TV debates: what Sarah Palin knew

Lessons for Brown, Cameron and Clegg? You betcha.

In the next issue of the New Statesman, Dominic Sandbrook has a terrific essay on the televised leaders' debates, What Ronald Reagan knew. His hook is Reagan's folksy, charm-laden, policy-lite performance against President Jimmy Carter in 1980 -- "There you go again" and all that.

If the actor-turned-president Reagan is a role model, what (if anything) can Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg hope to learn from John McCain's one-time running mate, Sarah Palin? Well, two things.

First, lower expectations to such an extent that anything other than a complete meltdown will be seen as a triumph. According to John Heilemann and Mark Halperin's account of the 2008 presidential race, Game Change (aka Race of a Lifetime), "McCainworld was ecstatic" after the 2 October debate. "Palin had not only survived, but fought Biden to something like a draw," they wrote, though not everyone saw it that way.

Second, avoid tricky words. Again, we're grateful to Heilemann and Halperin for this account of the Republican's debate prep:

Over and over, Palin referred to Obama's running mate as "Senator Obiden" -- or was it "O'Biden"? -- and the corrections from her team weren't sticking. Finally, three staffers, practically in unison, suggested, Why don't you just call him Joe?

And that's exactly what she did. As the two would-be VPs greet each other, you can just hear above the applause Palin eagerly asking Biden: "Hey, can I call you Joe?"

By the way, you can join the New Statesman team for some live blogging on Thursday night's debate.

Jon Bernstein, former deputy editor of New Statesman, is a digital strategist and editor. He tweets @Jon_Bernstein. 

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“Trembling, shaking / Oh, my heart is aching”: the EU out campaign song will give you chills

But not in a good way.

You know the story. Some old guys with vague dreams of empire want Britain to leave the European Union. They’ve been kicking up such a big fuss over the past few years that the government is letting the public decide.

And what is it that sways a largely politically indifferent electorate? Strikes hope in their hearts for a mildly less bureaucratic yet dangerously human rights-free future? An anthem, of course!

Originally by Carly You’re so Vain Simon, this is the song the Leave.EU campaign (Nigel Farage’s chosen group) has chosen. It is performed by the singer Antonia Suñer, for whom freedom from the technofederalists couldn’t come any suñer.

Here are the lyrics, of which your mole has done a close reading. But essentially it’s just nature imagery with fascist undertones and some heartburn.

"Let the river run

"Let all the dreamers

"Wake the nation.

"Come, the new Jerusalem."

Don’t use a river metaphor in anything political, unless you actively want to evoke Enoch Powell. Also, Jerusalem? That’s a bit... strong, isn’t it? Heavy connotations of being a little bit too Englandy.

"Silver cities rise,

"The morning lights,

"The streets that meet them,

"And sirens call them on

"With a song."

Sirens and streets. Doesn’t sound like a wholly un-authoritarian view of the UK’s EU-free future to me.

"It’s asking for the taking,

"Trembling, shaking,

"Oh, my heart is aching."

A reference to the elderly nature of many of the UK’s eurosceptics, perhaps?

"We’re coming to the edge,

"Running on the water,

"Coming through the fog,

"Your sons and daughters."

I feel like this is something to do with the hosepipe ban.

"We the great and small,

"Stand on a star,

"And blaze a trail of desire,

"Through the dark’ning dawn."

Everyone will have to speak this kind of English in the new Jerusalem, m'lady, oft with shorten’d words which will leave you feeling cringéd.

"It’s asking for the taking.

"Come run with me now,

"The sky is the colour of blue,

"You’ve never even seen,

"In the eyes of your lover."

I think this means: no one has ever loved anyone with the same colour eyes as the EU flag.

I'm a mole, innit.