This morning I read in the UK Times that the Scottish Nationalists, if they hold the balance of power after May 7th, would use their power to veto line items of government expenditure in future budgets. Specifically, they will vote against any Finance Bill that provides for the continuance of Britain’s nuclear deterrent. Also on the SNP agenda – if not explicitly stated – is another referendum on Scottish independence.
They won’t succeed with the former, and they won’t bring about the latter. What they could do is to trigger a form of politics not seen since the Second World War: “national government”. Not a formal arrangement wherein the two largest parties come together at a time of national emergency as was the case in 1931 and 1939, but something more fluid and subtle.
I use the nuclear question and Scottish independence as two stand-out issues on which either party, Labour or Conservative, might seek the support of the other in order to override the ambitions of the SNP. The independence issue is fairly straightforward. If the government required an act of parliament to authorise a new referendum, the two major parties could simply bring the measure down on a free vote.
The continuance of the nuclear deterrent is less simple. Government expenditure is rolled up into an all-encompassing annual budget. If, say, the SNP threatened to vote a Labour Finance Bill down if it included expenditure on the Trident nuclear programme, they would get a more sympathetic ear among Labour members of parliament than among the Conservatives. But Labour, in its manifesto is “committed to a minimum, credible, independent nuclear capability, delivered through a Continuous At-Sea Deterrent”. So its MPs would be unlikely to join the SNP in torpedoing the Finance Bill on the issue. If the SNP delivered on its threat, and the Conservative opposition also voted against the Bill for its own ideological reasons, an amended Bill would have to be brought before Parliament.
At this point, to save the nuclear deterrent, Labour would need to reach an accommodation, not with the SNP, but with the Conservatives, who would no doubt insist on watering down those aspects of the Budget that they most disliked as the price of their support. And if the Conservatives formed a minority government, the same dynamics would apply vis-a-vis Labour.
So it’s easy to see a scenario in which the two main parties would work together to defeat attempts by minority parties – the SNP and UKIP being the most likely actors – to introduce measures that they considered would be against the national interest.
The result would be de facto government by broad consensus – a government based on national unity if you like, rather than a government of national unity. Measures on one party’s agenda that were supported by the SNP would be enacted regardless of the opposition’s view. But where the SNP pushes too hard, the government could turn to the opposition for support.
You could argue that this situation would lead to horse-trading, slow decision-making and inertia, particularly on matters of spending. Some would say that this would be bad for business confidence, therefore for the economy and ultimately for Britain’s international reputation.
Not necessarily. The essence of modern democratic politics is the promise of change for the better. The problem is that the first part of the equation doesn’t always result in the second. No party will be elected on the basis of keeping things exactly as they are. So even if they believe that this is the best course – as the Conservatives do with the economy, for example – they still feel compelled to come up with eye-catching new policies to counter those of their opponents. The result is what we see in the political manifestos: commitments to a whole bunch of changes that may or may not improve the state of the nation even though they appeal to sections of the electorate that they wish to target.
The major parties make these promises in full knowledge that if they have to form minority governments, which is highly likely this year, all bets – and all promises – are off. So in effect the promises are meaningless. They are, in fact, aspirations.
So if we end up with a parliament after the election that can only enact measures that have broad cross-party support, is that such a bad thing? If a new measure is proposed, tested and scrutinised without regard to party allegiance, will that not ensure that only the most important and urgently-needed measures will make the cut? That will depend on the ability of the parties, their members and their managers to step back from their allegiances and vote instead in the national interest.
I believe that there are times when it does no harm to slow down the pace of legislative change. If we end up with a government that can introduce only the most self-evidently needed changes, the country will not be the worse off, even if the politicians and civil servants find themselves with more time on their hands than usual. In many situations they will need to work to achieve objectives within the existing legislative framework. A few years of positive inertia, in other words.
Not for ever, you understand. There are times when radical action is required that will not be agreeable to both major parties. But if we have a few years of government by national consensus, followed by a majority government in the following election – whenever that might be – it’s reasonable to expect that the party with the strongest arguments will carry the day, and thereby be in a position to make major changes.
Am I ridiculously naïve, unrealistic, hopelessly optimistic? Maybe. I’m not a professional politician or a political analyst. But I’ve lived through enough election campaigns as frenzied as the current one, only to see normal service resumed after the excitement has died down.
