You have to hand it to Rupe’s troops, if only for their brass neck. Knowing that the next General Election can’t be more than nine months away, they have invited Pa Broon, Young Dave and Corporal Clegg to take part in a live debate. Here’s the flip side: if it’s Rupe’s troops, that means Sky News (“First for Breaking Wind”). That’s right, the channel that garners all of 0.5% of the average viewing figure. The article by Sky News head man John Ryley, conveniently given full coverage by Murdoch paper The Times, is a magnificent example of blowhard piffle: Ryley comes over as arbiter of public decency, inquisitor and bully at the same time.
The cameras, he says, will be rolling, whoever does or does not turn up. And he pledges that the debate will be offered to other broadcasters as a simultaneous transmission. But then, he would, wouldn’t he? Sky News has such little audience share that Ryley and his pals are sufficiently desperate to get themselves more. But who will chair Sky’s dash for greatness? Well, it could be Adam Boulton, an immodest man with a lot to be modest about – including the coherence of his written English, as I noted previously – and he’s been allegedly blogging about the subject. I say allegedly, as the grammar in the post is almost faultless: I’m realistic enough not to suggest that he saw my critique of his written English, but clearly the message has got through from somewhere – if you’re going to say it, say it properly.
But, and not for the first time, I digress. What if two of the three party leaders fancied the challenge, but not Sky News? There would certainly be alternatives, other broadcasters more than happy to host them, and moderators that all three would be prepared to accept. The most obvious would be the Beeb, where a leaders’ debate could be done as a Question Time special: David Dimbleby would be acceptable to Labour, Lib Dem and Tory. Alternatively, Channel 4 and Jon Snow would also fit the bill. But why might that be acceptable where Sky would not?
A reading of John Ryley’s Times article should explain that: this is in the style of a schoolmaster chivvying three naughty boys. Not even Pax Jeremiah would take such an attitude towards party leaders. I’m sure that Young Dave would jump through Rupe’s hoops, but then, he wants the Murdoch endorsement. Pa Broon knows he isn’t going to get it, and Corporal Clegg wouldn’t dirty his hands, thanks very much. And if the other two didn’t show, Young Dave sitting there on his tod would be pointless.
Ryley could see his cameras roll over more than one empty chair. Serve him right.