The Futility Monster

He'll pointlessly derive more enjoyment out of your resources than you

Posts Tagged ‘Prime Ministerial Debates’

Will David Cameron Seal The Deal?

Posted by The Futility Monster on April 15, 2010 @ 14:00

My sister insists he looks like a pigeon. What do you think?

David Cameron has it all to lose. Ahead in the polls, looking comfortable, managed extremely well by his backroom team, and financed to the hilt. He could say nothing else and cruise to victory, of that I’m still certain.

Despite that, Cameron, is going to win the debate, and he will do so simply by looking and acting normal. Remember McCain and Obama’s first debate? Pundits afterwards were breathlessly spinning that McCain had won, because he did, admittedly, have good quips and plenty of shit to throw at Obama.

The nation, however, saw it differently. What they saw was that Obama was no bogey man, in spite of the months of negativity from the Republican campaign. They saw he was cool, calm, rational, sober and very thoughtful. He respected his opponent. He looked strong, robust and capable. McCain, on the other hand, looked like a grumpy, shifty old man, refusing to make eye contact with Obama.

The debate was lost by McCain not because of what he said, but the way he behaved.

Cameron will do the same tonight. He will act thoughtful. He will engage with the debate. He will be fully in command of the figures and the arguments, and will deliver soundbite after glorious soundbite. He will persuade the nation that he is a safe pair of hands in these troubled times, and that he has a plan for the future to tackle Britain’s ills.

His team will have studied all the great American debates for what works. They will have coached him extremely well. He’ll have a couple of one-liners up his sleeve (a la Reagan); perhaps a self-deprecating one too to make him look human. But he will deploy them only if the moment is right. Don’t want to look like a joker, after all. And if there’s one thing Cameron is a master of, it’s timing.

In short, the bar is extraordinarily high for Cameron. One slip of the tongue, or one misplaced gesture will ruin it for him. The expectations are astronomical.

But as he’s proven time and time again, he revels under this degree of pressure.

In short, if Cameron acts like Cameron, he will win. He and he alone is responsible for the detoxifying of the Tory brand. On that stage, he is the whole party, and nothing else matters. No Gideons. No Graylings. No Fat Eric Pickles.

If he plays to his strengths of new, reformed, compassionate Conservatism, he will win.

And I fully expect him to.

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The Debate: Watch The Expectation Game

Posted by The Futility Monster on April 15, 2010 @ 09:59

Another cracker. What the hell is this?

Already this morning we’ve had a Conservative (Caroline Spelman, according to the BBC) very kindly remind us that David Cameron is only a human being, so nervousness is only natural. And not a lot of people know that.

A bizarre thought came into my mind about 10 minutes ago too. What if Gordon Brown has been engaged in a clever game of utter self-destruction over the past couple of years so that he can come out tonight clean, polished, articulate and well-briefed – and knock the lightweight Cameron into the ground?

Of course not. But let’s not underestimate the tremendously low expectations we all have of Gordon Brown as a result of his track-record of  bumbling and incompetence. That will be critical tonight.

As for Nick Clegg, not many know what to expect. His competent performance with Paxman on Monday was a big triumph, but he’s still the great unknown in this election. Which way will he go? The questioners will try to tease it out of him…

What about ITV? They are revelling in being lucky enough to get the first debate, but they’ll be devastated not to be able to sell adverts between it!

Don’t for a second think we’ll be seeing a record TV audience tonight. BBC Breakfast were saying 30 million people could watch. Utter tosh. The peak audience might hit 15m, if they’re lucky. The average will be around 10m. Bear in mind that Nick Griffin’s appearance achieved 8m for Question Time, and that was hyped to the max too.

Expectations are key to framing tonight’s debate. The pundits and spin doctors will all be hard at work today explaining what they think will be the fair result for their man. Don’t believe any of them. In fact, don’t watch any TV today. Except the debate, of course. Allow your mind to be unpolluted by what the teams want you to think.