As long as the new parliament, and whoever ends up governing us, retains a measure of common sense, we’ll get by. So I for one will not spend the next three weeks in a lather of anxiety while the politicians – nervously eyeing their future employment – campaign until they drop.
Whichever way things go on May 7th, the following month will be extremely interesting.
It’s 1971, and I’m sitting in my room in a student house in King’s Heath, a suburb of Birmingham. Not studying as usual. The gas fire is on – no central heating in those days. I have record deck, a decent amplifier and two big speakers. Somewhere on the floor are my LPs, my most precious possessions.
I have about a hundred. Some classical, the rest the usual mish-mash that a student might possess who’s at university for the experience rather than through a burning desire to follow a specific career: The Stones, the Beatles, Crosby Stills and Nash, Leonard Cohen, the Doors, the Incredible Spring Band, Jefferson Airplane, Joni Mitchell, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Traffic and Blind Faith. Each grabbed me in different ways: lyrics, musicianship, emotional, political and social reach.
I have a few friends with me on the floor of my room. We didn’t do armchairs in those days, just carpets and mattresses. We often sit listening to the music in silence, incapable of conversation for reasons I’ll leave you to guess.
Those were the days. If we weren’t playing records, we might have been in the pub, at parties or at gigs in the student’s union. Mornings were not a good time. I lost count of the number of 9 o’clock lectures I missed. When I look back it seems that my whole life revolved around music – and of course the usually hopeless search for romance. Later I went on for a few years to promote concerts and manage groups. Some of my friends were already writing songs and playing in pubs or student events.
None of us hit the commercial heights for one reason or another, yet for me that period – the early Seventies – was one of the most glorious times of my life. Those who stayed with their music have produced work as memorable as that of the vinyl stars I listened to back then. Andrew Morton, for example, and the late Jim Cleary.
Some of the music that inspired us in 1971 I never revisited, or if I did I laughed out loud that I was ever so enraptured – the Incredible String Band, for example. Fey, self-indulgent, over-ornate. Baroque fury signifying nothing unless your perception was chemically distorted. Other artists I listen to still, even if the passage of time and a different perspective makes me smile at the naivety of the lyrics.
But there was one person – a singer – with whom I fell in love, and I’m in love with her still, even though she’s been dead for thirty-seven years. Did I really fall in love with the person? Of course not. I only knew her through her music, through what she projected in her songs and with her matchless singing. Sadness, longing, joy, love and revenge.
That person was Sandy Denny. I still get lost in her music today. And I still mourn her early death – one of the less celebrated music casualties of the last four decades, yet no less a tragedy than the demise Hendrix, Joplin, Morrison and other contemporaries who crashed and burned.
Mick Houghton, music journalist and PR, has written a biography of Sandy. It’s called I’ve Always Kept a Unicorn. In the introduction he talks about his love affair with her. So I was not alone in my devotion. I suspect there are thousands like me and Houghton. I hope they get to read his book.
For those who are not familiar with Sandy’s life and career, here’s a nutshell. Born and raised in Wimbledon, she started singing in folk clubs as an awkward teenager with a divine voice. She rubbed shoulders with the likes of Paul Simon, Bert Jansch, John Renbourn, Richard Thompson, Martin Carthy and Dave Swarbrick. After an unhappy spell as an auxiliary nurse she went to Kingston Art College, which seems to have been a breeding ground for musicians – other eminent alumni included Renbourn and Eric Clapton.
After a brief spell with the Strawbs, Sandy joined Fairport Convention and recorded three memorable albums, What We Did On Our Holidays, Unhalfbricking and Leige and Leif. Between the last two albums the band were shattered by the road accident that killed their drummer, Martin Lamble and left Ashley Hutchings, the bass player, seriously injured. Swarbrick, Britain’s foremost folk violinist, then joined Fairport. He, Sandy, new drummer Dave Mattacks and bassist Dave Pegg were part of a band that effectively to re-invented themselves after the crash. With Leige and Leif you could argue that they single-handedly created the folk rock genre. Bands like Traffic, Steeleye Span and even Led Zeppelin followed in their footsteps.
Sandy left Fairport in 1969 and formed a new band with Trevor Lucas, her Australian boyfriend. Fotheringay recorded a single album. Sandy then released three solo albums before returning briefly to Fairport, with whom she recorded two albums – one live and one studio. Subsequently her career went into decline as she became increasingly dependent on drugs and alcohol. After her second stint with Fairport she recorded one more solo album and was then dropped by her record label. She died in 1978, aged 31, after a fall which appeared to have triggered her collapse into a coma a few days later.
Like Houghton, I lost her in her last few years, and only when she died did I realise what we had all lost. Her death had as least as much impact on me as John Lennon’s the following year. Lennon died young, but he fully explored his talent over more than twenty years of making music. Sandy’s life was full of what if’s. The commercial success many felt was her due eluded her. She was and remains a cult figure, unlike her American contemporary Joni Mitchell. What if, for example, she had settled in California, where she had a large following?
In I’ve Always Kept a Unicorn, Mick Houghton fills out the bare facts of her life with input from a host of people who knew and worked with her. Trevor Lucas, the love of her life whom she eventually married, is not around to tell his story. He died of a heart attack in 1989 at the age of 45. But by piecing together contemporary accounts and more recent interviews, the author tells a tale that would be familiar to those who believe that extreme talent, or genius if you want to call it that, often comes at the price of a tortured personal life.
Many of Houghton’s sources describe a woman who was insecure but exuberant, lovable yet sometimes hateful, stubborn yet sometimes indecisive. She struggled against being labelled a folk singer, rightly pointing out that her work went way beyond her original folk roots. Her soaring vocal contribution to Led Zeppelin’s Battle of Evermore is evidence that she was no ordinary singer.
Sandy’s own songs are almost always contemplative, often sad and frequently autobiographical. Unlike Joni Mitchell, she rarely spoke directly of her life, preferring to rely on metaphor.
As a singer, she was beyond compare. Yes, that’s a highly subjective view, but one shared by many of her friends and fellow musicians. For me, only Barbra Streisand and Celine Dion come close to her for feeling, phrasing and vocal quality. What perhaps clinched my love affair with her was her Englishness – despite her Scottish roots – and in her songs the sense of innocence and melancholy that chimed with my age at the time. Yet unlike many of her contemporaries, much of her work feels as fresh and compelling today as it did in her lifetime. Surely a mark of greatness.
If you have have never encountered Sandy Denny, you could do worse than start with Banks of the Nile, Who Knows Where the Time Goes, It’ll Take a Long Time and Fotheringay. Also take a look at this BBC recording from 1971 on YouTube. It doesn’t feature my favourite songs but captures her intensity of performance and the purity of her voice.
If you’re among the many who loved Sandy when she was alive, or discovered her subsequently, Mick Houghton’s book is well worth a read, if for no other reason than that he puts her music into the context of her life – her often stormy relationship with Trevor Lucas; the producers, managers and record company bosses who supported her, messed with her and ultimately walked away; her fellow musicians who admired and loved her but often found working with her exasperating; the underlying meanings and messages in her songs; and the final weeks and months when she fell apart.
As with all artists who die young, there is always the lingering question of what she might have achieved under different circumstances. Ironically as it turned out, one of the songs she recorded was Elton John’s Candle in the Wind – more appropriate to her life than to those of Marilyn Monroe and Princess Diana, I’ve always thought.
If you believe in predestination, then the last word belongs to Linda Thompson, whose husband Richard worked with Sandy throughout most of her career. Houghton quotes her thus as she compares Sandy with Nick Drake, another revered singer/songwriter who died young:
“I don’t mean to romanticise, but I am a believer in fate or destiny. She had such an amazing life and such an amazing talent and she left some wonderful songs and that might have been all that was meant to be. And Richard did say something like that at the funeral – something to the effect that she was never meant to write anything more, which upset some people. But we were both like that at the time. I still feel like that.
Sandy wasn’t daft. Part of her went to the country to finish the job. It was the same with Nick Drake. I never feel with either of them that it was the biggest tragedy, “How could this have happened?” It was perfectly obvious to everybody and it was perfectly obvious to them. That’s their destiny. What Nick and Sandy left behind is amazing, and I don’t think he had much of a will to live at the end. I don’t think Sandy did either.”
Whether Sandy Denny’s end was premature or written in some book of destiny, she left us plenty to treasure, for which we should be thankful. And If I was given the choice of a long life or thirty-one years in which I would match her achievements, I sometimes wonder if I wouldn’t have opted for the latter.
Yesterday’s announcement by Neil MacGregor, the Director of the British Museum, that he is leaving to set up a similar institution in Berlin coincides with news that Goethe University in Frankfurt is setting up the nation’s first professorship in Holocaust studies.
I have a few memories of Germany, some good and others not so good. I once spent an idyllic autumn walking down the Roman limes – the border fortifications that marked the limit of Roman rule – in the forest near Bad Homburg, living on a diet of grapes and wurst. I had a conversation on economics – in English – with a Stuttgart taxi driver whose knowledge far exceeded my own and probably that of the vast majority of English cabbies. In Frankfurt I got drunk for the first time at the age of eighteen. The poison was a German equivalent of scrumpy, a cloudy, toxic brew much loved in England’s West Country. Not an experience I would wish to repeat.
A few years ago I made my first trip to Berlin – and hated it. I felt oppressed by its monumental architecture. Wide streets, huge buildings towering over the inhabitants. A series of messages – from the time of Frederick the Great through the Bismarck era, the Nazis period and the rivalry of two ideologies that divided the city in two during the Cold War. Even after unification, Berlin continued to build on a monumental scale, re-building much of what was flattened during World War 2, and creating steel and glass blockbusters to evidence the German state’s modern prosperity.
For me it’s a brutal city, not built for its inhabitants but to show off. Perhaps Berliners like it that way. Certainly the couple energetically making love in front of an uncurtained third floor window opposite the pavement café where I and my friends were eating seemed to enjoy sharing their passion with the rest of the world.
I should have expected the city to make a strong impression one way or another given its history, and given its modern reputation for “edginess” (one of those clichés beloved of travel journalists that usually send me on a wide berth around the object of their attention).
Goering’s Air Ministry, Goebbels’ Propaganda Ministry, the grim remnants of Himmler’s SS/Gestapo headquarters next door to what remains of the Wall and the humble children’s sandpit surrounded by dowdy communist-era apartment blocks that marks the spot where Hitler’s fellow bunker dwellers burned his body were depressing landmarks of the city’s recent past. The concrete blocks of the Holocaust Memorial and the magnificent Pergamon Museum went only some way towards redeeming what was by and large rather a gloomy experience.
But as I often point out to friends whose only experience of Britain is a trip to London – a country should not be judged solely on its capital city. And given the damage inflicted on Germany’s cities by bombs and shells, it’s a miracle that so much survives – rebuilt or otherwise.
The wartime scars – and the enduring fascination in Britain with all things Nazi – tend to overshadow the fact that for much of the five centuries before the last one, Britain and Germany – or the constituent parts thereof, were often the best of friends – culturally, politically and militarily. We acquired a German dynasty on the British throne in the eighteenth century. It was the Prussian army that sealed the victory over Napoleon at Waterloo. Queen Victoria’s consort was a German prince, and her daughter was married to the crown prince of the unified German Empire.
If Germany and its rivals had taken a different path in 1914, perhaps we wouldn’t need Neil MacGregor to remind us of its earlier legacy. We should really speak of Germans rather than Germany, because before 1870 there was no such political entity – merely a plethora of semi-autonomous city states, bishoprics, duchies and kingdoms that constituted a major part of the Holy Roman Empire.
I missed Germany – Memories of a Nation, the British Museum’s 2014 exhibition. But MacGregor’s subsequent book of the same title more than makes up for the omission.
The author uses objects and places and artists to build his narrative, much in the same way as he did with A History of the World in 100 Objects, his renowned radio series for the BBC. Gutenberg’s printing press, Luther’s bible, porcelain from Dresden, Bauhaus furniture, the Iron Cross and the German sausage. Dürer, Goethe, the Brothers Grimm, Klee and Kolwitz. Kaliningrad and Strasbourg, now Russian and French respectively – symbols of Germany’s ever-shifting frontiers.
Over six parts he traces the origins of Germany under the Holy Roman Empire, the growth of trade and commerce, the Reformation and the Enlightenment, political upheavals, civil strife and wars culminating in Napoleon’s destruction of the Empire, unification under Prussian hegemony, the disaster of 1914-1945, the division and finally the reunification of the state we know today – all by reference to the works of art, literature, architectural landmarks, craftmanship and cultural icons.
Were it not for the bestiality of Nazism, these would be the first things to come to mind when we think of Germany – unless of course we happen to be into football.
