In general, this election is going to be difficult for me. I am currently a contracted BBC presenter, broadcasting an improbable six days a week – and my residency in Nemone’s slot is now set to run to at least May 21, long after the new government has been signed in – which means, as I understand it, I am unable to make any public statements about my voting intention, a ruling I take very seriously indeed. This happened in 2005, too.
I remember the election year of 1992 vividly, as I was then working at the NME, and although the “old days” of donkey-jacketed, barricade-storming left wing tub-thumping were behind the reconstituted weekly, I was proud to have commissioned a nice, gritty piece from Stuart Bailie about politics in rock and he kicked it off with the story of Victor Jara, which, I’ll be honest, jarred with the general upbeat, irony-laden style of the paper at the time. I gave myself the job of editing the letters page, Angst, on the week of the election, and made no bones about it: every ed’s comment was basically an urge to “Vote Labour!” (Interestingly, Stuart Maconie and I wrote and presented a humorous skit about politics in pop for Radio Five’s magazine show The Mix and we ended it with a joke about BBC impartiality, followed by the two of us saying, “Vote Labour, vote Labour, vote Labour, vote Labour” to fade.)
I am able to make observations about the electoral race, however, and I must admit I agree with my neighbour John’s assessment of the televised leaders’ debates thus far: that they are “sterile” affairs. Certainly, whatsoever the colour of your rosette, it was exciting to see the underdog, Nicholas Clegg, surge out of the shadows and trounce “these two,” as he called Brown and Cameron – after all, everything’s so stage managed and rehearsed, and the first-past-the-post voting system seems designed to smooth out any surprises, you have to take your entertainment wherever you find. This Thursday, a glutton for three-party punishment, I watched Question Time directly after Sky’s leaders’ debate – in other words, I followed a debate with a debate of the debate – and the difference in atmosphere was palpable.
In the first programme, the public had to sit on their hands and bottle up their reactions, as per the rules of engagement; in the second, they were free to respond, whether it was by grumbling or rolling their eyes or applauding or booing or whatever took their fancy. This is what democracy should be about.
I’m going to vote Dalek, like the Radio Times told me to.