ITV Leader’s Debate Liveblog

18:38  Preview Hype

The national evening news and local news are building this up as best they can. They can’t resist comparing the set to that of a gameshow. So far The Weakest Link and 15 to 1.

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19:09  Mind the Farage

Nigel Farage of the UKIPs will be hoping for a better performance this evening than his appearance on Radio 4 this morning. He couldn’t decide if he wanted no cap on immigration or a target of 30,000 or a cap of 50,000.

According to the man himself he’s done no preparation for the debate tonight. Not sure if he’ll be allowed to bring a pint onto the set with him.

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19:22  Green with Envy?

Any sort of performance from Natalie Bennet of the Green Party would be welcome. Will Green activists be wishing Caroline Lucas was actually their leader?

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19:28

Nick Clegg was the outright winner of these debates last time out. What a difference 5 years can make though! Clegg, according to a recent poll is under threat of losing his own seat. Can he turn things around here and does anybody actually agree with him about anything anymore?

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19:45  Goody Two Shoes

Apparently Ed Milliband has two pairs of shoes for tonight’s event. His advisors couldn’t decide which pair to get for him earlier so bought both. Following the “two kitchens” revelations maybe Ed just loves things being in twos. Perhaps he’s a big fan of Noah?

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19:51  10 minute warning

Just 10 minutes to go and the atmosphere couldn’t be more tense. My wife can’t find her phone and she’s going out in a minute! As for the debates well, there’s now about 8 minutes to go.

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19:57  From Salmond to Sturgeon

It’s a big night for Nicola Sturgeon for the SNP too. Her predecessor would have revelled in this tonight. Can she prove just as charismatic?

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20:05  We’re off!!!

Natalie Bennett actually sounds naturally quite annoying doesn’t she? And hey what a surprise Nigel Farage heads straight to the immagration counter!

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20:06  Clegg’s Mistakes

Nick Clegg has “made mistakes”. Something tells me he’ll likely pay for them in this election!

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20:08  Leanne Wood

Oh look! It’s Leanne Wood. You know, Leanne… Leanne Wood. I think she’s from Wales isn’t she?

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20:12  Milliband Slip

Ed Milliband looks nervous. Slipping slightly over his initial opening speech. Must do better!

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20:13  Leanne Wood

The Welsh lady wants to put more funding into public services. I like her. What’s her name again?

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20:15  Pintless

Nigel Farage looks undressed without a pint in his hand doesn’t he? YIKES!!! NIGEL FARAGE IS NAKED!!! LOOK AWAY!!! LOOK AWAY!!!

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20:17  So far, so slow

This is all very civilised isn’t it? If it carries on like this I’ll be reaching for the Blue Nun!

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20:22  Business has just picked up

Nicola Sturgeon has said “I back Ed on this.” Could this be the next “I agree with Nick”?

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20:26  Here’s Johnny!!!

Everyone is fighting for Johnny’s attention right now. Look at his face just look at his little face!!!

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20:28  Subliminal Messages

David Cameron’s podium is positioned on the far right. Is it a sign?

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20:32  The Northern Ireland Question

There won’t be one as nobody from Northern Ireland has been invited. Only Eamonn Holmes seems to have noticed.

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20:36  1st Question Done

I can’t see, based on the 1st question how anyone is going to be seen as winning this debate. It’s all a bit slow. It’s a bit gloves on and frankly a bit dull. Someone hand Nigel Farage a pint and see if he can provoke Nicola Sturgeon into a square go in the car park.

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20:42  Never Forget

Cameron may never forget how the NHS helped his kids but he may forget his kids after a few drinks in the pub.

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20:46  Health Tourism

I don’t think Health Tourism will catch on personally. Once you’ve seen one hospital you’ve seen them all really.

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20:51  This hour’s dragged

No punches have really been landed here have they? This almost makes you want to see a return of Des O’Connor Tonight.

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20:53  Northern Ireland

Nicola Sturgeon gives a shout out to Northern Ireland! Someone remembers. Eamonn Holmes can sleep easier tonight now.

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20:56  SNP 2 The Rest 0

Nicola Sturgeon has got a laugh and a round of applause. Those tough stand-up gigs in Glasgow must be paying off. Stony silence elsewhere though. SNP winning and most of us watching can’t vote for them!

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21:00  On the Attack

Ed Milliband clearly looking to attack David Cameron at every opportunity. Cameron’s refusal to debate one on one with him a tactical mistake in my view and Milliband making the most of it.

