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Five things to expect from tonight's party leaders' debate

The party political big dogs are meeting on ITV for a seven-way boxing match – here's what you need to know

Come 8pm tonight, the leaders of all seven political parties will engage in a public slanging match on ITV in the first televised debate of this election. While other people might cast their vote depending on sensible things like party policy, the rest of us are probably going to cast our votes based on who can fight their corner with other powerful, slightly weird human beings on live television. Last week, Ed Miliband and David Cameron traded blows with Paxman on Channel 4, but tonight shit gets really real.

Public appearance is everything, and the parties know it: it's why, behind closed doors, Labour will have had emergency meetings about Dear Ed's clusterfuck with a bacon sandwich, why D-Cam says he's Kim Kardashian's 13th cousin, and why Nigel Farage has a pint of "real man's bitter" superglued to his hand. This is our Coliseum – and sadly, these people are our gladiators. Here's what we think might happen.


The UKIP head honcho is the bookies' favourite. Despite having no policies, Farage is probably the best politician, and Nick Clegg severely underestimated him when they met for a debate on the EU last year. The rise of Farage is as amazing as it is infuriating: a publicly educated, ex-City worker who manages to trot out his "man of the people" rhetoric with unprecedented success.

His party constantly embarrasses itself – from the former deputy leader accussing gays of sleeping with "up to 20,000 people", to a BBC documentary showing a UKIP councillor saying "I really do have a problem with people with negroid features", to the Milton Keynes candidate stepping down five weeks before the election because of "overseas work commitments".

Despite all this, the UKIP steam train chugs on – which is in part because people apathetically agree with this dogshit and in part down to Farage's dynamism. William Hill puts him at 13/8 to win the public's hearts.


We've all been there – it's 5am post-club, and one of your guests at the afterparty has lowered the volume on that new Drake mixtape you were getting really into so he can debate long and hard about politics with someone else who doesn't know what they're on about. Of course, these things happen accidentally.

Tonight, seven people whose only job is arguing have actually deliberately organised a scrap, no matter how much Cameron was shitting himself when everyone said "I'll meet you after school." This is a big moment for all of them. Their blood will be up, their feathers ruffled, and we've all seen PMQs - it's just a dogfight.


Remember the Stanley Kubrick film Eyes Wide Shut with Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman? Rumour has it that Cruise stood on a box during kissing scenes with Kidman, his actual wife at the time, to prevent him from appearing shorter on screen. In a similar bid for equality, ITV producers have asked party leaders to specify their "ideal podium" height to prevent any unfair advantage – psychologists argue that height can give a false impression of authority.


The leader of the Scottish National Party will introduce herself to England tonight. Down here we're ignorant fucks who only pay attention to Scotland when we're begging it not to sack us off, so Sturgeon remains something of an unknown quantity. She's regarded as a formidable debater, as well as a superb leader, and has excellent, left-leaning, sensible policies - raise minimum wage, scrap nuclear weapons, and wave goodbye to the benefits cap.

Whereas the English party leaders will be scrabbling around trying to score points off whichever person appears the weakest, Sturgeon has only one target: Miliband. Given her intellectual reputation, the momentum behind her and her position as a dark horse, I'm backing her to do some damage.


What's with this? Why, across the board, do politicians insist on wearing crap clothes? Who are the stylists? Seriously. Miliband looks positively Matalan, Cameron's insistence on dressing solely in navy so dark it looks like black makes him seem even more like Agent Smith from The Matrix, or a guy who insists on being prepared in case he sees a funeral and wants to "pop in". Greens leader Natalie Bennett has a close friendship with Dame Viv, but even that connection doesn't stop her from turning out in some pretty horrid purples. To be fair, Bennett's the best of the lot. Clegg looks like an accountant on a comedown. Must do better, all of you.