Corbyn's decision to show up in Theresa May's absence was vindicated—but the format hindered all candidates, and the viewer learnt littleby Sarah Niblock / June 1, 2017 / Leave a comment
All it lacked was Graham Norton doing the commentary. The BBC’s staging of last night’s Leaders’ Debate had more in common with a ratings’ driven TV contest than an informative event to help the “undecideds” vote next Thursday. It was as if the seven leaders of the main political parties and their stand-ins were vying for the top slot of most retweeted quote or most viral putdown. Admittedly BBC bosses had a tough brief: finding televisual strategies that appeal to a cross section of the entire UK’s diverse demographic is nigh on impossible. Only that can explain the rather bizarre juxtaposition of the grandiose wood paneled University of Cambridge backdrop, connoting “importance,” against the Weakest Link style semi-circle of podiums. In fact, it felt like one of those nightmares you have on the eve of a major job interview.
So much so, Theresa May—the woman who actually called this general election—made the bizarre decision to bail out and sent the recently bereaved Amber Rudd into battle. Rudd defended her leader’s decision on the grounds that “part of being a good leader is having a good, strong team.” Now, I loathe it when female leaders are maligned for showing little warmth, a criticism all-too-often laid at the door of women and not men. But Home Secretary Rudd’s rather severe demeanour did nothing to reassure a largely terrified and certainly confused British populace that it is safe under Tory rule. The moment when she said the Conservatives care most passionately about the poorest had the trappings of pantomime and a Crimewatch reconstruction rolled into one.
To be fair, the SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon wasn’t there either, with deputy Angus Robertson—the party’s Westminster leader—speaking instead. And Caroline Lucas is one of two co-leaders of the Green Party. Lucas was the most impressive of the assembled, standing out from the cacophonous crowd in her challenge to the Tories’ record on arms sales. If anything, she made Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s case for him, but with more conviction.
Deciding late in the day to pitch up, Corbyn ditched the “Chairman Mao-style” cycle cap and presented one of the more polished performances of his campaign. Not only did that seem to sway the studio audience in his favour—in fact if the audience…