TV and the British Elections

Article excerpt

The elections in Great Britain aren't over yet (the vote is on May 6th) but these are without doubt one of the closest contests in recent political history of that country. Labour has had a 13-year run, and Prime Minister Gordon Brown's fortunes have alternately faded and blossomed over the past six months. The huge deficit is the main problem to be addressed and no party: Labour or their Opposition, or the Conservatives have offered a clear answer that would solve it. The Liberal Democrats, the smallest of the three parties, which usually takes a centrist position, suggests cutting public spending to reduce the deficit.But the real game-charger in this election is Britain's first use of televised debates in a political campaign. Instead of reading party manifestos or listening to stump speeches, British voters have been offered their candidates "up close and personal" in televised debates.And what a difference television makes. I recall the American campaign when Richard Nixon, whose polls were running high, appeared on television with a "five o'clock shadow" (he hadn't shaved closely enough) that literally did him in politically, for that season. (He came back later to win the presidency). He looked, with that forbidding dark cheek and chin, like a criminal.When the three leading candidates, Labour's Prime Minister Gordon Brown, his main opponent, the Conservative David Cameron, and the Liberal Democrat's Nick Clegg, appeared together on television, the smallest party representative, Nick Clegg, won by a landslide in the popularity contest, as recorded by the polls. …