If you do read one thing today, though, I’d suggest you stay here. At 2pm, 4pm and 6pm I will release a post on each leader, saying what I think they can achieve, and whether they will do it. Then, at 8:30pm (hopefully) I will live blog the event.

It will all, of course, be Fair and Balanced.

It’s a good day for democracy. It’s a good day for TV.

The schedule for today:

2pm: Will David Cameron Seal The Deal?
4pm: Can Nick Clegg Justify His Inclusion?
6pm: Is Gordon Brown Capable Of Fighting Back?
8:30pm: Liveblogging The Debate

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30 Days

Posted by The Futility Monster on April 6, 2010 @ 09:37

This might have been spoofable, if more people had seen the film...

That’s all there is left of this wretched Labour administration.

Not that I have much enthusiasm for what follows.

Today Gordon Brown will “get permission” to dissolve Parliament off the Queen. A ridiculous notion, but one that the media loves. Nicholas Witchell gets his four/five yearly chance to stand with Buck House in the background, uttering in his clipped Received Pronunciation about the formality of the occasion. Pass me the sick bag.

Parliament, of course, still has business to attend to, including the awful Digital Economy Bill. I fully expect this to slip through, largely because Labour were crafty enough to start it in the House of Lords, the only place where an opposition can make changes or delay it. If Labour wanted, they could use their majority to pass it, unamended, and that’s the end of the matter. No “wash up” or negotiation with the other parties needed.

So Parliament will carry on sitting for a few more days, just so we can ensure many more of Labour’s disastrous laws are put on the statute book. A few more laws which have zero credibility, and no legitimacy at all, signed off as they are by this most rotten of Parliaments.

That’s why I’m so looking forward to this election, despite what I fear is the inevitable outcome of a Tory landslide. It will be nice to, at least temporarily, have a government that is empowered by a recent election result, a party leader fully in control, with a backbench resolutely on his side as a result of the victory. For once in quite a while, we’ll have a government that will at least be in office and in power.

30 days left of this listless, lifeless, moribund, empty, battered, idea-free Labour government.

In some respects, I’m really looking forward to the Labour manifesto; it will be the closest we ever get to a party admitting it wants to be in power purely for the sake of power, simply because there is no ideological lifeblood coursing through the party any more. That kind of revolution will have to wait till they’re on the Opposition benches again.

And as for the Lib Dems… I’m excited, but also nervous. The opportunity of fair coverage in the weeks ahead, and the Prime Ministerial debates, will give Nick Clegg and his team an unprecedented chance to put across the party’s message in a way they’ve never been able to before.

Previous Lib Dem leaders could only dream of this chance. Charles Kennedy had the political climate in his favour in 2005, but he certainly didn’t get to stand on the same stage as Blair, and get a chance to look like a Prime Minister in waiting.

Nick Clegg will get that, and on his head will be the consequences.

As for Mr Cameron, the sky is the limit. But as I wrote last August, he really could do with a landslide.

Fun times ahead for us politicos.

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Looking Prime Ministerial

Posted by The Futility Monster on March 3, 2010 @ 09:26

Cleggy has to be the biggest winner out of all this, despite having no chance of becoming PM!

Now that the unthinkable has happened, and the three main party leaders have agreed not just the principle but the detail of the forthcoming leaders’ debates, we really are in uncharted territory for British politics.

What’s going to make it so interesting is that front and centre of this campaign is going to be the concept of “but he looks like a Prime Minister!”.

Yes, charisma, personality and confidence have always been a part of politics, no more so than when delivering Tony Blair a stonking great victory in 1997. But we are nowhere near the level of the USA, where, on reflection, it was Barack Obama’s cool and cerebral performance in the Presidential Debates, especially the first one where John McCain made himself look like a grumpy old man, that secured his position as a dead cert to win.

In American politics, however, it makes much more sense. They are electing a Head of State as well as a Head of Government. Heads of State are the figurehead of the country, projecting their own image not just just nationally, but internationally. In turn, the nation and the world can “see” the character and values of that country. As such, questions of whether someone “looks like a President” are fair game.

