I have avoided commenting on the debates in detail mainly because we all reveal our own (party) prejudices inevitably in listening to discussion – even when we agree with a speaker – and we tend to hear the things that most reflect our own beliefs and reinforce our own position. As my position is widely known I imagine its repetition with neither engage nor intrigue.
I did not like the format. I thought many of the questions were too contrived. Frankly some sounded desperately planted. I also thought as there were two coalition partners defending their record in government with an equal amount of time – it lacked inevitable balance. I also thought – and here so did those watching with me – that the PM was accorded too much latitude from cross questioning from audience members a grace which was not given either to Miliband or to Clegg. I noted particularly David Dimbleby did not permit those asking questions on food banks to challenge the PM but invited them to challenge Deputy PM Clegg.In the narrows of the advantage gained – Mr Clegg may well have done enough to ensure he hangs on in Sheffield Hallam assuming his constituents were watching on TV.
The most interesting comments of the night – scripted or otherwise – came from Mr Cameron with his referendum redline; Clegg with his EU redline equal and opposite and finally a clear indication that if Miliband is asked to form a government we are looking to a minority government – alike Wilson in 1974 – whether Miliband has the sinuous skills this will demand is an interesting question which arises from his decision.
The debate did not illuminate the public discourse and it will neither change minds or inspire fervour.
We are very much where we were when we came in – except made tireder by this extended format now permitted by fixed term parliaments – with the numbing possibility that we will have to face this all again within a year.
In that profound sense my feeling is that once we are dusted and done on 7th May – akin to the Scots referendum – leaving nothing finally settled in any positive way – the momentum will move once more from both the larger parties, especially as any new election is bound to fall into the timetable for the elections to Holyrood.
The UK and potentially its continuance; and its membership of the EU as a single entity or as a series of smaller nation states will all remain in play.
A century ago the entire island of Ireland was as yet still part of the United Kingdom. A century on and it looks as if the dynamic that knit together the islands of the British archipelago into one of the most centrally governed unitary states in history is in reverse. I guess the Roman Empire fell apart as completely over a hundred years as well… History is replete with unresolvable conundrums of this nature.