Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Leaders Leaders Leaders Debate Debate Debate*

You're probably all familiar with the six demands made by the 19th Century parliamentary reform movement known as the Chartists. Four of them have more or less come to pass:
  • Paid MPs
  • Equal sized constituencies
  • Abolition of the property qualification for becoming an MP
  • Secret ballots
A fifth (universal male suffrage) has even been been surpassed, thanks to the direct action taken by the Suffragettes a century ago.

The final Chartist demand was for annual parliamentary elections. Be careful what you wish for...

Yes. It's election time again! As usual, the national discussion is starting with the big debate about which leaders should be allowed to take part in the big debates. 

Like the Xmas jumper (see Finnginn passim) the debates have an illusion of tradition but, in fact, they only started in 2010: when the incumbent Gordon Brown and challenger David Cameron spent the whole evening saying how much they agreed with Nick Clegg. 

In 2015, the Labour and Conservative leaders were in the same building but didn't debate each other, they each separately faced a grilling from the audience and Jeremy Paxman. The most memorable thing that happened was Ed Miliband managed to trip over stepping off the weird Q-shaped stage.

In 2017, the incumbent Conservative Prime Minister, Theresa May - who had been watching her poll ratings tumble each time she appeared on TV - bottled it completely and sent Andrea Leadsom in her place. This was the year when there were 9 party representatives on the stage. So each only got about 45 seconds of airtime that was mostly spent being interrupted by Nigel Farage.

So, tonight, as is traditional (but actually for the first ever time) the leaders of the two main parties in the United Kingdom will present their policies and their rebuttals of their opponents' policies to the nation. 

The reason that Chartists wanted annual elections was so that if politicians failed to deliver on their promises, the people could quickly replace them. 

If you are depressed about the state of politics today, and feeling low about the struggles ahead, have a listen to the Chartists' Anthem (as rendered here by Chumbawamba) and remember how far we have come:

*For an explanation of why linguists think the title of today's post (Leaders leaders leaders debate debate debate) works as a theoretically parsable sentence in English, see my blog post from five years ago: Ask Finnginn II: The Recursion Excursion