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21:11  Damned lies, statistics and Farage

Farage blaming housing crisis on immigrants now. He seems to have forgotten his beloved Thatcher’s social housing sell off in the 80s.

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21:19  Clegg Watch

Nobody has come out and said “I agree with nick yet” although Cameron has said that he has “made an important point”. If this was the cabinet Cameron would have ruffled his hair and fed him a biscuit.

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21:28  Format

I think the public should have been given the opportunity to get rid of a few of the leaders by now. Maybe a trap-door underneath them. Couldn’t some of the Northern Irish Leaders made a brief appearance by satellite, or a cameo appearance as a plinth or something?

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21:32  Tuition Fees

Nick Clegg has mentioned tuition fees. Sssssshhhh! I think he got away with it. Don’t mention the poor!

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21:35  3-0 SNP

Another smattering of applause for Sturgeon. Scotland haven’t seen this sort of result on English soil since they stole the goalposts at Wembley!

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21:39  CHAOS

In a total breakdown Clegg lands a blow on Milliband, who lands one on Cameron. It was like pass the blow out there for a minute. I almost put down the Blue Nun.

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21:42  Score

If you’re keeping score it’s SNP 3, Liberal Democrats 1, Labour 1, The Rest 0.

20 minutes left and maybe this is going to lead to a barnstorming finish!

Maybe not.

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21:47  HECKLER! HECKLER!

I just spilt the Blue Nun as a heckler gets stuck into David Cameron. Maybe there will be a late surge…

SNP 3, Labour 1, Liberal Democrats 1, Heckler 1, The Rest 0.

Vote Heckler!

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21:49  Farage

Farage looks undressed without his usual tweed outfit. YIKES!!! FARAGE IS NAKED!!! FARAGE IS NAKED!!! LOOK AWAY!!! LOOK AWAY!!!

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21:51  Late Rally

Cameron gets a round of applause too now landing a blow on Milliband with the Labour safe haven of zero hours contracts. Only putting him on terms with the heckler though.

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21:53  Clegg

Clegg basically arguing for a vote to sit on the fence. In fairness he’s low on energy now. He’s gone 2 hours without Cameron feeding him a biscuit.

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21:56  Northern Ireland

The Greens mention Northern Ireland now. Someone could at least point to it on a map or something. For Eamonn Holmes’ sake at least.

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21:59  Farage

Farage the common man. Most common men are investment bankers and esablishment figures aren’t they?

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22:01  That’s it!

The shaking hands at the end looked a bit awkward. Looked like that kind of forced politeness at a New Year party. At least they didn’t swap shirts. Nigel Farage looked undressed enough as it was.

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22:20  Millsey’s Final Thought

Well, that was a bit flat really wasn’t it? If anything Nicola Sturgeon won for me, proving why Scotland will probably overun Labour up there. Not great for the rest of us who can’t vote SNP though. Cracking surprise entry from the heckler. I imagine she will have polled well! Clegg got the bounce at the last election debate but can’t see anyone having a similar result this time. Farage looked like he needed a drink. I’ve not seen someone look that pale and sweaty in politics since Charles Kennedy heard last orders called. Cameron in two TV election set pieces now hasn’t really cut it. He’s not done badly by any means but together with his reluctance on the debate front he’s not looked strong. Milliband, similarly hasn’t done badly but has probaly been made to look better, again because of Cameron’s dithering on the debates. I wonder what the Northern Irish think?

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22:27  Millsey’s Final, Final Thought

Polls all over the place in terms of who won and who lost. Maybe that’s 2 hours that we just can’t get back. So, onto Question Time, This Week and probably more Blue Nun. Goodnight Great Britain wherever you are (except viewers in Northern Ireland).

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(Debate starts at 8pm)

Today, I’m Supporting Oisin Tymon

Today, I’m supporting Oisin Tymon.

Oisin Tymon, just like the majority of us do, was going about his job as best he could. By all accounts it’s a job he’s very good at and relishes having the opportunity to do. Indeed, despite being subjected to a 20 minute verbal tirade of abuse and being punched in the face by a bigoted, bullying man-child, Tymon in the BBC Director General’s own words has, “behaved with huge integrity throughout.” Furthermore, it appears Tymon’s first thoughts were not actually about the horror he had endured or for revenge against the Establishment’s favoured beer-bellied bully. He wasn’t thinking of suing the BBC or selling his story to a tabloid. All he worried about was that he might no longer be able to continue to do his job.

