Again, late to the party – another blog post that I’ve been meaning to write for a while but have only now found a moment to pen the words that have been turning over in my mind the past few weeks. These comments may have been timely a few weeks ago, but are now more of a commentary to add a very small voice to a very loud conversation.
I tuned into the first two debates of our prime ministerial campaign season here in the UK, not to see what would be said – it was always going to be the same thing that has been churned out from all parties for way too long now – but to see how it would be said. Suffice to say, the first two debates were so appalling, I couldn’t bring myself to watch the third. Across the first two, the most impressive person by a country mile was Julie Etchingham – the facilitator of debate two.
I simply can’t understand what exactly the leaders’ communication coaches behind the scenes were thinking.
Nobody seemed to tell Miliband that if he over-rehearses his answers to the questions he knows will come up, it becomes far too obvious that he is just regurgitating something from memory and all semblance of him being genuine flies out the window. Not only did nobody tell him this for the first debate, someone appears to have told him before the second clash that his irritating repetition of meaningless phrases was a good thing and his second performance was so skin-crawling that I almost turned off many times just to stop hearing the phrase ‘the people at home’.
Cameron’s communication fared a little better. He was composed and tried to come across as human by acknowledging that nobody is perfect – not even the prime minister. Yet he failed to do one thing. Be unique. He had nothing new to say, he performed his lines well and calmly but he was bland and thus blended into the wall of unimpressive characters that the British public were presented with. He failed to inspire.
Clegg and Sturgeon’s performances were worryingly good. I say worryingly because what they have to say rarely makes good sense but how they say it is so convincing that people may not realise that. If their coaches could make a few suggestions to Cameron, we may get somewhere. That said, Cameron would need to believe his own lines in order for them to start coming across as passionate.
Farage was convincing early on but soon overstepped the mark and couldn’t recover any credibility after that. His confidently arrogant performance and blurring of lines was easily predictable.
As for Bennett and Wood? Sadly they had absolutely nothing to say and they said it badly. There is no way they should have been on the stage with a handful of politicians who, although far from being perfect or even possess anything near gumption or integrity, were a complete other league to these two ladies.
Perhaps I have been too influenced by the West Wing, but I remain quietly hopeful that one day, the British public will be confronted by a prime ministerial candidate who has vision, courage and conviction and who can articulate these qualities with passionate prose.
Oh, and be someone who cares about what happens beyond the borders of our increasingly self-focused country to the broader issues in the world. Foreign policy was disappointingly lacking anywhere in those first two debates. When did Britain become so introspected that we no longer care about the rest of the world? As I say, I’m quietly hopeful that one day a personality will emerge that can change that and give some hope back to British politics. Until then, I’m done trying to figure out the bizarre coaching that is going on to ‘prepare’ these leaders for their debates. Good communication requires a good message and for now, we appear to have neither.