Watching the ‘Prime Ministerial Candidates’ debate, it was impossible not to be struck by how little difference there was between all three candidates. Clegg played the outside role dictated to him by his party’s position, but pretty much all the candidates had more or less the same sort. of answers to the carefully vetted questions.
This was only the first of three debates, but what was perhaps most revealing was the questions that weren’t asked. The debate was very much conducted on safe territory for the neo-liberal consensus to which all three candidates subscribe. No questions on climate change or peak oil, where the combination of market and moralising that they all like so much offers little or nothing. No questions on why Britain is involved in two wars in Muslim countries where it has little direct interest – just an easy ball on whether ‘our troops’ have enough kit. Clegg at least had the decency to raise the cost of replacing Trident, but all the candidates seemed to agree that the one thing we can afford was continued participation in whatever wars the Americans need us for.
And not even a question on the banking crisis. There was some verbal joshing on the precise mechanics by which the candidates propose to cut public spending, but nothing about how we got into this mess (bailing out the incompetently-run banks) and why it is so important to cut the deficit (er, to make sure that those same banks will carry on lending to the state at interest rates it can afford). Even this limited engagement with the question of who is going to pay the bill clearly went down like a bucket of cold sick with the minutely-analysed studio panel; so that’s probably the last we’ll hear about that. Until after the election, when you can bet that whoever wins will “discover” that the problems of the public finances were worse than they’d previously thought.