The Big Let Down

16 Apr

Hmm. 

I typed that first word and then sat here for ten minutes trying to follow it with my reaction to last night’s debate.  It was all very British, wasn’t it?  Civilised and polite.

I left home at four-thirty; hit Manchester at five-thirty; hopped on the free shuttle bus – hopped being the operative word because I tripped over a kerb and had to be helped up by a man in a wheelchair – and found myself outside Granada Studios by six p.m.  The queue was way down the street.  Most people were like me, giddy with excitement, and there was a lot of laughing and teasing about opposing political views, but no unpleasantness.  A lady called Yasmin had us in fits of laughter and impressed us with her political knowledge; she later confided that she is the prospective Labour candidate for Bolton South East.  Shame; I liked her.

It took forty-five minutes to get through security but part of that was a disagreement between me and a security guard who swore he had given me my tag for my bagged phone (all phones were confiscated at the gate) and I had to practically strip down to my underwear to prove that I did not have it.  The security guard, having been backed up by the man in the queue behind me, who insisted he had seen him tear it off, then found it still attached to the bag.

TV staff were everywhere, armed with clipboards and head sets and all dressed in black.  Whenever one spoke to me I said, ‘Isn’t this exciting?’ I apologise for being so uncool; I just couldn’t help myself.  But you know what?  Every single one of them beamed in reply and said, ‘Yes it is!’  One girl told me they would all have worked for nothing to be there.

The information letter that came with the ticket said that we would have to park our bags but we could take small items in our pockets into the studio.  When we got there, they said we had to park our coats as well, which is how I came to be clutching two tissues, a lip balm and a raffle ticket for more than three hours.  By the time I got out I had a palm full of warm balm and a soggy mass of tissue without having at any point blown my nose.

We were offered refreshments in the replica Rovers Return Inn but I had to delicately spit out my egg sandwich because the mayonnaise tasted funny.  I didn’t fancy throwing up on national television in front of a squillion viewers and if I had been overcome and tried to make a run for it, MI5 might have shot me.  With my dying breath I would have gasped, ‘It was the egg wot done it’ and thus started a twelve month inquiry into a sandwich conspiracy that never happened, leaving the government with egg on its face and a bad taste in its mouth.  

The room was warm because of the hot air rising from 250 animated guests, when we were suddenly shut up by a two-fingered whistle from someone on the ITV staff.  Some names were read out and those people were taken away.  It was a bit like that Dr Who episode where everyone wants to go to Floor 500 but when they do they are never seen again and bad things happen to them.  No explanation was made and we didn’t know if we should be relieved or envious that those people had disappeared.  Maybe they were the ones who were going to ask the questions during the debate; maybe they were culled: ITV over-invited to allow for no-shows, etc.  Those people not part of the audience were given the option of watching in the food room and taking £20 for their trouble. I was safe, thank goodness: I needed to put as much space as possible between me and the eggs.

At around eight o’clock we were herded into the studio via Wetherfield Police Station, which was a clever use of a dull building, I thought: they just plonked a sign on the front of it and presumably film the actors going in and out.  We walked down stairs and through a storage area and saw – wait for it! – the Countdown Conundrum prop.  What a piece of tat that was close up.  We arrived in the studio and were allocated seats.  I had the misfortune to be placed behind a cameraman sited in the middle of the audience, but was lucky enough to be slightly to his right, so that I could see David Cameron and Gordon Brown and could watch Nick Clegg on the camera.  Pity poor Hannah sitting to my left, who could see nothing but the cameraman’s bum.  I invited her into my personal space and she spent ninety minutes with her head on my shoulder or knee, but at least she could see and I, on my best behaviour and having foregone the egg, did not break wind until I got home.

Maybe I should have done a massive pump around nine o’clock because it would have livened up the debate a little.  The media is using terms like ‘heated’ and ‘cut and thrust’ but inside the studio it was…lacklustre.  We had been warned not to clap, cheer or harangue the (I keep wanting to call them ‘contestants’) participants but it made for a complete lack of atmosphere.  I also think it stifled the debate.  I wish it had been more like Prime Minister’s Question Time or the BBC’s Question Time, because they are always lively.  None of them seemed passionate about their cause; it was disappointing. 

