Debates are good; but are they ‘good’ when they are billed as debates although there is no debating between the billed stars. This is rather like a scheduled boxing match where a third party comes in to fight the individual boxers. The format was therefore a disappointment; unlike the compelling US election debates which shock and entertain and are compulsory viewing.
It was therefore a slight disappointment, but brought up an important result: namely that Jeremy Paxman is no longer an effective interviewer. Each of the political leaders appeared separately and answered questions from the live audience and were then grilled by Paxman.
Q and As.
Jeremy Corbyn was first and this was an excellent performance. To be honest, he surprised me. After an initial nervous start with shallow breathing and tense voice, he was on a roll, with assured, open body language and performance. He projected confidence, authenticity and humanity. Many viewers will have warmed to him based on this performance. At one point in this section of the debate, I watched him totally ‘owning’ the stage and looking comfortable within that environment.
Theresa May followed and walked on awkwardly. I have written before about May’s posture and movement; how it impacts on her non verbal communication, her voice and her personal brand. WHY IS SHE NOT BEING GIVEN GUIDANCE AND TRAINING IN THIS? I AM FREE TO DELIVER LAST MINUTE TRAINING THERESA.
Her tentative entrance set the scene for a nervous, lack lustre performance from May. Whilst she answered the audiences’ questions, she padded out the answers with rhetoric and ‘went around the Wrekin’ rather than providing direct questions. But it was her vocal tone: she has tension in her neck resulting in a weak tone when she is nervous, shallow breathing through nerves and in particular her closed body language and awkward movements that did nothing to project confidence. She was even heckled by members of the audience.
The audience; apparently they were chosen based on political views to have a balanced representation of the voter. Questions were handpicked by the producers. However, there was no opportunity for a questioner to answer back after a leader had ‘answered a question’. There was no chance, in fact, to have a traditional debate about specific issues. This was frustrating for both the studio and TV audience.
Jeremy Corbyn. I rarely have sympathy for a politician, but for this interview I was equally frustrated and angered by Paxman’s constant interrupting. However, Corbyn dealt with it in a professional, adult way; speaking to Paxman as though he was a rather annoying schoolboy. Some of the questioning and comments from Paxo were personal and patronising, yet Corbyn never rose to the bait. I have a lot of respect for him dealing with a very difficult interview.
Theresa May. Again she looked ill at ease with the grilling from Paxman. He didn’t interrupt as much as the previous grilling: was this because he was more sympathetic to the Tory policy, or that he’d been told to calm down? Her response to his questioning was to repeat Tory rhetoric and answer indirectly. This prompted some laughter AT her from the audience and heckling. It was not an assured performance from a leader.
Jeremy Paxman. Why hasn’t he been pensioned off?? I see no value in watching an interviewer constantly interrupt the person they are meant to be interviewing. Of course challenge the interviewee and question their answers, but when the interview reaches the point where the entire audience is unified in wishing to SHUT PAXO UP, something is wrong. Very wrong.
In the end I have to award the following #electionsuperstar scores.
This clearly demonstrates that it isn’t until there is a debate, or performance that we can truly appreciate how effective a Politian is in these situations. Of course with the polls, Corbyn has nothing to lose and everything to gain, whilst May has everything to lose – with the pressure of this. Some aspects of the #electionsuperstar marks were not what I would have predicted. And that is what makes this election so interesting.