TV debates: five not hugely important things you might have missed

Election 2010: Guffwatch!

Having surfaced from a deep submersion in the post-tv debate analysis pond (it is thick and murky down there, with a million tweets and so much Clegg) it is now time to take a calmer view of last night's proceedings. Why, I ask, have the following not been addressed with the same fierce scrutiny as who won/the rules/Clegg/Clegg/Clegg/Clegg/Clegg?

1. The opening credits. Were we in 1972? The most important televisual moment in political broadcasting history and ITV took a leaf out of the design concept behind The Generation Game. (Also, did the whole thing not, at times, resemble The Weakest Link? I kept expecting Clegg and Brown to hold up cards with "Cameron" scrawled on it. Cut to an interview with Cambo saying he thought it was all very unfair and meanie Brown was just out to get him.)

2. Cleggoland (this one definitely isn't going to catch on) drawing huge circles on his pad, clearly around the audience's names so he could say things like "Jacqueline, you're my friend aren't you?" and "Jacqueline, now I've said your name 85 times you'll have to vote for me! Won't you!"

3. Alastair Stewart's panic-stricken voice - revealed as he tried to assert his authority (really self-smashed in the moment he got the dates of the devolved debates wrong and maniacally whittered something about the "heat of the moment") by barking out their names with ever-escalating volume. "Mr Brown, Mr CAMeron, MIIISSTTTEERRR CLEGGGGGG!).

4. Cambo's angry eyes. Smiling with his mouth, murderous with his eyes. Never a good look.

5. Everyone in the audience was in a disguise! Seriously - have you ever seen so many false moustaches, patently fake glasses and oversized wigs? Tell me someone else noticed this - it was like they had all dressed up as the cast of Last of the Summer Wine in there. Right that's one too many dated TV show references. Over and out.

(Oh and the most important question of all. Who won on the GUFF? It's got to be Gordo doesn't it? The "I agree with Nick" stuff was nauseating and there was a nationwide cringe as he crunched out the jokes. The ultimate poll, then: The Guff Poll. Gordo: 1. Cambo: 0 (but +10 for his protestation after the event that he'd had so much fun! Puh-lease.) Cleggoland: 0 (but -4000 according to the British public who have suddenly heard of the Liberal Democrats).

Sophie Elmhirst is features editor of the New Statesman

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Recess confidential: Labour's liquid party

Sniffing out the best stories from Westminster, including Showsec, soames, and Smith-side splits.

If you are celebrating in a brewery, don’t ask Labour to provide the drinks. Because of the party’s continuing failure to secure a security contractor for its Liverpool conference, it is still uncertain whether the gathering will take place at all. Since boycotting G4S, the usual supplier, over its links with Israeli prisons, Labour has struggled to find an alternative. Of the five firms approached, only one – Showsec – offered its services. But the company’s non-union-recognition policy is inhibiting an agreement. The GMB, the firm’s antagonist, has threatened to picket the conference if Showsec is awarded the contract. In lieu of a breakthrough, sources suggest two alternatives: the police (at a cost of £59.65 per constable per hour), or the suspension of the G4S boycott. “We’ll soon find out which the Corbynites dislike the least,” an MP jested. Another feared that the Tories’ attack lines will write themselves: “How can Labour be trusted with national security if it can’t organise its own?”

Farewell, then, to Respect. The left-wing party founded in 2004 and joined by George Galloway after his expulsion from Labour has officially deregistered itself.

“We support Corbyn’s Labour Party,” the former MP explained, urging his 522,000 Facebook followers to sign up. “The Labour Party does not belong to one man,” replied Jess Phillips MP, who also pointed out in the same tweet that Respect had “massively failed”. Galloway, who won 1.4 per cent of the vote in this year’s London mayoral election, insists that he is not seeking to return to Labour. But he would surely be welcomed by Jeremy Corbyn’s director of communications, Seumas Milne, whom he once described as his “closest friend”. “We have spoken almost daily for 30 years,” Galloway boasted.

After Young Labour’s national committee voted to endorse Corbyn, its members were aggrieved to learn that they would not be permitted to promote his candidacy unless Owen Smith was given equal treatment. The leader’s supporters curse more “dirty tricks” from the Smith-sympathetic party machine.

Word reaches your mole of a Smith-side split between the ex-shadow cabinet ministers Lisa Nandy and Lucy Powell. The former is said to be encouraging the challenger’s left-wing platform, while the latter believes that he should make a more centrist pitch. If, as expected, Smith is beaten by Corbyn, it’s not only the divisions between the leader and his opponents that will be worth watching.

Nicholas Soames, the Tory grandee, has been slimming down – so much so, that he was congratulated by Tom Watson, Labour’s deputy leader, on his weight loss. “Soon I’ll be able to give you my old suits!” Soames told the similarly rotund Watson. 

Kevin Maguire is away

I'm a mole, innit.

This article first appeared in the 25 August 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Cameron: the legacy of a loser