The more I think about it, the more I’m jealous of them back in 1974. Not for the fashions, the power cuts, the endemic racism and sexism and the three day week, but for the fact they got the general election campaign over and done with in three weeks from it being called. We could have done it twice over in that time, and yet here we are with still more than another week to go.
For those of us who’ve been obsessing over it, the election has been on for ages, but for a lot of people it’s only just begun as it’s not until now that people start paying real attention to what’s going on. Part of that’s because we’re now getting a couple of the big events of the campaign: Channel 4’s ‘get shouted at by Jeremy Paxman’ special last night and the BBC’s some-but-not-all of the leaders’ debate tomorrow (different from ITV’s leaders debate in that those who choose not to turn up get to send a substitute rather than just being ignored).
Last night was billed as May vs Corbyn, though it was a bizarre contest in that it appeared to have been stage managed to ensure that they never actually met so it was more a case of trying to settle a havyweight championship fight by observing the two fighters shadow boxing in separate rings. Both rings featured a sneering and hectoring Jeremy Paxman for them to shape up against but only for twenty minutes, half of which were taking up with him repeatedly barking the same question after he initially asked it. As is so often the case, it was the sort of interview that was more concerned with delivering a gotcha moment for the headlines to bother with probing and exposing its subject. It feels to me that its time for interviewing to take a step back from this model and try something different, because at the moment its playing into the politicians’ game of looking for that big moment and trying to force it into being rather than waiting and letting the story develop.
The problem with these short formats is that it only means that politicians have to survive a short encounter, and as long as they do that without swallowing their own tongue or inadvertently shouting ‘Hail Hydra!’ in the middle of it, they’ll be dubbed to have at least met expectations, and nothing much will change.
So, let’s instead look at our Election Leaflet Of The Day, which this time is a dispatch from the Highlands where the Something New party are standing one of their two candidates (the other is right at the other end of the UK in Horsham). The ‘something new’ in this case appears to be the internet which will apparently ‘connect us all’ and allow them to deliver their manifesto promises of nice things for everyone. They’re also offering ‘representation, not party politics’ which despite being delivered by an organised group campaigning on a manifesto in an election isn’t causing the whole thing to collapse in on itself in the usual paradox of party politicians declaring that what they’re doing isn’t somehow party politics. They don’t quite utter the dread words of ‘let’s all agree with me take the politics out of this’ but it’s close enough.
Nine days to go…that’s single figures and counting.
Originally published at www.nickbarlow.com on May 30, 2017.