British Politics has changed – and the media have finally acknowledged it

#massdebate was the best thing ever to happen in British politics and the only waft of democratic proceedings we have seen and will see before May 7th.

Written by Kylie Barton

They tackled the deficit, NHS, education, immigration, and each other. As I type the pollsters try to put together a picture of ‘who won on what’. Here is my league table:

  • Natalie Bennett
  • Nicola Sturgeon
  • Nick Clegg
  • Leanne Wood
  • Ed Milliband
  • David Cameron
  • Nigel Farage

Throughout this article I shall justify my positioning accordingly. If the table was about who got the most pre-rehearsed sound bites into the debate it would look more like this:

  • Nick Clegg
  • David Cameron
  • Ed Milliband
  • Nigel Farage
  • Nicola Sturgeon
  • Natalie Bennett
  • Leanne Wood

*If I was a paid political journalist I would be compiling a list of the soundbites used by each and ranking them by the number used in a more statistical fashion but unfortunately this is not the case. Let’s hope someone else does it.

These sound bites will be the focus of the media over the next few days. Not the actual content of the debate, or the way the leaders handled themselves, or the audience reactions. I find it interesting that the post-debate commentary takes place in the ‘spin-room’ – it is like they are admitting that seldom does truth cross their lips (the media that is).

Ok to start with Natalie #Natalie4PM.

She was the calmest of all the participants by far. She also wasted the least time bashing her other opponents, or looking to the past. She looks to the future, and is the only one who drew the debate back to the central point of all policy – sustainability. I was so happy to hear a politician finally use the most underused humbling statistic that it would take three whole planets for the whole world to live the way we do. I cheered, loudly, like out loud screaming at my TV set cheering. She is the only one who reminded us that without tackling climate change the rest of the rhetoric is less than useless. It is pitiful that out of 7 ‘leaders’ only one has the sense to hone in on this. She opened strongly citing some of the biggest failures of British politics in recent times – the rich/poor divide, motivations for getting into politics, public money being used for private profits, and the demonization of some of the most vulnerable people in our society. She was particularly strong on education. Schooling should be about cooperation not competition she reminded the boys in the line-up. Not exam factories, but education for life, with broader remits than narrow academia including first aid, cookery, personal finance, and healthy relationships. She used real life examples and was also the only one to repeatedly cite multi-national companies as part of the problem. Her points remained the same, they remained clear, and they remained strong. Want change? Vote for change by voting green 2015.

Following that – Farage.

And bringing up the rear! (Probably not the best of sentences to describe his performance after his appalling comment regarding non British HIV suffers but hey I’m a risk taker – I will role with it.) I almost don’t want to waste my keyboard time on this clown but as I type pollsters are telling me he ‘won’ and so I must. Sensationalist, sound bite, sexist, same as the status quo, and now absolutely indisputably racist scape-goating scandalous scoundrel! He reverted back to his signature subjects – very clever tactic, but we should expect no less of a well versed elitist PR politician. He bashed out the same tired old rhetoric regarding the EU, immigrants, ‘health tourism’ and added some HIV to the pile for good measure. What the British public will surely see through is his abject disrespect for the human race as demonstrated by his repeated references to scrapping international aid. He was jovial, loud, brash, and signified not change but a continuation of the awkward punch and Judy politics the people profess to detest so much.

So onto Sturgeon.

To be honest, I knew little about the SNP until Nicola’s face started to grace our screens recently which I expect is how many people feel about Natalie, Nigel, and Leanne. But Sturgeon from the off has been a force to be reckoned with. She has changed the party image from one of UKIP like white frustrated male anger to one of realism, strength, and dare I say it old Labourite tendencies with (at times) Green overtones. She also gave the righties a right good telling off on throwing a tantrum over Europe. She is yet another breath of fresh air to the stagnant waters of UK politics. Sturgeon made the very good point that economic policy alone is not enough, it means nothing in isolation. She has the confidence, conviction, and creativity of a well versed Westminster politician but with it brings humanity, humour, and an honest quality.

To continue…. Clegg.