Here, less so. Although I am excited about the prospect of debates, and judging by this document, the conditions set down will ensure no cheap lines to get the applause of the audience, I am concerned that they will become all encompassing, and mean everything else in the campaign matters little. Hopefully we’ll still get the probing 30 minute Paxman interview on Newsnight for each of the contenders. Sky News will want to do the same, I’m sure.

But most of all, I am worried that unless the debates are truly focused on policies and vision for Britain, we are going to hear a lot more about whether David Cameron “looks like a Prime Minister”.

We’ve had enough of politics being trivialised and reduced to the lowest common denominator in this country. It’s been a bad couple of years, yes, but not so bad as to completely sell out our system to soap opera style bickering and televised chat shows.

If that’s going to happen, we might as well have Jeremy Kyle as the debate moderator…

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Newsfelch: 08/02/10 – News At 10, Film At 11

Posted by The Futility Monster on February 8, 2010 @ 10:28

I've got a brand new one of these, you know.

It being one of those days where my brain is not up to a Proper Post, it is time to bring out the Political Blogger’s Cheat Book and draw up a few responses to what the newspapers are banging on about today…

  • The big story across all the media is Cameron’s apparent “personal attack” on Gordon Brown. The crux of this argument is that there are whispers that the Labour party’s official solicitor is the one who has advised the Labour MPs charged with false accounting on Friday to defend themselves using parliamentary privilege. Not very exciting, really. Just another way to keep the expenses story going…
  • Indeed, even The Telegraph have had enough. They’re more excited about John Prescott. Newsflash: John Prescott is not involved in national politics any more and has no relevance to anything political now, or probably ever again. This kind story belongs in the Daily Fail.
  • Iain Duncan Smith is continuing his one man crusade to correct the social ills of the country. Today he’s turned his attention to the costs of care for the elderly. You know, I absolutely hated the man when he was Tory leader. But I have nothing but respect for the work he is doing in this field to draw attention to the problems facing the country in the decades ahead. It’s a shame he couldn’t continue on Tower Block of Commons. That Nike hoodie really suited him…
  • The Guardian are sounding the alarm over whether the election debates will happen at all. Naturally, some of us told you this was going to happen several months ago. OK, I assumed it would be only the Nats who would scupper the debate… but it was pretty clear it wasn’t going to happen as smoothly as people started to think.
  • Meanwhile, climate change doom-mongers exhale wearily. I knew this would happen eventually. But the funny thing is, even when the view of the public was almost unanimous regarding the concept of climate change, still the politicians did nothing. What chance for change now the public are growing more sceptical? Oh well, let’s all live like fatalists and care not for the planet, cos we won’t exactly be here to suffer the consequences, eh!
  • The anti-PR battle is hotting up; expect more inverted pyramids of piffle from Boris Johnson on this subject as the months go by. If we get a referendum, of course. We won’t, by the way.
  • Ken Clarke is trying to scare the horses into voting Tory. I didn’t realise satisfying the bond markets could be such an important electoral issue. Not like jobs, unemployment and public services.
  • And finally: here’s hoping that a constitutional crisis is just around the corner. Go on, British people! Please give us a hung parliament, and then we republicans can finally prove that there is no place for an unelected Sovereign getting involved in our democracy! Yay!

That’s your lot for one day. Time for some real work!

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Newsfelch: 23/12/09 – The Futility Of Wisdom

Posted by The Futility Monster on December 23, 2009 @ 09:07

Christmas approaches. Serious journalism, if it’s not already dead, disappears in a lather of mince pies and cooking sherry. The interns take over the office, desperate to impress their bosses as to their work ethic.

