Thursday, 4 October 2012

Debating the Issues


If I had a vote in the American presidential election - I would cast it for Barack Obama.

But if last night's televised debate is anything to go by, the present incumbent has his work cut out - because the challenger (Mitt Romney) won this particular contest by a country mile.

I listened to some commentators earlier today (Democrat supporters, I presume) - who were trying to put a good gloss on things for their own guy - but even though it pains me to say so President Obama was woeful - hesitant, unconvincing and completely lacking in passion.

Whereas Mitt Romney - who has had all the charisma of wooden rocking horse up until now - sounded as if he had a plan, as if he had some answers, and relished the prospect of putting some 'get up and go' back into the American economy.

Now this may not make a blind bit of difference to the end result - President Obama has held a significant opinion poll lead for months - and may still triumph in the end.

Yet the President didn't look comfortable last night, he didn't look up for the fight - which is why these televised debates are a good thing for democracy.

Because all too often political leaders are shielded from close scrutiny and prefer to hide behind a team of spin doctors and advisers - who polish and perfect their carefully cultivated images. 

American politics is an unusual animal - everyone defers to the President and calls him very respectfully 'Mr President' (there's never been a woman President in America) - even when they are really calling the President a thoroughly useless and incompetent 'so and so' - in code language, of course.

I am looking forward to the next debate on 16 October - but in the meantime our own politicians (or some of them at least) could take a leaf out of America's book - they get so rude and personal at times.

To my mind a civilised debate is the best way to air the difficult issues facing the country - party conferences have become halo brushing encounters in recent years - and encourage the kind of behaviour that's more often seen in the school playground.

I watched First Minister's Questions (FMQs) in the Scottish Parliament earlier today - and came away thinking what a fool the Labour leader - Johann Lamont - is making of herself these days.  

In my book you don't win a political argument or make the wider public think - by hurling ridiculous personal insults at people - which seems to be Johann's stock in trade at the moment.

So let's hope that the quality of debate at FMQs goes up in the weeks ahead - since Scotland deserves so much better than the embarrassing accusation - that Alex Salmond is a 'Tartan Tory'.

What I would really like to see is a debate about Scottish independence involving the country's national political leaders - David  Cameron, Nick Clegg, Ed Miliband and Alex Salmond. 

Now that would be worth tuning in for - might even be worth the licence fee.