The facts about what the BBC Top Gear producer endured on a patio area of the Simonstone Hall Hotel, North Yorkshire, on the 4th March 2015 are very clear and contained within the BBC’s report into the incident published today:

  • The physical attack lasted around 30 seconds and was halted by the intervention of a witness.
  • It is the case that Oisin Tymon offered no retaliation.
  • The verbal abuse was directed at Oisin Tymon on more than one occasion – both during the attack and subsequently inside the hotel – and contained the strongest expletives and threats to sack him. The abuse was at such volume as to be heard in the dining room, and the shouting was audible in a hotel bedroom.
  • Derogatory and abusive language, relating to Oisin Tymon and other members of the Top Gear team, continued to be used by the hot food, mafia mouthpiece inside the hotel, in the presence of others, for a sustained period of time.
  • Following the attack, Oisin Tymon drove to a nearby A&E department for examination.
  • It was not disputed by the Chipping Norton thug or any witness that Oisin Tymon was the victim of an unprovoked physical and verbal attack. It is also clear that Oisin Tymon is an important creative member of the Top Gear team who is well-valued and respected. He has suffered significant personal distress as a result of this incident, through no fault of his own.

The facts unquestionably speak for themselves and the light entertainment perpetrator of a violent physical assault on a respected, hard working colleague has been rightly sacked. It was the only course of action wasn’t it? To be fair if this had happened to one of us at our workplace, whilst we were trying to do our job, the best we could, we would at the very least expect the same outcome to befall our aggressor.

We would. Wouldn’t we?

Well, bizarrely not everyone seems to think so. Tymon, who had already been subject to abuse on social media, received another barrage of it again today when the BBC announced it had dispensed with the services of the Poster Boy of the “It’s Political Correctness Gone Mad Brigade.” Apparently, Tymon, according to some, deserves to die for being subject to an unprovoked attack by a moron. Apparently, it’s actually far more important that a show about cars, (which in reality hasn’t been a show about cars for years) continues with its casually racist host whatever crime he may commit against a fellow human being just trying to do his job, like any of us might try to do in our own daily lives. Apparently, this is an agenda against the Chubby Brown of a “factual” motoring magazine, orchestrated by the left-wing, liberal, Marxists of the BBC who don’t want the public to have access to the “Spiritual King” of the common sense man.

In 2011 a study of 6,000 staff revealed that six out of 10 public sector workers in the UK had either been bullied themselves or had witnessed bullying in their workplace. The majority of those polled – 53% – said they would be too scared to raise concerns over bullying in the current climate of job and spending cuts, compared with just 25% two years previously.

Right wing political parties and their cronies want to abolish worker’s rights and particularly want to scrap ordinary working people’s rights, such as Oisin Tymon’s or yours or mine to be able to do our jobs as best we can without the fear of being unfairly dismissed. They want employers to be able to do as they please. Punched in the face for trying to do your job? Well it was probably all your fault wasn’t it? You no doubt deserved it or ran willingly into the clenched fist of your employer begging for your P45!

This whole tawdry incident isn’t really about a 54 year old and his “talent” or his popularity or his contract or anything to do with him.

It’s actually about us. It’s about 2015 and where we are as a society and how we got here. It’s about what’s acceptable to us and how we behave and how we should expect to be treated. It’s about respect and values. It’s about human decency.

That’s why today, I’m supporting Oisin Tymon.

Canterbury Tales

What on earth has happened to Question Time? Once a pillar of televisual political debate it has descended into some sort of dumbed down Wright Stuff. Whether that is a reflection on the BBC, popular culture or the state of politics in general is debatable. What is certain is that the late Robin Day would not have been impressed by what this show has become.

Last night’s episode had been built up by the Beeb themselves as a battle between the former addict and lethario Russell Brand and the acceptable face of the far right, Nigel Farage. At times the whole thing just collapsed. David Dimbleby seems to have just given up. Looking bemused at times, often not bothering to effecively chair proceedings, guests and audience members just shouted over each other.

The audience seemed to largely fall into Brand-ites, whooping and hollering at whatever he said like they were at an American stand-up gig and UKIP-ers baying for the blood of any potential immigrant within a 500 mile radius.

Canterbury’s finest were all there. The mad shouty woman, the shouty man with the stick and the classic, “now I’m not racist but…” lady. The local Head of Tourism must have been having cold sweats.

As light relief the potty mouthed, Tory diver Penny Mordaunt was there only to be reminded early doors by Dimbleby for her love of the word “cock” and she never recovered.

In truth the whole Brand vs Farage thing was an anti-climax. They might as well have re-booked that Welsh bloke from the call centre thing. Perhaps Question Time should go further and just book Anne Diamond,  Scott Capurro, any random Australian soap star and replace Dimbleby with Matthew Wright.

Jo Brand and the Art of Celebrity Discomfort

Forget selfies! Selfies are so last week! Trends change quicker than opposition teams scoring at Old Trafford. (#MoyesIn) Whilst selfies have been everywhere recently, such as at award ceremonies, second-rate talent shows and clogging up your social media feeds for days on end, the new selfie is the craze for celebrity discomfort.

In the age of multi-channel TV, social media and rolling news you might well be thinking that celebrity discomfort is not an entirely new thing and you would be right of course. The media and the viewing public love to see celebrities squirm. Celebrity Big Brother, I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here, Celebrity Love Island, Hole in the Wall and of course that one where David Beckham’s kiss and tell whats-her-face got a bit too intimate with a pig.

Things have moved on though since these halcyon days of reality celebrity squirmathons. Recently a whole new level of celebrity discomfort has been reached as anyone who sat through Jo Brand trying to present BBC One’s The One Show will testify. Last week for two agonisingly long half-hours Jo brought all the warmth, charm and traditional sofa-driven, teatime faux chumsiness of a piranah in a packed swimming pool having not eaten for a month. She couldn’t have looked more uncomfortable on the One Show’s gaudy sofa if she had been asked to complete the whole show stark naked whilst the smiling assassin himself, Matt Baker, constantly threw itching powder at her. I haven’t seen someone look so miserable, irritated and less pleased to be somewhere than when Gordon Brown had to apologise to “that bigoted woman”. She made Jeff Brazier look like TV gold. Yes it was that bad! Never before has a nation breathed such a collective sigh of relief when Gabby Logan appeared to take over the guest host role.

Jo Brand however, isn’t exactly my point. The reason she was there in the first place was because Matt Baker’s usual TV wife, (do people still use that phrase?) Alex Jones was crying her way up an “impossible climb” in aid of Sport Relief. Here’s where the trend I’m talking about kicks in. We’ve always had a tradition of celebrity fundraising and in itself this is no bad thing, but recently the fundraising efforts have become centred all around “the challenge”. That challenge has to be immense too. Gone are the days when a marathon would do! If you’re a celebrity and you want to raise money nowadays we need to see a journey. It can’t be any old journey either, it has to involve one or more of the following:

  1. Months of tough preparation with a trainer who will push the celebrity to the limit whilst also being available to be a shoulder to cry on.
  2. A complete pre-challenge wobble, culminating in a breakdown with lots of tears and repeated use of the phrase “I can’t do this!”
  3. A pre-challenge injury or injuries which are extremely painful, involve tears and preferably even more painful treatment which is just serious enough to add some jeopardy to the challenge without being so serious the challenge can’t be started in the first place.
  4. Some sort of mental stress that causes the celebrity to reveal personal information about their lives whilst in a vulnerable state leading to more tears.
  5. The celebrity is close to breaking point and quitting the challenge mid-way through only to be comforted and refocused by a celebrity friend or random well-wisher, leading to more tears and the repeated use of the phrase, “I can do this!”
  6. An injury during the challenge creating heightened jeopardy but still just not quite enough for the challenge to be abandoned.
  7. The moment of sheer joy at the completion of the challenge, leading to uncontrollable tears, partial collapse or mental breakdown and the all important “big cheque” moment.

In recent weeks we’ve had Alex Jones’ journey of sobbing up a mountain and Davina McCall’s week long pain induced, hypothermia fueled sob-athon cycling, swimming and running across the UK. Ordinarily, I like a bit of celebrity suffering as much as the next person but I’m just a little uncomfortable with just how far people will expect celebrities to go before they decide to part with their hard earned cash in the name of charity. No doubt the bar will be raised higher next time around, but just what will we be forced to watch? Mel and Sue spending a week in a lion enclosure with only a toothbrush to help them? Andrew Neil jumping over 43 parked double-decker buses on a motorbike whilst being shot at by the SAS? Claudia Winkleman locked in a perspex box for a month without access to any eye-liner?

Whatever the next big challenge is, I just hope Jo Brand isn’t called upon to fulfill the guest host duties.