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"The Magnificent Seven"

Five things we learnt from tonight's party leaders debate

Basically, the women (like Nicola Sturgeon) bossed it while Nigel Farage sank to even greater depths

This clash of the titans turned out to be a two hour slog through political quicksand. At today's party leaders debate, David CameronEd Miliband and Nick Clegg packed as much punch as cottonless puppets planked on a podium, while SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon – who rightly demanded an end to the old boys' club in Westminster - and Leanne Wood, leader of Plaid Cymru, represented their respective parties with pride.


The lowest moment in a night of bizarre political plateau came when UKIP leader Nigel Farage made the claim that "60% of people with HIV in the UK are not British nationals and they're being treated on the NHS."

Even for Nigel Farage and his policy-less party of unashamed bigots, to use those afflicted with HIV as a method of attempting to curry favour with voters scraped a pretty shitty barrel and may just have condemned him to the tomb of Griffins and Robinsons that make up the made-for-reality-TV graveyard of Britain's right-wing. While the men looked on like bemused sixth-formers as Farage spilt his poison, Leanne Wood stepped in to tell him that he "ought to be ashamed of himself".

Before trotting out his dumbfounding "foreigners have HIV" rhetoric, Farage had added a disclaimer: "Many people will be mortified that I'm even talking about this". Yeah, you're right. We were.

The UKIP leader also endured a moment where he appeared to be some sort of ancient, broken Action Man. You know, the ones you might pick up at car boot, pull its cord and watch it say the same thing over and over again, before putting it down and never thinking about it ever again.


Proceedings got off to a slow start when the first question on the deficit came from Jonny Tudor, a 17-year old politics student who looked like a horrible hybrid of every man on the stage, just with 25 years shaved off.

I was stricken by the fear that this young buck would either be PM in exactly 25 years or get the Top Gear job tomorrow. There was something subtly death-eating about his demeanour.


Farage was likely frustrated by the relative lack of airtime afforded to him – host Julie Etchingham didn't give him the space that he so clearly craved. But the other "big-hitters" only served up slightly different shades of limp, cancelling each other out with their similar suits, similar haircuts and similar personas.

This left the women to step in and boss the show. It was widely expected that Sturgeon would handle herself, having garnered a reputation as a fierce debater, but tonight Leanne Wood made her name on the battleground of Britain's banal political hierarchy. At the end, Wood and Sturgeon hugged. It felt symbolic, a moment of true unity that one struggles to imagine occurs during those rehearsed handshakes between the men. Early polls indicate Sturgeon "won". She did.

The Greens too will be satisfied. After that interview on LBC, Natalie Bennett was no doubt looking for an opportunity to reestablish herself as a legitimate candidate. Bennett spoke clearly, slowly and didn't get sucked into the squabbling going on down the other end.


Towards the end of the debate, a heckler called Victoria Prosser jolted us back into life when she interrupted David Cameron while he was in the middle of talking about the armed forces. It was a brief moment of actual, real-life humanity in a couple of hours that for the majority, was lacking it.


Overall, the two hours felt like a total anti-climax, like a bad clubnight you spent wages on, or a 0-0 draw. Nick Clegg perfected his doublespeak when he talked about "good and bad immigration", Farage showed his contempt for foreigners with HIV, Cameron discussed about the need for a "fair and just welfare system", despite a party pledge to force unemployed people aged 18-21 to work unpaid for benefits, while Miliband trotted out his Reaganistic "there you go again" and told people not to discuss the past, before going on to discuss the past five minutes later.

One the one hand, I was pleased to see two women make their "debuts" and show up that shower of shit, but then I also felt sad that this is what it's come to – a set of four questions that each politician is totally prepared for, a stunted piece of what is essentially entertainment that ultimately decides nothing. We learned nothing new, besides the fact on the basis of two hours of TV, two women I can't vote for may well do a better job.

I just can't help feeling that we deserve better.