Question Time Election Leaders Special: Observations

Question Time (BBC One, 8.30pm) was in Leeds last night, devoting half an hour each to the leaders of the three biggest parties. A week to go before the vote, let’s see what they’re made of.. First up is current Prime Minister David Cameron, who rambled off the questions and mentioned the mess that naughty Labour had left more times than was excusable. That was five years ago. At one point he said, hilariously,  “I don’t want to hark on about what we inherited.” He was about five harkings too late. He had already brandished the bizarre note Ed Balls had left at the end of his tenure (a bald “I’m afraid we have no money” in a charming flowery script) as though they were divorce papers in a telenovela, such was the wronged melodrama.

Cameron looked defeated when he was asked why people don’t trust the Conservatives with NHS and off he rambled again. He banged on about the deficit. Perhaps I am dense, but I find the deficit an oblique idea, one of dystopian nuances, some implacable, ravenous debt beast that will suck us all in. I don’t quite understand why the cuts needed to be so harsh, a sacrifice to the debt beast of the weakest. Cameron mentioned “shared sacrifice”. I’d imagine the only thing he’s sacrificed is a goat to keep George Osborne placated (there’s something very vampiric about him, with his queasy pallor and manicured long nails).

An excellent question was asked by a man who noted that all of the questions directed at Mr Cameron had a moral dimension that he was continually swerving by harping on about economics and jobs. To which he answered that there was a moral dimension to getting people jobs and veered off into retirement, which rather illustrated the man’s point.

Cameron was unconvincing, with his sweaty lip and puffy, wounded demeanour, not answering questions as though he credited the audience with any intelligence whatsoever. He was repetitive and disingenuous. He kept mentioning a “dark room with Nick Clegg” which was maybe not the best strategy. I’m also not sure he should be associating himself in voters’ minds with holding a stubby pencil (“Think of me when you’re holding that stubby pencil.”) Bit distasteful. As usual with the Tories, I was left feeling annoyed and slightly grubby.

Labour leader Ed Miliband seemed more at ease and answered questions with more clarity and engagement. He addressed the people asking the queries by name, something Cameron omitted to do. He also managed to raise a laugh, something which was absent from Camerion’s defeatist hectoring. The last person he made laugh was his accountant, I’m sure.

I found Miliband’s answers gave me a much clearer idea of his policies.  He promised more bank regulation, the reversal of tax cuts for millionaires, tackling tax avoidance and increasing living standards, all of which I wholeheartedly support.

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg was up last. I tried to turn over to watch Supervet, but seeing it was a repeat decided to watch the plaintive wobbler whine about the “UNHOLY MESS BLACK HOLE HEART ATTACK” they inherited – a level of hyperbole that bordered on the surreal. Was he still referring to financial stuff? He kept mentioning Greece, as Cameron had, like a sort of Sword of Damocles to wave over British citizens heads: “We’d have ended up like them if we didn’t make the cuts and still might so vote for us” when there is little evidence that we would have done. How do you prove a speculation like that? It’s an unquantifiable threat.

That makes me realise the difference between Cameron and Miliband. Cameron’s rhetoric was based on threats, Miliband’s positivity. He seemed to want the job more.

I’m surprised to see in the media coverage today that an immediate poll put Cameron as more popular. The Daily Mail is squawking that one woman “shredded Red Ed” and is banging on about the fact he tripped over on leaving the stage. I didn’t even notice that (I was writing at the same time). If they have to focus on that and not his words, I think it shows they’re rattled. We all know he’s awkward. I’m not expecting him to start doing parkour, I just want him to not run my future into the ground and not make my country a joyless, inequality cauldron the way the Conservatives have.

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