David Cameron surprised me on two counts: he looks as airbrushed in real life as in his posters – he must have good genes; and he came across as sincere.  I have never felt that about him until now.  I was impressed by his NHS stance and that was the stand-out policy of the night for me.    He appeared to be the most nervous of the three but I liked that about him because he is always so polished, a sort of Tory Blair.  I thought he had the most gravitas of the three; but I would say that, wouldn’t I?  When they shook hands with people at the front he looked in my direction and I gave him a big, totally uncool thumbs-up.  He smiled so he might have seen it; or he might have been wondering how MI5 let the mad woman slip through security.  You can never tell with politicians.

Nick Clegg had nothing to lose, of course, as just being there gave him a credibility he has not had before; but some of his policies were surprisingly attractive though I think he is naive on Trident and I would not vote Lib Dem for that alone.  Pundits have praised him for speaking into the camera and slated the other two for not doing so, but in the studio it was annoying, because it seemed as if he was ignoring us for the bigger audience.  It makes political sense, of course, but feels rather like being the actor’s spouse at a Hollywood party who no-one cares about and who is left holding the egg sandwiches.  He lost me towards the end because he was so inclusive I was expecting him to ask his mates Dave and Gord to pow wow round the camp fire singing a chorus of Kum Ba Yah.  I think three viable parties would be good for British politics and I also think the Lib Dems will do well in May, but I don’t think Nick Clegg is the man for the job.

When the leaders came in I gave them all big smiles, particularly Gordon Brown because I wanted to lull him into a false sense of security.  He is not high in my esteem but he sank lower and lower as the debate went on, particularly when he kept insisting that Government waste is helping the economy.  His smile is even creepier in the flesh and I really think there should be a law against it.

I would say that I enjoyed the experience but got little from the debate.  I’d like to have seen shirt sleeves rolled up and a big – though dignified – ding-dong going on.  I’d like to have seen passion and enthusiasm.  I found myself checking my watch a couple of times, but I made sure to do it when GB was talking, just in case the cameras were on me. 

My verdict: on the whole, a wonderful experience, it was nice to be a part of political and television history; a good night out, but not a great one.

*

*

I’ve been so busy with politics,

I almost missed the deadline

for today’s napowrimo poem;

can’t think of much: this is mine.

*

 

 

 

4 Responses to “The Big Let Down”

  1. vivienne blake April 16, 2010 at 13:51 #

    Tilly, your account is priceless, specially “I tripped over a kerb and had to be helped up by a man in a wheelchair ”

    It came across as lacklustre on the screen, too. I kept waiting for them to contradict each other but Alistair thingy announced the next speaker any time it looked like being interesting and the previous one shut up meekly without arguing. I only watched it to try and spot you: I have a pathological aversion to politicians – 99% of all politicians.

    Your poem is SOOO you.

    Like

    • tillybud April 17, 2010 at 09:46 #

      I hope Tory Boy will fall into the 1% some day 🙂

      Like

  2. derrick2 April 16, 2010 at 15:32 #

    I watched too. Given the straight jackets they had all insisted on wearing, I’m not surprised if passion seemed lacking. I was even dismayed by the fact that each wore a plain coloured tie in his party’s colour as if that was the only way viewers would recognise them. A tie is the one tiny bit of personality a man can reflect and heaven knows theirs would be sober enough at the best of times! But I’m glad you had an experience. Pity about the egg sandwiches though!

    Like

    • tillybud April 17, 2010 at 09:45 #

      I wonder if the ties were part of the rules, because they looked like they were made from the same material.

      Like

I welcome your comments but be warned: I'm menopausal and as likely to snarl as smile. Wine or Maltesers are an acceptable bribe; or a compliment about my youthful looks and cheery disposition will do in a pinch.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: