I know it’s 24 hours ago now, but I’ve reached two conclusions about the third leaders’ debate. Perhaps, more accurately, they are two emotions
The first one relates to Cameron’s bizarre repetition of the word ‘grip’. Often used ungrammatically as in “we must grip the banks”. Strange, but clear evidence of the testing of words to destruction before Conservative focus groups. Gripping was obviously something the poor interviewees approved of.
It makes me realise that what actually made Nick Clegg’s performance stand out was his authenticity. His unusual rhythm, and strange awkward – but authentic – pauses, flagged up that this was real.
The third time round, perhaps they were also too familiar to seem so breathtakingly real as before, especially once Cameron seemed to have controlled his enraged facial twitches. But looking back on the debate last night, my main memory is all that Cameronesque ‘gripping’ and I find it rather disturbing. Because, in the end, fake sends a bit of a shiver down the spine.
Which brings me onto the second emotion. Rage at the BBC.
The first debate was thrilling because it was the first time we heard those same questions on immigration, schools and cuts. The second time we heard them, in week 2, there was still some variation to keep us engaged. But when the BBC chose those questions again in the third week, I really felt like throwing something at the TV.
As if somehow the BBC believes it is their duty to narrow the election debate to certain approved topics – the same ones their interviewers harp on about every day. You could almost sense them clapping themselves on the back for their collective decision to include immigration again.
Not that it isn’t important – of course it is – but what about questions on the environment? How about airports? How about civil liberties, high streets, post offices – aren’t they important too?
But no, the BBC has decided that the approved issues must be dragged out again. Consequently there was an exhausting sense of déjà vu about the third debate. I don’t think that was really the fault of the politicians. It was the miserably unimaginative choice of questions.