Saturday, 28 March 2015
The Prime-minesterial "Debates": three losers.
According to the one opinion poll I've seen, Ed Miliband was the loser by 54% to 46%, though my own impression was that Miliband's performance, in both content and presentation, was far superior to that of David Cameron. That is probably because my views are more in sympathy with Miliband's than Cameron's: it is hard to be subjective in these matters.
Nevertheless, I do think Miliband missed two open goals in. The first was in the interview with Jeremy Paxman, whose hectoring and repetitive:" Did the Labour government borrow too much?" was crying out for a firm: "No, we borrowed what was necessary to rescue the financial system from the chaos caused by the deregulation introduced and supported by the Tories." But Miliband was frightened to give it
The second open goal was when Paxman repeatedly demanded of Miliband: "Are you up to being prime-minister?" Here I was longing for the response: "At least I have the guts to put up and try, whereas you, Mr Paxman, a self-declared Tory, turned down the opportunity to run for mayor of London."
Sadly in our system it is easier to win fame and monetary fortune by mocking politicians who are, however mistakenly, actually trying to improve things, than to put your own time and reputation on the line by trying to do something yourself.
The second loser was the truth about the economy. True Paxman pressed David Cameron hard on the growth of food banks under his watch, and received the pathetic answer that they have grown because the Government permits the Social Security services to recommend them to the destitute. And a response as to whether or not Cameron himself could manage on a zero-hours contract, was long in coming - he couldn't, though, would you believe it, "Some people prefer them! " I wonder who?
But the monotonous Conservative mantra that the government has turned the economy round from the mess made by Labour, that as a result of "tough decisions" it is now recovering and we are once again on the road to prosperity, and that it would be economic suicide to interfere with the "long term economic plan" went unchallenged.
The truth is that the government did indeed turn the economy round, from the modest recovery which was under way when Labour left office to stagnation which endured for two years before the famous "plan A" was surreptitiously abandoned, thus now, late in the day, producing a recovery rather dangerously fuelled by private debt encouraged by a housing bubble.
Sadly, even Labour is not prepared to defend its record, but shuffles uneasily with half-hearted admissions about having got some things wrong. True, not everything the Labour Governments did in the economic field was perfect, but they should boldly say, repeating it as often as the Tory misrepresentations, that the economic crisis began in Wall Street, not Downing Street, and that Gordon Brown, if he did not exactly "save the world", did, by prompt action, rescue our dodgy financial structure from collapse, and that the present government has not yet done much in terms of effective reform.
The third loser was Britain's (or is it just England's?) reputation for good manners. It is not acceptable to ask someone, even in private, let alone or public television, why he is perceived as a "North London geek." Yes, similar, though less personal, jibes were aimed at Cameron, but that does not make the practice acceptable. Tough questioning is necessary, but personal rudeness should be off limits.
Paxman has developed a reputation as an effective interviewer, and some commentators have declared him the true "winner" in the so-called debates. But, though undoubtedly clever, he is, in my view, a bully, sneering at people when he knows that they can't answer back