TV debates part two: the most exciting moment in politics ever in the world ever?

Election 2010: Guffwatch!

You'd never know that round two of the debates was tonight. It's quiet as volcanic ash out there - no hype, no spin, no hilariously hysterical newspaper attempts to batter a popular opponent. So in the midst of this smothering silence, and following on from last week's advice, some further tips for the leaders tonight.

1. Cambo, don't panic. The more you say you're "really, really" enjoying every second of the election campaign, especially the debates, the clearer it is that you are actually thinking, "How the bloody Cotswolds HELL did I mess this one up so comprehensively?" The panic, though, is a bad look: you go all tight-eyed and clenched and false-friendly and rolled-up sleeves and everything's FINE and I feel you might be a danger to yourself and those around you. Take a leaf out of Gordo's book: be unnaturally, strangely calm.

2. Cambo and Gordo, for God's sake, don't think you can pull off the Clegg tricks without anyone noticing. The first time one of you a) looks straight into the camera, b) repeatedly uses an audience member's name or c) insouciantly plunges your hands into your pockets, the entire country will simultaneously erupt in a giant groan of contempt before turning off the television and deciding that doing the Heat crossword would be an activity packed with greater integrity and insight.

3. Try and sort out what on earth happens at the end. Last week there was the weird Cameron-tugging-Cleggoland's-sleeve debacle. This week I can imagine Cambo rugby-tackling Gordo round the knees if he tries to gladhand the crowd again. Just mutually agree to spend the last five minutes wrestling on stage or something. Or a song? A song would be lovely.

4. Clegg, hold it together. Yours is the hardest task - after all that "look! he's Obama!" and "look! it's Jesus!" stuff, unless you juggle while balancing on a unicycle with a ball on your nose the whole way through you're inevitably going to disappoint everyone. My tip? Every now and then, break into that fluent Spanish of yours. Impressive, and it's foreign affairs isn't it? Must be allowed.

5. Adam Boulton, heir to the mighty Alastair Stewart. Just be better than Stewart - less barking, less debilitating nerves - that's all I ask.

(Predictions: Clegg, overwhelmed by the sheer force of his own insubstantiated popularity compulsively lies the whole way through - no once can take that much spontaneous love. Cambo, knowing this is his moment of truth, lists so many people he's met that he loses control and starts fabricating them ("And then I met Miss Piggy and Lady Gaga, who hadn't managed to have their hips done on the NHS, and it's a scandal I tell you!). Brown, coached on joke-cracking for the whole week, will randomly insert gags at entirely inappropriate moments. Eg, in the middle of Boulton's intro, "How many Lib Dems does it take to change a light bulb?!", before cackling away to himself in the corner.)

Sophie Elmhirst is features editor of the New Statesman

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What Jeremy Corbyn gets right about the single market

Technically, you can be outside the EU but inside the single market. Philosophically, you're still in the EU. 

I’ve been trying to work out what bothers me about the response to Jeremy Corbyn’s interview on the Andrew Marr programme.

What bothers me about Corbyn’s interview is obvious: the use of the phrase “wholesale importation” to describe people coming from Eastern Europe to the United Kingdom makes them sound like boxes of sugar rather than people. Adding to that, by suggesting that this “importation” had “destroy[ed] conditions”, rather than laying the blame on Britain’s under-enforced and under-regulated labour market, his words were more appropriate to a politician who believes that immigrants are objects to be scapegoated, not people to be served. (Though perhaps that is appropriate for the leader of the Labour Party if recent history is any guide.)

But I’m bothered, too, by the reaction to another part of his interview, in which the Labour leader said that Britain must leave the single market as it leaves the European Union. The response to this, which is technically correct, has been to attack Corbyn as Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Norway and Iceland are members of the single market but not the European Union.

In my view, leaving the single market will make Britain poorer in the short and long term, will immediately render much of Labour’s 2017 manifesto moot and will, in the long run, be a far bigger victory for right-wing politics than any mere election. Corbyn’s view, that the benefits of freeing a British government from the rules of the single market will outweigh the costs, doesn’t seem very likely to me. So why do I feel so uneasy about the claim that you can be a member of the single market and not the European Union?

I think it’s because the difficult truth is that these countries are, de facto, in the European Union in any meaningful sense. By any estimation, the three pillars of Britain’s “Out” vote were, firstly, control over Britain’s borders, aka the end of the free movement of people, secondly, more money for the public realm aka £350m a week for the NHS, and thirdly control over Britain’s own laws. It’s hard to see how, if the United Kingdom continues to be subject to the free movement of people, continues to pay large sums towards the European Union, and continues to have its laws set elsewhere, we have “honoured the referendum result”.

None of which changes my view that leaving the single market would be a catastrophe for the United Kingdom. But retaining Britain’s single market membership starts with making the argument for single market membership, not hiding behind rhetorical tricks about whether or not single market membership was on the ballot last June, when it quite clearly was. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.