Monday night is a dreadful night for television-viewing, probably because the main terrestrial channels have budgeted to spend all their cash over the weekend and therefore – both because they’ve run out and imagine that people are tired of vegetating on their sofas – they transmit nothing of consequence on the first working day of the week.
Channel-hopping for something to watch I switched to Channel Four News and caught Jon Snow interviewing Rachel Reeves, the Shadow Work & Pensions Secretary of State. The biggest election news of the day had been the launch of the Labour manifesto, with (I thought, based only upon what I had seen on the 6.00pm News) Ed Miliband giving a reasonably impressive performance at his lectern in Manchester.
Snow opened by asking asked one or two questions about the vague statements made about how Labour would fund the ‘goodies’ that Miliband had promised, given that he had made such play of all their spending being fully-funded and signed off by the Office of Budget Responsibility as well as sticking to a promise that, year-on-year, they’d reduced the deficit.
Reeves duly trotted out spin doctor-speak on the subject.
Snow then raised Miliband’s passage on the theme that he was ‘ready to be Prime Minister’ – making the pithy comment that this was a bit naff because, if he wasn’t, why was he saying this now, i.e. with just over three weeks to go to polling day?
Reeves responded with party-line stuff about “I’ve worked with Ed for four and a half years now, and …” but (I thought) Snow had already made his point before she’d even given her answer.
Clegg was doing fine, perhaps even better than that, until he was disconcerted when Davis first introduced a clip of him talking in Dutch to a Dutch television crew at the London Olympics and shortly thereafter put to him the proposition that, as a typical Eurocrat-type professional politician at ease with all things EU, Clegg might have a problem understanding the concerns about Europe that ordinary people in the street – who didn’t possess his solid, privileged, sophisticated, middle class background – might have.
Clegg positively bristled, attacking Davis repeatedly for cobbling together such a thrust, practically accusing him of being unprofessional as a journalist and the BBC of being unworthy for even raising it. He was really wound up about it. Davis began by trying to explain, or re-phrase, his point (presumably having concluded that Clegg had misunderstood what he was putting to him) but in the end gave up and moved on.
For me, it was one of the more interesting incidents so far in this entire Election campaign which – generally and disappointingly – has seemingly become more and more bitty, disconnected from the public, mud-slinging and petty week by week.