Gordon Brown, David Cameron, Nick Clegg, BBC, Sky One - Remotely Interested: Election debates – Mark Grainger

Mark Grainger 29/03/2010

And so it has come to pass that our austere, rather beige political machine has taken one more step closer to the glitzy showbiz world of American politics with the announcement that, for the first time in British history, a series of debates will be televised to showcase just how strong, principled, false and hideously self aggrandising our potential leaders can be when they put their mind to it. In order to share the joy, Gordon Brown, David Cameron and, er, the other one...er...Nick Clegg is it? Anyway, Brown, Cameron and the other one will be making extended, rhetoric heavy appearances on the three main networks, BBC1, ITV and Sky One.

This should ideally have presented the public with an opportunity to probe each leader as thoroughly as possible without the use of latex gloves on all sorts of policy matters, contradictions, and spin but no, the participation of the audience has been outlawed to such an extent that anyone 'lucky' enough to be in attendance is not allowed to clap, heckle, boo or show by any other means that they haven't slipped into a coma. Basically then each debate is just another excuse for each of the big three to arouse themselves with their own voice, reeling off a list of promises and slurs that everyone has heard hundreds of times before. Magic.

The problem though is that this set-up is a fairly obvious one. We've heard it all before. The vast majority of the public rarely believe what the politicians tell them, especially in the wake of the expense scandal and particularly not before an election when most of them wouldn't be adverse to offering the whole population rainbow shoes, hover boards and a personal massage in a bid to extract every last vote. In the current climate the politicians should be filled with an overbearing sense of gratitude should anyone decide to vote for any of them at all, so why not make the whole drawn out election that bit more entertaining? We know they can talk (God how they can talk) but what do we know about their true fighting spirit, their sheer sense of will? These are important facets in a leader and I say we test it in the Colosseum of 21st century culture: gameshows.

Picture, if you will, the sheer bloody majesty of it; a Saturday night in late April or early May on BBC One and after the credits have finished rolling on Doctor Who, a group of hippos swim lazily into a circle formation as a wry and ironic voice announces a very, very special edition of Total Wipeout. Among the many amazing spectacles such a cross pollination would offer would be the epoch defining opportunity of seeing how well David Cameron copes with being repeatedly smacked in the saddlebags by a wall of pneumatic boxing gloves, and seeing the birth of Gordon Brown's new career as a Youtube phenomenon, as he attempts to jump across a over a series of rolling barrels like an aging Super Mario, only to slip and plummet towards a watery fate with a look of confusion which usually only comes from putting a dog on a trampoline.

Of course in the interest of impartiality (and spreading the joy) all three of the networks hosting the debates would also get a chance to test the physical and mental agility of the “contestants”. For example ITV would give Brown, Cameron and Clegg the opportunity to gauge how in touch they are with the man and woman on the street in a three-way Family Fortunes Battle Royale whilst Sky One could try and finally break them by subjecting them to Gladiators and, even worse if you ask me, Ian Wright.

There would have to be some sort of object or point to all this mindless politician torture mind you, so a point system would probably have to be implemented, whoever wins each show gets points, and then the party with the most points at the end of the ordeals earns the right to make a ten minute impassioned plea to the general public, some of whom may even be tempted to shrug off voter apathy and vote for whoever favour the victor at the polling station. Or perhaps they'll have to escape from a labyrinth first, these are just some of the kinks that would need ironing out of an otherwise fair and entertainingly cruel system.

Alas though, if it's taken this long to even reach the stage where a series of debates has been green-lit, it's likely that I shall have to simply daydream my scenarios whilst being bored to mental rigor mortis by the debates for quite a few more years to come. Some day though, our politicians will prove their physical and mental prowess on the studio battlefield and I won't just be simply imagining it as a way to entertain myself.