Corbyn was right to give the ITV leaders debate a miss

by Kevin Meagher

Half an hour into ITV’s leaders’ debate and we were bogged down on Europe.

Will it ever end? The efficient but entirely bland Julie Etchingham was treating us to a rerun of the Brexit campaign, minus Conservative and Labour voices.

Theresa and Jeremy had better things to do, but the rest of the band had come back for the reunion. There they all were – Leanne Wood from Plaid, Nicola Sturgeon from the SNP, Caroline Lucas from the Greens and UKIP’s Paul Nuttall.

He was by far the best briefed when it came to locking swords over Brexit and bossed the exchanges. It probably helped he was the only one speaking for majority opinion in the country.

Tim Farron didn’t have a good night. Staring down the barrel of the camera at every opportunity, his small dark eyes were like raisins. With his golden complexion and sandy hair he looked like a pain au chocolat.

‘I have a long term economic plan,’ he intoned. ‘Stay in the single market’. A clap line with no clapping.  Had he not read the memo? Swivel-eyed ‘48 percentism’ is killing his party on the doorstep.

There was a brief rally with Caroline Lucas as she tried to skewer him about the Lib Dems’ support for Andrew Lansley’s NHS reform act. I say ‘skewer’ advisedly. It had all the penetrative efficacy of a piece of wet kitchen roll.

Poor Tim kept trying the ‘personal narrative’ trick, shoe horning in anecdotes that made him sound like a real person.

He wasn’t as embarrassing as Ed Miliband and his chats on Clapham Common during those leaders’ debates in 2015, but his reminiscing about his father’s NHS treatment, started to sound like an Alan Bennett monologue. (‘I remember the smell of the care home…’)

Nicola Sturgeon, the only contributor with any executive experience, seemed nonplussed by the whole thing.

Did she regret not following the example of May and Corbyn and giving this shindig a miss? It was a surprise seeing her there. A bit like when Skeletor pops up in that Money Supermarket advert.

It was a chance for the pygmies and purists of Westminster’s political fringe to strut their stuff. The problem was their identical policies. They all said the same things about Europe, immigration and the NHS.

Really, what was the point?

Right or wrong, Paul Nuttall was the only one with something distinctive to say. He’s managed to overcome that yappy, gabbling style and was fluent throughout.

Noticably, there was none of the pantomime booing from the audience that UKIP figures normally elicit.

The beard helped too. He looks less like Les from Vic Reeves Big Night Out these days. His only slip was to get Leanne Wood and Caroline Lucas mixed up (‘Sorry about that…’)

Lucas probably had the better night from the liberal-left contingent. The Greens are a national brand and had most to gain from the exposure. She seemed to sense the opportunity and dived in at every opportunity.

Although feted by progressives, I wonder how she goes down with average voters? If her simpering and earnestness could be stored in batteries we could fuel the mass roll-out of electric cars.

Then there was Leanne Wood. She wanted to recruit 1,000 extra doctors and 5,000 extra nurses. It was reminiscent of that scene in the Austin Powers film where Dr Evel, having just thawed out from thirty years in deep freeze, demands the puny ransom of ‘one million dollars’, to guffaws from his henchmen.

She was wearing a similar fuscia jacket to Sturgeon. Nuttall stood between them, a thorn between two roses.

Then we were on to education.

Tim Farron managed to remind us of the Lib Dems’ best achievement in the coalition, free school meals, but couldn’t help weaving-in a bit more personal stuff (‘As the father of four kids myself…’)

Sturgeon was ‘no expert’ on the English system (fancy that) but was appalled that Theresa May was taking the food out of children’s mouths. A good attack line that fell flat.

Slipping off-message, Leanne Wood conceded that ‘the size of the class is less important that the quality of the teaching’.

Nuttall was appalled that there were fewer working class kids at Oxford and Cambridge today than there were in the 1960s and started enthusing about the German ‘dual vocational training system’. Something about Europe he does like.

Who won? It was classic ‘two bald men fighting over a comb’ stuff, but as the only bald man Nuttall did himself no harm. Neither did Lucas. At one stage, they found themselves in agreement about their opposition to HS2. I don’t know who was the more horrified.

Sturgeon just looked and sounded bored throughout. Farron couldn’t define himself clearly enough against three other liberal-left voices (‘When I was about ten, me and my mum and sister lived in a two bedroom house…’)

While Leanne was along for the ride.

Was it worth it? No. Did it change any views? Probably not.

The upshot? Corbyn was right to get an early night.

Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Uncut

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8 Responses to “Corbyn was right to give the ITV leaders debate a miss”

  1. Tafia says:

    The Greens are a national brand
    They aren’t actually. Caroline Lucas belongs to the Green Party of England & Wales. The green Party of Scotland is an entirelynstand-alone separate party to Lucas’s with different polices and is pro-independence (whereas Lucas’s England & Wales one is pro-union). Northern Ireland is cin the Green Party of ireland.

  2. Tony says:

    I have yet to watch it. However, I think Corbyn made a mistake by not appearing.
    It would have allowed him to contrast his presence with ‘Mushroom Cloud’ May’s absence.

    It could have created a dilemma for her and even persuaded her to appear.
    Corbyn could well have been in a ‘win win’ situation.

    Other Corbyn errors:

    Voting for the general election in the first place.

    Not taking a stance on nuclear disarmament. The manifesto could, for example, have condemned the government for opposing the treaty, currently being negotiated in the UN, for a global ban on nuclear weapons.

  3. paul barker says:

    So Kevin M thinks that Labours culture & structures are profoundly undemoctatic but theres an Election on so will try & rubbish the competition & defend his (Communist) Leader. Corbyn didnt go on because hes crap at answering real questions & would probably lose his rag.
    Meagher makes a desperate attempt to pump air into UKIPs deflating balloon, again.

  4. Guy says:

    You are correct that Lucas doesn`t go down well with the average voter. In Brighton she was elected with less than 40% of the vote. Will only keep her seat because the Lib Dems have stood aside.
    Labour do seem to be holding on to their core vote and will continue to benefit from their advantage under FPTP – Labour won by 3% in 2005 yet had a 60+ seat majority. The Conservatives need a 12%+ win to get that type of majority.

  5. Tafia says:

    everyone except Nuttall & Ferret came across as some sort of vacant weirdo.

    Ferret came across as David Icke’s long lost insane twin brother.

    Nuttall came across as quite lucid, measured and reasonable.

  6. there is a phenomenon in history where reality gets lost when a misstatement is made often enough for it to wipe out what actually happened – for example, the suffragettes got the vote for women – a simple reading of the facts shows that the Liberals refused to be intimidated.

    I n the currnt context the big myth is that the BRexiteers won a majority vote, where a simple statistical calculation shows that 52% on a 72% poll is a minority. The Remain camp lost where in 1975 they won, but the difference is that in 1975 pro EU actually did have a majority of voters

    Kevin, make it clear the Leavers do NOT speak for a majority of the country. Then we can start to look at the falsity of the claim by the Toreis that the UK voted to leave. England and Wales did. Northern Ireland and Scotland did NOT.

    We have enough problems with the media school of falsification to have to read labour sites propagating UKIP-Tory propaganda

    Trevor Fisher

  7. uglyfatbloke says:

    x2 for Trevor.

  8. Tafia says:

    trevor, you are a blatant liar if you try to include the non voters.

    You know for a fact the only people that count are the ones that actually vote.

    If you want to play this ridiculously childish and pointless game apply the same formula to the remain vote.

    If you aren,tbhappy with a 72% turn out then you de-legitimise every election at every level for the last 70 years.

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