The final televised political event before the election took place last night, as each of the three leaders faced questions from a live audience and host David Dimbleby. Frustratingly, Cameron, Miliband, and Clegg were all in the same building, but did not meet or speak face-to-face in front of the audience, and no cross-party debate actually took place. What follows is not a transcript of what took place, but a short assessment of each leader’s performance.
Callousness has never been so popular. You’d be forgiven for thinking the audience was 99% Tory and one annoying Labour voter in the corner, given that Cameron sailed through the debate largely unscathed by the audience. Sure, there were a few sticking points and a couple of short words crossed, but by and large, the audience and indeed the BBC did not hold the Prime Minister to account, yet again.
Cameron was asked about food banks and further proposed slashes to the welfare bill, but trotted out his usual moronic lines about “long-term economic plans” and “getting people back to work”, which are music to the ears of the uninformed. His lies about the welfare budget went unchallenged, as did his scaremongering about Scotland.
When asked about rising homelessness and child poverty rates, Cameron was so dismissive and evasive, any person with a fully-functioning moral compass would have recoiled in horror. Alas, this dismissal of poverty again went unchallenged, as did his insistence that the moral dimensions to politics can be explained by economic ones. When talking about people who have died due to his welfare “reforms”, one does not want to hear an economic explanation, thank you very much.
Cameron clearly remembered one thing from his debate prep: If in doubt, pull out a treasury letter from the last government which quips that there’s no money left. People love it.
Compared to the questions fired at Cameron, Miliband entered a war-zone, complete with snobby business owners complaining and whining because Labour doesn’t dote on them enough and that they love zero-hours contracts (I’m sure their employees do too).
These snobby business owners in the audience don’t know they’re born, Miliband quite openly and unashamedly remarked that he was the first Labour leader in history to announce spending cuts, as if that’s something to be proud of. The business owners commanded the room and commandeered the conversation in favour of lower taxes, something Miliband was more than happy to appease them with. A leader with the capacity to go beyond one-liners would have refused to kowtow to these snobs, and yet, Miliband was eager to show that New Labour is here to stay.
Then came the morons, those who must have wandered into the BBC studio by total accident and decided they’d get on television. In an amusing Kafkaesque moment, one man began rambling about gold reserves and Australia.
Miliband’s lowest point of the evening is when he stated he’d rather see another Tory government than do a deal with the SNP, urging Scots to vote Labour and demonising Alex Salmond (who isn’t even the leader any more, by the way). There you have it folks: A so-called left-wing alternative to the Tories to state that he would turn down the chance to reverse Cameron’s ideology if it meant governing with the SNP.
Miliband has rejected Scottish democracy, insulted the party polling 55% of the vote, and damned us all to five more years of Cameron if Labour doesn’t get a majority. Nice going Ed. I will never forgive you for that.
Given that Clegg is one of the most unpopular people in Britain, you’d be a fool to think he was going to get off lightly when grilled by a live audience. And yet, he surprised by holding his own in the face of insulting remarks, firing back with quick wit and snappy replies.
Student loans was of course the topic on everybody’s mind, and Clegg dodged and evaded when he was asked why he positively supported higher tuition fees in Parliament instead of abstaining from the vote. If you want people to accept your apology Nick, you kinda have to answer follow-up questions.
Clegg did his best to paint himself as the balanced middle ground between the left and right, accusing Cameron of cutting too deeply and accusing Miliband of borrowing too much. A heart to a Tory government and a brain to a Labour government, so the saying goes. Decide for yourself how much of a heart Clegg has left after presiding over welfare “reforms” that have quite literally killed people (Lib Dems have voted for the bedroom tax twice). Decide for yourself how much of a brain Clegg has left after assisting George Osborne in borrowing more in three years than Labour did in thirteen.
And of course, like the other two leaders, Clegg didn’t forget to insult the SNP, attack migrants for claiming benefits (which is a minuscule phenomenon), and generally appeal to the prejudices of the time.