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Televised election debate another shining example of Britain’s commitment to democracy
By Tim Coles

17 April 2010

Tim Coles explains why Britain’s first ever televised election debate between the leaders of the three main parties – stilted, characterized by omissions and obfuscations and pandering to prejudices – was a meaningless spectacle.

Britain’s first ever televised debate between its three main parties was lauded by BBC 4’s World News for its democratic integrity (15 April 2010) – apparently, the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), the British National Party (BNP), the Greens, Respect, the Social Democrats and others, don’t exist in England: hence their leaders were not invited to participate. The BBC is so committed to democracy that it never aired the debate. The three parties and their PR people were also so committed to democracy that they ensured that the audience consisted of selected guests, pre-approved questions and controlled – that is, zero – applause.

Nick Clegg (Liberal Democrat), David Cameron (Tories) and Gordon Brown (Labour) took part. Sky News explained how the audience was selected on the basis of “age, gender and ethnicity” (15 April 2010). That explains why most of the audience were middle-aged to elderly white men. Presenter and moderator Alastair Stewart said the debate would focus “mostly on domestic issues – the important issues”. Apparently, the occupation of Iraq, the theft of Gaza’s gas for UK domestic consumption, the support of a terrorist regime in Somalia and many other atrocities are not important issues.

Under these narrow guidelines, it was not mentioned that one in four Britons suffer from mental health problems (Sane 2010), 20,000 pensioners die every year of the cold (Gibson 2009), that Britain is developed Europe’s worst place in which youngsters can grow up, according to UNICEF (Knight 2007), and the place in which youngsters are the least happy, according to the Child Poverty Action Group (Beckford 2009). Of course, keeping out those nasty immigrants was the selected audience’s main concern – immigrants from Afghanistan (Refugee Action 2009) and Somalia (Sare 2008), perhaps, who are fleeing from our war crimes? ITV showed its poll revealing that the propagandized public thought that immigration was too high (15 April, 2010) – though they did not specify if the British public was against the millions of Britons living in Spain, Australia, Canada and elsewhere. Crime was also a hot topic. Cameron was even “outraged” over the MPs’ expenses, such as “the duck ponds”. Presumably, he was also outraged over the GBP 350,000 of taxpayers’ money that he took to mortgage his house (Telegraph 2009)?

The only foreign policy question was the usual self-centred “how many more British lives will be lost in Afghanistan”, without a word on the extreme and overt war crimes that even Stanley McChrystal admits are being carried out against the Afghan population (2009), namely the high death tolls. No word was mentioned about Joe Glenton, the soldier who refused to fight in the criminal war, and was then sentenced to a long jail term (Walker 2010; for an admission that the UN never granted approval for the invasion in 2001, see Bush lackey John Yoo’s “Using Force”, Chicago Law Review, Vol. 71, Summer 2004).

All three politicians in the debate uttered the usual bromides in praise of the troops. Clegg thought our “brave men and women ... do the most astonishing job”. Brown expressed “pride and admiration”, and Cameron gushed over the “bravery and incredible courage... It humbles me every time ... they are incredible athletes. Brilliant, brilliant, people”. Former NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer’s remark in June 2007 that “NATO troops must guard oil and gas pipelines directed for the West” (AP/Novum 2007), never made it into the debate. Brown did say, however, that the UK is in Afghanistan to fight terrorism. Perhaps the terror of Osama bin Laden, whom the Taliban’s Mullah Omar offered to hand over to the Saudis before 9/11 (Burke 2003) and to the Americans after 9/11 (Pilger 2003) – both offers, of course, were rejected because invading Afghanistan was a higher priority.

As another example of the West’s commitment to democracy, Rupert Murdoch made it clear that he would be backing the Tories this time. Hence, Sky News’ own poll rated Cameron the victor, with over 40 per cent, whereas other polls generally put Clegg in the lead. There were two sensible remarks made, however, though not during that debate. Afterward, on the BBC’s “Question Time”, two young women of an “ethnic minority”, respectively, made sensible remarks. One asked why the Trident programme did not feature prominently in the debate, and that Clegg was the only one to raise the issue. The answer, of course, is because a nuclear holocaust is a serious issue, hence it was off the agenda. The other woman said that it wouldn’t matter if we had a hung parliament, because all three parties have the same agenda, and she could not distinguish between them. These concerns, of course, were not raised by the pre-selected audience during the debate. This is because it is another serious issue, hence it was off the agenda. As Clegg said at the time, “This is a phoney debate.”

AP/Novum, June 29 2007, Trouw (Netherlands)

Beckford, M., “Britain one of the worst places in Europe to grow up’’, Telegraph, 21 April, 2009

Burke, J., 2003, Al-Qaeda, London: Penguin

Gibson, D. in “Pensioners say ‘Hands off our winter fuel allowance’” (Mature Times), 21 October 2009

Knight, S., “Outcry after Unicef identifies UK’s ‘failed generation of children’’’, Times, 14 February 2007

McChrystal, S., “COMISAF’s Initial Assessment”, NATO Headquarters, August 2009

Pilger, J., 2003 (2nd), New Rulers of the World, London: Verso

Refugee Action, “Refugee Action alarmed by decision that Afghanistan is safe for civilians”, 26 October 2009

Sare, J., “Adrift in the UK”, Guardian, 5 June 2008

Sane, 2010, “About mental illness”

Daily Telegraph, “MPs' expenses: Full list of MPs investigated by The Telegraph”, 8 May 2009

Walker, P., “British soldier who spoke out against Afghan war jailed for going awol”, Guardian, 5 March 2010

Phil Talbot:
STSTWC Election Guide _ LeaderShipContest2_Preparations.wmv

Phil Talbot:

"This leaders' debate is lowering the level of political culture aimed at
manipulation of public opinion with a poll of who "wins" the leaders'
debate and the fact that gazette is reporting on it instead of reporting what
the local candidates stand for is contributing to that lowering of political
culture.  These leaders are all for continuing the unjust war in Afghanistan,
and future similar wars, when over 70% of the people in a  recent poll want
the troops out of Afghanistan. This leaders' debate is not democracy."

Phil Talbot:


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