Posted by: Paul | April 16, 2010

Toxic Politics

I remember thinking on Wednesday that the only thing which could knock the UK’s first Election debate between the 3 main party leaders off the top spot in the news headlines, was if some kind of toxic cloud were to descend from the skies and cover the whole of Europe.

Iceland duly obliged. As if to strike back at the demands for the country to repay the money lost to many UK consumers by the Icelandic banking system, the Eyjafjallajoekull volcano erupted sending a huge plume of volcanic ash into the skies over the North Atlantic, slowly being blown south east to cover much of Scandinavia, Northern Europe and the whole of the UK. In reality this eruption has been going on for a couple of weeks now, but in the last few days has changed in nature to become explosive rather than oozing, and the change in atmospheric conditions has led to all UK flights being grounded for the first time since the aftermath of September 11th 2001. And if this sets off an eruption in the connected, and much larger, caldera volcano of Katla, we could be in even bigger trouble than just a few cancelled flights.

This is not good news for my parents who are on holiday in Madeira. Actually, it probably IS good news for them if they get to extend their holiday free of charge – but selfishly I’d quite like them back.

Anyway, all these natural disaster shenanigans have provided a distraction from the other main news story, that of the above-mentioned debate. I watched about half an hour of the total 90 minutes, taking a random slice across the programme like any normal pollster would, so I could keep my rash judgements entirely context-free. Here’s what I saw:

Gordon Brown acting like a schoolboy. Even though all the parties are claiming their man “won” (what’s the prize then? Do they get to snip the ties of the other contestants in half, or give them a peanut?), Brown clearly came off worst in my limited viewing. He resorted to doing down David Cameron at every opportunity rather than trumpeting about Labour’s successes, and ignoring Nick Clegg entirely. He may aswell have ended everything he said with “Yeah David, yeah? Well your Mum smells and your Dad drives a Skoda.”

David Cameron being smooth and conciliatory. I never thought I’d see a Tory leader saying that Labour had done some good things which “we would keep”. He’d had a haircut, looked sharp, tried to be non-confrontational and come across as “I’m just like you, you know? Except that I went to Eton and was a member of the Bullingdon Club, yah?” Will he ever escape the poshness and career politician image? Poor David. I think he’s doomed to the fate of people thinking they know what he’s like without even listening to him. That’s what a decade of Thatcherism will do for you.

Nick Clegg saying the same thing over and over again. I swear in the segment I watched for the longest time – when a lady from Burnley was asking a question about burglary (I think it was “Can yers all tell us where yers live so us can send some scallies to rob yers while yers are all oop here?”), he used the phrase “turning our young people into the hardened criminals of tomorrow” five times. Five! Having said that, he came across as down to earth and is widely regarded by the press this morning as the man who “won”. His “I’m just like you” schtick seem honest and unaffected, unlike the clearly practiced Cameron.

I think I might pay slightly more attention to the next one!

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