On Thursday night, like 2.12 million other people, I tuned into the ITV Leaders Debate for the upcoming general election. This will be the first general election I vote in so I wanted to tune into the debate to see how the party views fared up against each other. Or at least the ones that turned up. Like many, I was disappointed with the non-attendance of Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn. While Theresa May has consistently stated her refusal to attend a debate, it is even more disappointing of Corbyn, who has continually slandered her for this, to have not turned up.
Corbyn’s refusal to turn up, despite his description of the Prime Minister as “afraid” to debate her views, only shows himself unwilling to debate his own views against a slew of third parties who, before dissolution, held a grand total of 67 MPs against his 232. This refusal shows Corbyn as another believer in the two-party narrative which has damaged our politics for years. He thinks he only has to challenge the top dog and not anyone else.
Labour and the Conservatives have provided every Prime Minister or Leader of the Opposition since 1922, and since then have essentially played a long game of pass the parcel with the government. This continuous two-party narrative has damaged politics and in some cases forces people into only one of two sides when there is a number of third parties with a wide variety of views to choose from. Nevertheless, I’m now going to give a summary of how I feel each of the leaders performed in this debate.
- Nicola Sturgeon – Scottish National Party
Owning all but one seat in Scotland, the SNP and Nicola Sturgeon made a massive win in the last election, and you would expect her performance here to try to be on top shape to keep those seats. However, I believe she greatly underperformed in this debate. In fact, the statements she did make became unmemorable and she made no grand promises. Regardless of views, I think the other leaders did well in stating their points and views clearly to be remembered. However, in Nicola Sturgeon’s case, I think she was unfortunately the fifth wheel of the debate
2. Paul Nuttall – UK Independence Party
There is one positive thing I can say about UKIP attending this debate: their appearance turned this debate into a roast. The other leaders all got to take their turns savagely taking down Nuttall’s idiotic views in ways both satisfying and hilarious. I don’t agree with most of his views (I do agree that the HS2 is unnecessary) and those that he did state were just blaming the problems on immigrants or more ironically stealing concepts from European countries but having the roast of Paul Nuttall kept it entertaining.
3. Leanne Wood – Plaid Cymru
Not being from Wales, I don’t really know much about Plaid Cymru or Leanne Wood but for me, I feel that she was one of the headliners of this debate. Leanne felt like a competent leader for her party with a great number of views I felt I could agree with. One of the beast points she made in her opening statement was that her party wishes to elect MPs which will best effect the whole of Britain and not just her country – a grand statement, and one that Nicola Sturgeon could certainly take note of.
4. Tim Farron – Liberal Democrats
Given that this year I will be voting for the Liberal Democrats, my eyes in the debate were on how Tim Farron was going to perform. I agree with the Liberal Democrats on a large number of views and was looking out for these views to be represented in the debate. However, I am disappointed to say that I feel that Tim Farron underperformed in this debate. He wasn’t unmemorable like Nicola Sturgeon, but his points felt like just another voice in the crowd. Many of the views that I agree with the Lib Dems on were also I feel not represented in this. While some of them were not part of the questions, regardless I feel that Tim should have tangentially brought these up in questions which can be related.
5. Caroline Lucas – Green Party
Caroline Lucas representing the Green Party, I think was the other headliner of this debate. Question after question I found myself heavily agreeing with her views, and I think a number of views who may not have planned to support the Green Party did the same. If I didn’t live in Scotland (the Scottish Green Party is pro-independence), it’s a definite possibility that I would be a member of the Green Party. And I think for some living in England and Wales, after this debate it is a definite.
The one major thing I found disappointing in this debate is that despite this being a panel of third-party voices, no one gave a focus on advocating this. In 2010, when the first leaders’ debate happened, one of the major selling points people latched onto was Nick Clegg’s advocating of the Liberal Democrats as a third option, one outside of the extremes of the Conservative and Labour parties.
In the current political climate where the focus seems to be on the polar opposites and extremes in a two-party system, what people needed to hear in this was that there is another way they can vote. The idea of a system where everything belongs to only one of two options goes against the idea of democratic voting. That’s why I feel it is important for people to listen to these voices and not just the major ones which have been running everything for 95 years. Even if the numbers go against it, I think people should vote for what they believe and not just what is most convenient.
At least that’s what I think.