Now as much as it pains me to say this; Cleggy did alright! He was humble and found the cahooners to revert back to actual Lib-Dem policy talk. Nick got balls, he stood up to Dave and everything. Finally the awkward arranged marriage full of abuse and broken promises came to a spectacular end. We got to see a hint of the Clegg that caused Clegg-mania this time five years ago. The man that promised a third way out of the dual carriageway of British Politics. And no matter what you think of the coalition, it is historic, and it did carve the way for the seven platformed debate we had tonight. His rent to buy stuff sounded fantastic to a twenty something graduate struggling to rent a tiny one bed yet could easily afford a mortgage. He was warm, and welcoming, and albeit a little weary – surprisingly believable! He was also the only one to bring the mental health playing second fiddle to physical health issue into the mix and for that he definitely deserves our respect.

Lovely little Leanne…

Apologies if that last line read a little patronisingly – genuinely wasn’t meant as so, twas a genuine compliment to the mighty force of the Plaid leader. Seriously. As the least known leader in these debates Leanne really held her own. She stuck to the points that were important to her nation and directly challenged a number of the bigger personalities on a number of occasions. She, like Bennett, also remained calm, and responded well to the questions without sounding like a sound bite machine. She also owned Farage when she threw him a small bone agreeing that the EU means free movement of people but continued to say we as brits expect to be treated well when we go outside our borders, and so other nationalities should be treated well when they come here. Duh? Treat others how you wish to be treated is like the oldest adage right?!

Enter Ed.

I think I can speak on behalf of the British public when I say I don’t really know what to say about Ed. He is a bit of a moo point unfortunately, a bit ‘meh’ shrug your shoulders and move on. He has definitely been taking some lessons in PR politicking as he managed to direct his eyes and his voice at the right audience (studio or home) at the right times. It was so almost convincing. But what is most notable here is that Ed knows he won’t win a looks contest, a showman’s contest, and his point is that he shouldn’t have to. Politics shouldn’t be about showmanship it should be about substance. Unfortunately he didn’t have that much either. Us young people do need help with housing but we don’t want to be tied into three year rental contracts. Clegg had the better idea on that one. I am aware I have used the word unfortunately an unfortunate number of times but that is how Ed makes me feel! It’s all rather unfortunate that we do not have a proper Labour, with a proper ‘Red’ leader to stand up against the scare mongering of UKIP and the way the other ‘main’ parties fall into line with that scape-goating train of thought.

Dave, oh Dave.

Dave is the PR politician. As a friend said on Facebook during the debates – ‘Is David Cameron the best public speaker because he’s the Prime Minister or is he the Prime Minister because he’s the best public speaker?’ It’s an easy mistaker to maker. I couldn’t really listen to what he was saying personally, because I was so fed up with the polished unresponsive robotic routine I was watching the rest became irrelevant. Same old spiel… yawn.

In Summary…

Clegg stole Nat’s spiel on fairness, Dave stole Clegg’s blah on balance. Dave had a plan, and despite his claims it most certainly isn’t bloody working. There were a lot of the same words being thrown around but in very different directions. There was (for the first time in my lifetime) a clearer divide between left and right in British politics once more. Unfortunately each of the ‘major’ parties stood at best in the centre, at worst in the far right. Each of the other parties who have failed to be classified as ‘major’ by OFCOM and thusly recognised equally by the media have balanced the debate with their left leaning agenda and personalities. The only three that committed to the fact that the only race is the human race and we are all equal was the three women on the panel – the three people who were still most definitely not equal despite the chair’s attempts to control the debate. The men still definitely had the most air time, as per usual. And if we vote for them that is what we shall get, more politics as per usual.

Another highlight was the audience member who went all activist on our asses and stood up to be counted. She alone was the best thing about the debates, as she reminded us viewers at home that our voices do matter too even if the media moguls and political big wigs physically or metaphorically wrestle us to the ground. We are here, and we will be counted – enter the mocking jay.

The debates were without a doubt the single most exciting event in British Politics in living memory as is the social commentary before, during, and after. That is democracy – including the ruled in the debate, just a shame our voices are soon forgotten by the main parties as soon as Westminster is back in session.

If you don’t want your voice to be forgotten, stand up this May 7th, vote for change, vote Green.

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