Thursday, 22 April 2010

You can't be in three places at once .. .

This was my column in the Bath Chronicle of April 15

I don’t want to give the impression that I have a spectacular social life or I am greatly in demand – both statements, sadly, would be wildly inaccurate – but I have found myself ‘triple-booked’ tonight (Thursday, April 15)

There are three major things going on which I have been invited to and which I said I would love to attend (two in Bath and one in Bradford on Avon) and unless I do what the Vicar of Dibley once famously did when she ate several consecutive Christmas dinners for fear of offending people, I am not going to be able to be everywhere.

The real problem is, however, that although all the events I’ve been invited are very tempting, I would really love instead to be sitting on my sofa watching the first of the big leaders’ debates which are probably going to dominate this General Election campaign.

I know many of you would probably do anything to avoid such debates – and would accept six invitations if it meant being sure of doing so – but I just can’t help it. I like politics and I like debates – there, I’ve confessed it.

To be honest though I’m not entirely sure what to expect as we see Mr Brown, Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg take off their boxing gloves and attempt to land killer punches on their opponents’ chins.

In America these debates are not only the main part of the campaign, in some ways they are the only part as millions of people tune in and presidencies can be won or lost on the strength of what we see. In Britain, as a colleague who also loves his politics but will be running a mile from these debates pointed out, it is different because we get to see our political leaders at each other’s throats week in week out at the House of Commons. Seeing Obama verses McCain would have been a unique sight to America viewers in the last campaign – for us seeing our leaders trading blows is pretty old hat.

And yet, these debates will, I believe, be quite a different experience for all of us watching. The House of Commons battles are often spoilt by the ludicrous cat calls from those who belong in short trousers on the back benches but this will be a proper and (hopefully) quite dignified debate where the lack of interruptions should mean we get to hear a bit more depth to the political arguments than we have seen so far with the release of those three dreary and somewhat idea-free manifestos.

So who will win tonight? Will it be the heavyweight in the red corner, the pretender-to-the-throne in the blue or will it be that cheeky up and coming youngster in the yellow? All bets are off – I just hope all television sets aren’t as well!

Of course, all of this doesn’t help my dilemma of how to be in three places at the same time so if you are reading this and you know I should have been with you tonight and you didn’t see me, I humbly apologise. I will be somewhere else – and that is not on the sofa. Honest.

Oh, and of course there is one other thing. Tonight’s debate is on ITV – and is slap bang up against two of the Beeb’s best programmes, Have I Got News For You and Outnumbered.

Choices, choices, choices – it’s worse than deciding who to vote for!

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