Friday, April 16, 2010

Worm's Eye View Of That Debate

The debate about the debate rages on. Wind-bag Clegg has been crowned king of the show. But behind the media hype, a worm's eye view reveals a very different impression.

Dashing Dave, Grisly Gordon or the other one? X Factor without the X factor. Jim'll Fix It for little Nick.

Smug Clegg certainly made an impression on the fawning media class. But then he was already points ahead just by being allowed to show up at the show. The novelty act didn't disappoint. According to voodoo polls, viewers were wowed by Cocky Clegg's performance. Rushed out post debate polls sent the media in a spin.

But a poll 'worm' crawling along, showing who's making an impression with highs and lows told a different story. ITN's second-by-second 'Worm' graph, monitoring the reactions of a special panel of voters, revealed who they thought was winning and losing.

Clegg wooed the worm when he hit on greedy MPs but dived on benefit cuts. Cameron struck a chord over immigration and school discipline, sending the worm into orbit.

But it was Brown's miserable performance which sticks in the worm's mind. Even when starting to speak the worm took a nose-dive. Brown's pet subject of the economy was a real turn-off.

Surprisingly ITV reports the button-pushing panel called it for Calamity Clegg. But the worm had turned, showing Cameron statesman-like with more high positives than Clegg and certainly more than Brown who plunged into negatives at the drop of a droned sentence.

US-sytle politics were over-hyped and over here. Heavily trailed to make sure of a sure fire hit. Broadcasters had pulled out all the stops.

But moderator Stewart looked overwhelmed. This first debate was on domestic issues, yet Brown was allowed to drone on about foreign policy and why he's fighting a war in Afghanistan. Brown misled viewers again with tractor stats which didn't stack up but lies were left unchallenged.

If the Orange Party heard Brown love-bomb Clegg with "I agree with Nick" once it must have been uttered a dozen times. A cheap triangulation trick at its most bare-faced.

And what on earth were the old Tuckers doing in the thick of it in the spin room while the worm was turning? Cameron was cut off in full flow. Clegg was given more close-up airtime than either Cameron or Brown. The two main Westminster party leaders were left with no choice but to stand by and let Clegg slag them off.

The debates have been put together by committee and it showed. A stuffy format thrashed out between spin doctors and broadcasters. That suited Boring Brown down to a tee.

But UK voters have a very short election span and a very short viewing span. Viewers are used to the razzmatazz of big, slick shows. Instead they got an old fashioned set in soft, safe pastel. A bit of sparkle would not have gone amiss.

But draping the set with the colours of three Westminster parties reinforced the stranglehold of Westminster-centred politics.

Behind the hype, the media class seems to have ignored the point that voters are chosing an MP in a constituency, not a head of state, prime minister or leader of a political party.

Time and again moderator Stewart turned to the camera to tell viewers the next question didn't apply to Scotland ... Wales … Northern Ireland. And then proceeded to carry on regardless, looking tiny on the studio floor in front of the podiums.

The 'prime ministerial' debate screwed Scottish nationalists and ignored devolved issues. The 'leader's' debate was a sham, when the UK election winner forms a government. Leaders and prime ministers can change at the drop of a coup.

Much was made beforehand of 'nervous' leaders to crank up the tension. Politicians were born begging to hog the limelight. Three accomplished public speakers, well used to ducking and diving and thinking on their feet. They loved all 90 minutes.

No gaffes, one-liners or put-downs to stick with viewers. But a few carefully scripted soundbites, fed to Brown beforehand from spinners, stuck out like a sore thumb. The worm was not impressed.

But as the worm crawled along, showing fag-end Brown down in the dumps and Dave on his uppers, the media class had already declared Clegg the winner.

The media was bound to big up Clegg's big day with hyped-up Clegg mania. Part and parcel of bigging up the big event. Mandy spin will also talk up Clegg to bury dismal Brown's disaster. One debate down. Two to go. The Orange Party prefers a good Paxo stuffing any day.

UPDATE 1.59pm: A revised ITV/ComRes post debate poll now puts Tories on 35%, Labour 28% and LibDems 24%. A far cry from the original raw poll putting LibDems on - 35%.

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