on Sky News this Thursday @ 8pm

Other Musings:

- I caught a teaser trailer for the return of the undisputed greatest show on TV: Sons of Anarchy this week.

We might be almost 6 months behind the U.S., but the wait will undoubtedly be worth it – kudos to Bravo for sticking with this awesome show and giving it at least some slight cross-channel promotion.

But how annoying is it when you have waited this long for a show to return and the teaser merely states ‘coming soon’?

How fucking soon!? I can’t even find out online when they are going to air it. It just strikes me as dumb: someone might have seen the same teaser I saw and thought “I’ll watch that”, but if they can’t make a note of when it’s on then they’ll likely just forget about it.

And that frustrates me, because everyone should see this brilliant piece of television.

24 Day 8 Death Counter:

Hour 16


- Jim + another red shirt CTU guard – shot by Dana Walsh as she tried to make her escape.

- x2 of Samir’s men – taken out by Cole Ortiz and a CTU sniper

- x1 of Samir’s men – shot and killed by Jack Bauer (JBK)

- Female terrorist – shot by Renee Walker.

- x2 of Samir’s men – shot and killed by Jack Bauer (JBK x2)

- Samir Mehran – shot by Jack Bauer (JBK)

- President Hassan – throat slit previously by Samir Mehran (I knew something bad was going to happen, it was too early on in the season for a happy resolution – it was still pretty shocking though)

Episode Death Total = 10

Cumulative Season Death Total = 79

(Ongoing) Jack Bauer Kills (JBK) Total = 22


TV Moment of the Week:

- Comes from 30 Rock’s glorious return for a fourth season on Comedy Central, and who else could it have been than the unparalleled genius that is Tracy Jordan…

“A book hasn't caused me this much trouble since Where's Waldo went to that barber pole factory…”

In the spirit of which, check in next week for a Tracy Jordan special as I countdown ten of his best ever lines from the show.


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