herald

Sunday 19 August 2018

More of these pointless debates to come? Oh spare me, please

THE leaders' debates are a total pain in the ass. Pointless, dull and anti-climactic.

There I've said it.

And now, so Enda can avoid Vincent, we're going to have to suffer through three more.

Let's be clear; the media gets naked and sweaty with excitement in advance of the debates and always end up feeling used and disappointed the next morning.

You can write the media's script in advance; 'there was no killer blow', 'they looked nervous at the outset', 'X scored with a witty line'. Normally no one wins in real terms. 'Real terms' means in a way that persuades floating voters which way they should vote.

Someone usually wins in hindsight; when hundreds of commentators have picked over the pointless bun-fight like a groupthink version of judges at a college debate.

At least Micheal Martin foreshortened that process by beating lumps out of Eamon Gilmore last night. Which is a miracle of epic proportions.

A bankrupt nation, mass emigration, half a million people on the dole, and the leader of the government party wins the debate?

Wow.

And he wins it while trousering €90,000 of a severance package, having just passed the most draconian budgets in history.

Double wow.

This victory is, however, as meaningless as it is amazing. We are told that the winning of this daft dance contest makes a big difference to the election. Bull.

Look at the most famous debate victor in history, JFK. Legend has it that he crushed Nixon with his beauty and charm.

So why'd he only squeak the election by the skin of his teeth? If Nick Clegg was the clear winner of the first UK debate, why is his party the smallest in the UK parliament by a huge, massive, enormous amount?

The Lib Dems are a fifth the size of Labour and the Tories, so Clegg's debate win made a big difference there, didn't it?

Micheal Martin won clearly last night; but did you go out this morning and place a bet on him becoming Taoiseach?

No. You didn't.

Because debates don't matter. Although, not attending them might.

q IN FACT, while we're at it, the theories used to explain what influences electorate behaviour are almost identical to witchdoctors claiming credit in their village because they danced for weeks and then it rained.

Causality can't be proven or disproven, so they get believed. Same thing happens with election analysis. After the '07 election; we all got told that Bertie Ahern strapped on his cape and created a groundswell for FF in the last week.

Says who? Evidenced how?

One could as easily say that warmer temperatures affected the national mood and made voters happier with the status quo. It's just as valid a theory.

Assumed connections don't prove cause and effect. Look at it this way; most people get married before they die.

It doesn't mean marriage kills you.

If the medical profession applied the same quality of analysis to cause and effect as political commentators do, Chlamydia would be treated with leeches and a wire brush.

Although, given the choice between that and three more leaders' debates, we might be better with the leeches.

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