Welcome to a showbiz first. The contest no one’s interested in, on a programme nobody watches!
Whether a 90-minute slab of the pretty well continuous Labour leadership hustings is necessarily the optimal way of raising the somewhat indifferent ratings of Victoria Derbyshire’s daytime BBC 2 show is doubtful. After all, the show has an intelligent and likeable presenter, isn’t trashy and it treats its audience as grown-ups. How could that possibly work up against Jeremy Kyle?
But then its producers may feel that a case study in family breakdown after a catastrophic setback, in front of a live audience who feel lost and betrayed, was the only way to challenge the competition. And we learnt quite a lot from the shoot-out in Leamington Spa. Such as if Liz Kendall becomes Prime Minister, it will only be because her mother dissuaded her from a career as a dancer – “ballet, modern and tap”. Or that as a “picker” on Blind Date, Andy Burnham’s wife once chose a man who turned out to be – wait for it – a Tory. Or that Jeremy Corbyn likes cycling in the West Midlands because “it’s relatively flat”. Or that a pupil at a primary school Yvette Cooper visited once instantly recognised her – as Enid Blyton.
Recognition seems to be a problem for all the candidates. Ms Derbyshire had earlier toured Battersea with large pictures of them in a vain attempt to find anyone who could put a name to them. “I definitely recognise them,” said one woman (but not, sadly, in the sense of having a clue who they were). “Yvette?” asked Derbyshire, giving one man a major clue. “Yes that sounds about right,” he replied cautiously.
It isn’t easy to type the candidates. Ms Cooper is “Blairite” about wanting Labour to woo business, including with low corporation tax. But much less so than Andy Burnham or Ms Kendall about admitting to, or in Burnham’s case actually “apologising ” for, running a deficit before the crash.
There was even a touching bonding moment between the two most ideologically opposed candidates. Asked about those explicitly targeting him, Corbyn said it was a “bit sad” that “when you “enter a contest… those that don’t agree with you gang up on the individual rather than meeting the questions I’m putting”. “Welcome to my world, Jeremy,” responded Ms Kendall.
While every candidate had their strong supporters, not all were impressed. “None of them has got any charisma” emailed one viewer. Harriet Harman was the only plausible leader, suggested another. “How do I stand for leader?” asked Jeff on email.
Finally Ms Derbyshire asked everyone to register their support for the four candidates, and then those who wanted “None of the above” to stand up. She pronounced the result “a five-way split” – so it’s wide open, at least in Leamington. Unless, of course, “None of the above” hits a winning streak.