The world keeps turning…

  • John Hutton warned us that Gordon Brown was going to be a “fucking disaster” after all. Only now he’s changed his mind. Film at 11. How very convenient for a man who is retiring as an MP and has gainful employment already lined up.
  • Universities are going to bear a large swathe of the cuts in this country. This is only the first step. A politician’s mind: cut things to the people who a) don’t vote and b) no one else cares about. It’s a win-win situation!
  • Will Cameron throw one of his largest donors to the lions?
  • The Tories are getting excited about marriage again. I have a feeling we’re going to have one of those Back To The Future elections.
  • Talking of the election, it sounds like it’s going to be held over two days. Great news for us politico geeks. Not so good for the people who have to cover it. I wonder what David Dimbleby’s drug of choice will be this time? Whatever gets you through the night. And the day.
  • But we know for sure that Dimbleby, Boulton, Robinson et al won’t be using any of these…
  • Meanwhile, back in Parliament, The Times’ Ann Treneman is moaning about John Bercow’s propensity to speak his mind on issues of reform. Christ. You pundits can’t have it both ways. Or maybe the media just wants more and more stories on MPs expenses. Yes, that’s it…
  • From across the Pond, Larry Sabato tries to tell us that election debates are a waste of time. Tell that to the Obama team; in my humble opinion, and many others, they were what sealed the deal for him.
  • A remarkably biased article. The headline tells us, in a sneering way, that public sector workers are expecting a wage rise of 2% next year. But why does it not mention that private sector workers are after a 3% rise?
  • The Telegraph is most excited about the overprivileged, totally undeserving members of our idiotic Royal Family, and how marvellous it is that every now and then they grace us with their presence and learn how bad life is for some people. I find it hard to believe, though, that Prince William wasn’t under armed guard during his night “sleeping rough”. Imagine the uproar if something had gone wrong…

And finally, one for the road. Remember this piece of genius from Rory Bremner in 2005?

Back tomorrow with more fun and games. If you can stand it…

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Will The Nats Scupper The Debate?

Posted by The Futility Monster on October 6, 2009 @ 07:30

Might our debates end up looking like this? So many participants that there is no opportunity for banter...

Might our debates end up looking like this? Too many chiefs... no opportunity for banter...

Yesterday’s news that the SNP will take legal action if they’re not involved in the election debates was the first sign that it’s not going to be plain sailing to get this new idea off the ground…

In fact, the reason why Brown was so stupid to dither over the issue for so long was the fact that problems like this were bound to arise which might eventually kill the idea. Why not take the plaudits for being the first sitting British PM to agree to a debate on TV as soon as possible; especially when there’s a good chance it might never actually happen?

Admittedly, though, I didn’t think it would be the Nationalists causing the problem. I had expect the fine detail to be the spanner in the works, like how long each person gets to speak, how many debates, whether there is a public audience, where the debates will take place, whether Nick Clegg should even be there… and so on.

The argument against having the SNP or Plaid present in the debate is that, clearly, neither leader of those parties can become the PM of the UK. And if they aren’t there, maybe Nick Clegg shouldn’t be either for the same reason. But, surely, it would be unfair for them not to be allowed to get their agenda across. They do, after all, contest every constituency in their respective countries, and are all major players in the political system.

But this is where it starts to get tricky. If we invite Alex Salmond and Ieuan Wyn Jones, why not include the Greens? Or UKIP? And what about the BNP? They will each be contesting a large number of constituencies, more than SNP/Plaid in fact. And their leaders have no prospect of becoming PM either. So why not?

That’s not even considering the logistics. Let’s say we have to have a debate each in Wales and Scotland. But that would mean we need more than one debate in England, as surely England deserves more attention than one debate. And what if we wanted to introduce themes to the debates: foreign policy, domestic policy… like the way the Americans do it? Well, we won’t really be able to if there are separate debates for each country.

Unless there are huge numbers of debates. Which is, obviously, never going to happen. Too many debates would be a total failure, as the audience would be split, it wouldn’t be a big set-piece event, lacking the necessary prestige. There’s a reason why there are only three debates in the USA. It truly is the magic number. And that’s completely ignoring the logistical point that Brown, Cameron et al would never agree to more than four debates because of the time consuming nature of them.

Basically, the SNP have opened the can of worms. A rotten, festering can that has enormous potential to ruin what could have been the most interesting development in British electoral politics in many decades.

I hope they know what they’re doing.

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