Memories of a Nation is not an ultra-highbrow tome. Although it’s likely to appeal most to history nuts and culture fiends, it’s highly accessible and beautifully written. It has as many pictures as the average coffee table book, but far more written content across its 500-odd pages.
Much of what I previously knew about Germany was in the context of English history. Without indulging in a laborious chronological narrative, McGregor fills in some gaps. For example he uses the perfection of the Chinese technique for producing porcelain to illustrate the commercial rivalry between cities and states. He tells the story of Tilman Reimenschneider, perhaps the greatest wood sculptor of the renaissance, who found himself on the wrong side of the 1525 Peasant’s Revolt, and ended up having his hands broken for supporting the demands of the oppressed.
He discusses the origin of the Iron Cross, created at a time when the Prussian state – much of it conquered by Napoleon – was confined to the enclave of Koenigsburg (now Kaliningrad, part of Russia). A shortage of precious metals was turned into a virtue; it became fashionable for society women to wear iron jewellery. And iron became a metaphor for Prussian – and ultimately German – resilience and strength, so effectively marshalled by Bismarck, the Iron Chancellor of the unified nation.
My memories of Germany are helplessly bound up by the Nazi era, more so after reading Memories of a Nation. How could a nation – in the widest sense of the word – produce Albrecht Dürer, Martin Luther, Johann Sebastian Bach, generations of classical scholars and archaeologists, writers and philosophers like Goethe and Kant, and yet descend into barbarism? How could people who contributed so much to Western civilisation devote their talent to the industrial-scale extermination of whole sections of their society? A mass psychosis brought about by the collapse of the imperial project in World War 1? A resurgence of deep-seated exceptionalism instilled in the nation in the nineteenth century?
Those questions are endlessly discussed by post-war historians far more knowledgeable than me. But MacGregor’s book led me to revisit The Topography of Terror, a chilling documentation of the apparatus of oppression and extermination established step-by-step over the twelve years of Nazi rule. Chronologies, extracts from laws, memoranda of SS and Gestapo bureaucrats, biographies of victims and perpetrators, pictures of the huge complex of headquarters buildings in central Berlin devoted to the practical application of Nazi ideology tell an appalling story. I bought the book at the exhibition on the site of those demolished buildings, of which little remains but the basement cells in which prisoners awaited torture and death, but these days it’s also available on Amazon.
It’s to Germany’s credit that it never supported a “right to be forgotten”, even if many thousands of willing participants in the Nazi project did manage to fade into obscurity, unnoticed and unpunished. Thanks to its reinvention as an energetic, prosperous and fundamentally humane social democracy, and as the passing of time extinguishes living memories of that dark era, attitudes towards the country have slowly changed from contempt to admiration, underpinned by an acceptance that “that was then, and this is now”.
Today the history and heritage of Germany serves as a lesson as much for the rest of us as for today’s Germans. Other nations and peoples have shown in subsequent decades that what happened in Germany is far from unique; that under certain conditions we are all capable of oppression and genocide, and that civilisation is a very thin veneer, easily fractured. Yet equally many of our societies are capable of stunning acts of invention and creativity, and none more so than the Germans.
Neil MacGregor has done wonders for the British Museum. It’s one of my favourite places in London. I frequently revisit galleries that feel like old friends. And some of the temporary exhibitions, particularly those of Pompeii, the Vikings and the Aztecs, have been a joy to behold.
If he can create an institution in Berlin to rival the one he is leaving, perhaps the record of German contributions to humanity in the eyes of the city’s visitors will finally put its acts of destruction in the shade.
According to Daniel Finkelstein, columnist for The Times, Conservative Peer and statistical analyst. “this campaign will turn out to be the election campaign of our lives”. If last night’s General Election debate between seven party leaders is anything to go by, he may be right, but not necessarily in the way he intended.
The debate was a contest of personalities. Its format was about as conducive to exploring the issues as a stream of Twitter one-liners. For unfortunate voters who might be pondering how to cast their ballots, it was about as useful as trying to listen to birdsong in a London traffic jam.
No doubt the orchestrators of the debate would say that the limited time restricted the number of issues. They would be right, but shoe-horning the opinions of seven leaders into two hours allowed for little more than soundbites, big pictures and pointing fingers. One wonders how Churchill, Macmillan and others would have fared. Or which opponent Harold Wilson would have smacked in the face.
