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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Manchester united: "A minority of absolute idiots are trying to break us apart"

At the vigil, one man's T-shirt read: "The only thing that's allowed to be separated by colour is the laundry."

A day after one of the worst atrocities in the history of the city, Manchester's people were keen to show the world the resilience of the Mancunian spirit.

Dom's, an Italian restaurant, is in walking distance from Manchester Arena, where 22 people lost their lives to a suicide bomber the night before. On Tuesday, the staff were giving out free coffee, tea and pizza to anyone who needed it. On a table outside, there was a condolences book, and teary passersby left RIP messages to those who perished. Under a bright blue sky, the community seemed more united than ever, the goodwill pouring out of everyone I met. But the general mood was sombre. 

"We need to make space for healing and for building up our community again, and just getting people to feel comfortable in their own city," the Dean of Manchester, Rogers Govendor, told me.

The terrorist has been named as Salman Ramadan Abedi, a 22-year-old Mancunian of Libyan descent. But with a population of 600,000, Manchester is a cosmopolitan hub, and proud of it. Throughout the day I encountered people of all skin shades and religions. On one of the roads off Albert Square, a couple of Orthodox Jewish boys set up a little stand, where people could grab a bottle of water and, if they so desired, hold hands and pray.

On the night of the tragedy, Muslim and Sikh cab drivers turned off the meter and made their way to Manchester Arena to offer free rides to anyone - many of them injured - who trying to escape the mayhem and reach safety. "It's what we do around here," my taxi driver said with a thick Arabic accent.

The dissonance between the increasingly frantic debate on social media and what was discussed on the streets was stark. I spoke, on and off the record, with about two dozen residents, eavesdropped on a number of conversations, and not once did I hear anyone speaking out against the cultural melting pot that Manchester is today. If anything, people were more eager than ever to highlight it. 

"Manchester has always been hugely multicultural, and people always pull together at times of trouble and need," said Andrew Hicklin. "They are not going to change our society and who we are as people. We live free lives."

It was also a day where political divisions were put aside. Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn agreed to suspend their campaigns. For the next few days there will be no Labour vs Tory, no Brexiteer vs Remainer, at least not in this part of the country. This city has closed ranks and nothing will be allowed to come between that cohesion.

"I don't demonise anyone," said Dennis Bolster, who stopped by to sign the condolences book outside Dom's. "I just know a small minority of absolute idiots, driven by whatever they think they are driven by, are the people who are trying to break us apart."

Later in the day, as people were getting off work, thousands flocked to Albert Square to show their respects to the victims. Members of the Sikh community entered the square carrying "I love MCR" signs. The crowd promptly applauded. A middle-aged man wore a T-shirt which said: "The only thing that's allowed to be separated by colour is the laundry." A moment of silent was observed. It was eerie, at times overwhelmingly sad. But it was also moving and inspiring.

Local poet Tony Walsh brought brief respite from the pain when he recited "This is the Place", his ode to the city and its people. The first verse went:

This is the place In the north-west of England. It’s ace, it’s the best

And the songs that we sing from the stands, from our bands

Set the whole planet shaking.

Our inventions are legends. There’s nowt we can’t make, and so we make brilliant music

We make brilliant bands

We make goals that make souls leap from seats in the stands

On stage, everyday political foes became temporary allies. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, home secretary Amber Rudd, Lib Dem leader Tim Farron, Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham and house speaker John Bercow all brushed shoulders. Their message was clear: "we are Manchester too."

The vigil lasted a little over half an hour. On other occasions, a crowd this size in the centre of Manchester would give authorities reason for concern. But not this time. Everyone was in their best behaviour. Only a few were drinking. 

As Mancunians made their way home, I went over to a family that had been standing not far from me during the vigil. The two children, a boy and a girl, both not older than 10, were clutching their parents' hands the whole time. I asked dad if he will give them a few extra hugs and kisses as he tucks them in tonight. "Oh, absolutely," he said. "Some parents whose children went to the concert last night won't ever get to do that again. It's heartbreaking."

Felipe Araujo is a freelance journalist based in London. He writes about race, culture and sports. He covered the Rio Olympics and Paralympics on the ground for the New Statesman. He tweets @felipethejourno.

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