We, You and I

Posted April 30, 2010

We, You and I

No, it’s not a sequel to the film Withnail and I. I’m afraid I’m referring to the prime ministerial debate that took place last night.

I’d missed the previous two having completely forgotten when they were scheduled. So I felt it was high time I watched at least one debate if I was to make any kind of informed choice on polling day. If the truth be told, I was also feeling a little left out – like when you’re the only one not watching the X factor and you feel totally out of step with popular taste.

I settled down to watch, eager to listen to what they had to say and hoping that I would get a clearer understanding of what they stood for. Yet, in the end, it wasn’t what they were saying that kept my attention; it was how they were saying it.

Cameron seemed to have latched on to the word “we”, as if his life depended upon it. It was a bit of an amorphous ‘we’ and I wasn’t always sure whether he was quoting the Conservative Party or talking for the country as a whole. It was obviously designed to make him sound consultative. He would never do anything that went against the grain of majority opinion, would he? I wonder.

Clegg peppered his speech liberally with the word “you”. It felt like he was speaking directly to the voting public. His was a warm, chatty kind of approach intended to draw you in and get you on his side. He’s only saying what we’re really thinking – right?

Brown opted for “I” as in “I say to you...” I think this was intended to make him sound authentic and assured and he delivered his replies in a serious tone. Unfortunately everything he said was followed (when he remembered) by his add-on rictus smile. The smile seemed disingenuous and somewhat creepy.

By the end of the debate I was feeling deflated.  For me, the key issue is the economy and how the nation is going to dig its way out of debt. ‘We’, ‘you’ and ‘I’ had absolutely nothing to say on this. If only the same effort had been put into spelling out their plans as had gone into shaping their delivery styles then maybe I would have learnt something. Instead, I got pronouns, pronouncements and pap.

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