The British aren’t big on televised election debates. Unlike the United States of America, where a TV debate between the prospective candidates is all part and parcel of an election campaign. The idea is still new on the British.
Former Prime Minister Theresa May famously refused to engage in debates against Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn or other candidates when the last election came around in 2017. There also may be some in the Conservative Party who wish her replacement Boris Johnson hadn’t bothered this time around.
If anyone on either side of the debate was hoping for their candidate to land a knockout blow in front of the audience, they were disappointed when the credits rolled.
Difference between the candidates
The difference between the candidates couldn’t be more stark. Jeremy Corbyn is a socialist and nominally supports the idea of his country staying in the European Union. He wants to prevent the UK’s institutions from being sold into private hands.
Boris Johnson is an arch capitalist, an advocate for Brexit. He believes that those same institutions should be in the hands of whoever is able to run them the most efficiently and cost-effectively. With that divide, the audience was probably entitled to expect a bruising exchange of views. Also with clear daylight between the candidates. They didn’t get it.
In what may have been a prime example of why candidates shouldn’t be media-drilled and scripted to the point where they’re afraid to utter a sentence of their own choosing, the debate almost became a farce. Johnson attempted to connect every question put to him with his campaign for Brexit.
Corbyn tried to call everything back Johnson’s desire to sell the National Health Service to American investors. The questions being posed to the two leaders almost didn’t matter. They had an election soundbite to give. They were determined to keep on giving it regardless of whether or not it was relevant to the conversation. Nothing groundbreaking was said or done, and the whole thing ended in a clumsy, forced handshake.
Debate absent of talking points
With an absence of real talking points coming out of the debate, the majority of the press coverage in the aftermath has been focused on a questionable decision by an official Conservative Party account on Twitter. For the duration of the debate. The name and graphics of the account were changed in order to resemble those of an independent fact-checking agency.
As the debate progressed, the account repeatedly accused Corbyn of telling lies. It then said that Johnson had, in their view, won the debate. The Conservatives have also tried to defend the action. Stating that as the Twitter handle didn’t change they shouldn’t be accused of misrepresentation. However it’s not a good look for them during a campaign which has already seen them caught doctoring footage of an interview with Labour’s Kier Starmer.
Minor Parties will effect election
Just the fact that the debate went ahead as a two-man exercise wasn’t without controversy. The Conservatives and Labour aren’t the only parties who will have a say in the outcome of the election. The Liberal Democrats – who are the third-largest party in England – will win seats. As will the Scottish Nationalist Party in Scotland, and Plaid Cymru in Wales.
Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party is also likely to affect the final outcome in several potential swing seats. Yet none of those three parties were invited to speak. Jo Swinson, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, was also furious that she wasn’t invited. Going as far as to accuse ITV – the broadcaster of the debate – of favoritism and sexism.
Swinson’s mood likely won’t be improved by the news that the BBC has also confirmed that their debate special on December 6th will also be exclusive to Johnson and Corbyn. Leaving her and all the other rivals to the two mainstream parties sitting on the sidelines yet again.
It’s to be hoped that Corbyn and Johnson revisit their strategy before that debate. Because if they don’t, they could subject to the viewing public to debate showing no conclusion.
General election may not be clear cut
One thing that can be said about the general direction of the election campaign is that it may not be clear-cut. The majority of the press, anticipated an easy win for Boris Johnson. Followed by a large enough majority in Parliament for the Conservatives to push through Brexit legislation. Something the Conservatives failed to gain during October or November votes in Parliament. Conservatives still commanded a significant lead in the polls but that lead is diminishing day after day.
We have, of course, seen this before favorable polls are what promoted Theresa May to call an election in 2017. That decision also backfired spectacularly. Corbyn’s Labour Party exceeded all expectations. Leaving May without a majority in Parliament.
Forcing her to call upon support from the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party to form a Government. Even with that support, she was politically wounded and never regained her authority within the House. She limped on for another two years but struggled to pass much in the way of legislation.
Election nobodies call
With all of the above taken into account, the election is now too close to call. It would be no more reliable to place a bet on the winner of this campaign than it would be to place a bet on a mobile slots game and attempt to predict the outcome of the first spin correctly.
Indeed, we may yet see the candidates display all the volatility of a mobile slots game as the campaign progresses, with one key difference. Everyone can agree on what they want to see when they’re playing online slots, and that’s a jackpot. It’s far from clear that the people of Great Britain have any consensus on what they want to see as an outcome from this election. When all is said and done, there may be no overall control, and a picture that’s more blurred than ever before. What happens after that is anybody’s bet, and it’s not a bet than anyone in their right mind would take.