10 ways to avoid Guff in tonight’s debates (please)

Election 2010: Guffwatch!

1. The basics. Brown, don't say the word "future". Cambo (why hasn't that caught on?), don't say the word "society". Clegg, don't say the word "Vince".

2. No one say the word "progressive".

3. Cambo (I'm sticking with it), if you say the phrase "broken society" you have to give, out of your own pocket, everyone in the audience a fiver just for being so darn rude. And you also have to give everyone you want to take part in the "big society" a chocolate bar to make them feel better about being broken. I presume that's all of us.

4. Pretend you're talking to your virtually-anonymous-and-rarely-photographed wives. Maybe that will make you sound more human. (If not, I'm really worried about the state of your pillow-talk.)

5. Say something we haven't heard before. Yes, that's right! Something new, unscripted, witty, fun, genuine. If this provokes a sudden and unexpected nervous breakdown you probably aren't the right bloke for the job anyway.

6. Imagine that every time you say the word "vision", you lose half a million viewers.

7. Tell a knock-knock joke.

8. Start swearing compulsively.

9. Suddenly, and inexplicably, rip off your tie.

10. Don't say anything at all! Maintain a vow of sturdy and stubborn silence. You will immediately be adored by the entire population of the United Kingdom and win as many votes as Hamid Karzai.

My predictions: Brown will self-combust halfway through. Remember that scene in The Witches where Anjelica Huston turns into a rat with green smoke coming out of her ears? A bit like that. Cambo will become oddly sweaty on that sizeable forehead of his (favourite NS quote of all time? Clive James: "There's something about David Cameron that bothers me -- those features of his are still waiting to turn into a face") and will suddenly start weeping for no reason, tears and perspiration mixing in an unholy soup. Oh, and Clegg. You know what? I think old Clegg might do pretty well out of all this.

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Sophie Elmhirst is features editor of the New Statesman

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Why it's far too early to declare Ukip dead

The party could yet thrive if Brexit disappoints those who voted Leave.

"Nothing except a battle lost can be half as melancholy as a battle won," wrote the Duke of Wellington after Waterloo. Ukip can testify to this. Since achieving its founding aim - a British vote to leave the EU - the party has descended into a rolling crisis.

Theresa May's vow to pursue Brexit, and to achieve control of immigration, robbed Ukip of its political distinctiveness. But the party's greatest enemy has been itself. Its leader Paul Nuttall did not merely lose the Stoke by-election (despite the city recording the highest Leave vote), he self-destructed in the process. Contrary to his assertions, Nuttall did not achieve a PhD, was never a professional footballer and did not lose "close personal friends" at Hillsborough. Ukip's deputy Peter Whittle pleaded last weekend that voters needed more time to get to know Nuttall. No, the problem was that they got to know him all too well. A mere three months after becoming leader, Nuttall has endured a level of mockery from which far stronger men would struggle to recover (and he may soon be relieved of the task).

Since then, Ukip's millionaire sugar daddy Arron Banks has threatened to leave the party unless he is made chairman and Nigel Farage is awarded a new role (seemingly that of de facto leader). For good measure, Farage (a man who has failed seven times to enter parliament) has demanded that Ukip's only MP Douglas Carswell is expelled for the crime of failing to aid his knighthood bid. Not wanting to be outdone, Banks has vowed to stand against Carswell at the next election if the dissenter is not purged. Any suggestion that the party's bloodlust was sated by the flooring of Steve Woolfe and Diane James's 18-day leadership has been entirely dispelled.

For all this, it is too early to pronounce Ukip's death (as many have). Despite May's ascension and its myriad woes, it has maintained an average poll rating of 12 per cent this year. This is far from its 2014 zenith, when it polled as high as 25 per cent, but also far from irrelevancy. Incapable of winning Labour seats itself, Ukip could yet gift them to the Conservatives by attracting anti-Tory, anti-Corbyn voters (in marginals, the margins matter).

Though Theresa May appears invulnerable, Brexit could provide fertile political territory for Ukip. Those who voted Leave in the hope of a radical reduction in immigration will likely be dismayed if only a moderate fall results. Cabinet ministers who boasted during the referendum of their desire to reduce immigration have already been forced to concede that newcomers will be required to fill vacancies for years to come. Ukip will be the natural vehicle for those aggrieved by Brexit "betrayal". Some Leave voters are already dismayed by the slowness of the process (questioning why withdrawal wasn't triggered immediately) and will revolt at the "transitional period" and budget contributions now regarded as inevitable.

The declarations of Ukip's death by both conservatives and liberals have all the hallmarks of wishful thinking. Even if the party collapses in its present form, something comparable to it would emerge. Indeed, the complacency of its opponents could provide the very conditions it needs to thrive.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.