2m tuned in live to watch the Chancellor’s debate live on Channel 4 last night (I was live-blogging it for Reuters). Yet if viewing figures are to be believed, something like 4 times as many watched both Eastenders and Coronation St on different channels.
So was it worthwhile even bothering? The people who will really decide the election are those watching the soaps, and the key issue is going to be whether they are fed up of Labour after 13 years or whether they don’t believe that Cameron and his Tories offer any real alternative.
One thing is clear, they are not bothered enough to stop watching the soaps so they could spend an hour watching the politicians love-in.
Many are calling the experiment a failure and already denouncing the US-style leader debates planned for later in the election campaign. But is it any real surprise? So many people are disaffected and uninterested in politics it could be argued conversely that to get 2m live viewers for a political debate on a Monday evening, plus all the online activity and debate, is actually a great success.
I think it’s useful to get the politicians on TV and on the spot. Like all TV, it’s not possible to delve into detail. So many questions were left unanswered during the debate yesterday because it would be too boring or technical to drill into tax codes, but a lot of politics is about trust in leaders and the TV debates do help to establish who is confident of finding a solution, and who the public enjoy hearing.
Policies and ideology matter, but skilled presentation wins votes.