On the personality front the bombastic Nigel Farage, the UKIP leader, won out because he had little to lose, because everybody expected him to behave like the pub loud-mouth. I found myself waiting for each successive variant on his single theme – we must leave the European Union. He also won hands down in the face-pulling contest, rivalled only by Labour’s oh-so-caring Ed Miliband.
Commentators often explain the rise of marginal parties like UKIP on the grounds that an increasing number of voters are anti-politics. I don’t believe that the electorate is wearier with politics than in any of the dozen-or-so previous elections I can recall. I think that most of us are anti-bullshit, and our cynicism is more about broken promises than honest failure. Nothing new there. Have we not heard the same refrain at every election in living memory?
Judging by the issues selected for the debate, it does seem that we are more insular in our concerns than at any recent time. Whether that’s the media’s fault or that of the politicians, I don’t know. But it says much about our national mindset that the Iran agreement – potentially one of the most significant diplomatic breakthroughs of the past decade – took second place to the debate in the subsequent news programmes.
For what it’s worth, here are some thoughts on the topics discussed – and not discussed – last night:
- Nigel Farage claimed there was nothing any of the leaders could do about immigration as long as the UK stays in the European Union. There was no discussion on limiting immigration from outside the EU, which is something governments can control.
- There was no discussion on foreign policy. Developments in Russia, Iran, China and the Middle East could derail the best-laid economic plans. Not a single caveat that the UK’s prosperity over the next five years depends as much on factors beyond the country’s control as within it.
- Another subject that didn’t get a mention was defence. Are we so certain that we will never again need to act unilaterally in defence of our interests or against the grain of international consensus, as we did in the Falklands?
- Farage’s health tourism remark – about the cost of treating non-British HIV sufferers – snuffed out any potential debate on the benefit to the National Health Service of paid health tourism. Does the UK make the most of its reputation and facilities in treating foreign visitors who are prepared to pay?
- Nicola Sturgeon’s remarks about the benefits of free tertiary education hit home. If there was a choice between university places for all at a cost, and free places rewarding those who meet tougher selection criteria, one wonders which option the electorate would go for. With the National Health Service firmly entrenched in British politics as a sacred cow, why is education not similarly sacred?
- Why did nobody point out that foreign students, who do pay substantially for their education in British universities, play a major part in funding tertiary education? Should be not be welcoming more of them, not less, not least because of the goodwill towards Britain that these graduates bring back to their home countries?
- Nicola Sturgeon was impressive, just as Nick Clegg was in the 2010 debates. Almost certainly her Scottish Nationalist party will have greater influence in the next parliament even if they don’t end up as coalition partners. But Sturgeon should ponder the fate of Clegg, whose Liberal Democrats stand to lose many seats this time round. What goes up comes down.
- It’s interesting that there was no mention as to whether the experiment of a fixed term parliament will be repeated. Are we prepared to be stuck with a weak and indecisive coalition for the next five years?
- Finally, the leader of the Welsh Nationalists made a point that I would endorse. If there is to be a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU, an exit should be contingent on each component of the United Kingdom – England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – voting in favour. If we believe in devolved decision-making in the British Islands, we should not be seeking to force any component in such a fundamental direction against its will.
It sticks in my craw that a single-issue demagogue like Farage, who represents the sum of England’s racist, xenophobic sentiment, was given an equal place at the debating table despite leading a party with as much substance as the national football team. Fine if there had also been debates between the parties with a realistic chance of being elected. But then I suppose it was useful to hear from the minority parties that, like it or not, are bound to have an influence over any minority government that might be formed.
All in all, for this viewer the event was a pretty futile exercise – as unsatisfying as a cardboard burger. I suspect that this was the outcome in David Cameron’s mind when he agreed to what was always going to be a political speed date.
I’m not one who writes off all politicians as self-serving careerists. There are plenty of talented, well-meaning people in all the parties represented last night, with the possible exception of UKIP. The sad reality is that the presidential-style debate format projects the participants as the embodiments of the parties they lead. Thanks to the campaign managers, other voices will not get a look in, or at least their exposure will be limited to two-minute news clips and specialist (therefore minority interest) current affairs programmes.
I suspect that this debate might be the only piece of discussion that many of our voters will tune into over the next few weeks. So if our nation’s perception of each party stands or falls on the performance – and likeability – of the not-so-magnificent seven in two hours of superficial blathering, then the outcome on May 7th is anybody’s guess, and not necessarily one I look forward to.