What are we voting for? No one knows

It’s been a depressing campaign thus far: two kitchens, three terms and zero debates

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The Independent Online

We sat down to watch, hoping that the interviewer would coax something tangible or indiscreet out of his subjects, but just as with the Jeremy Paxman “election debate”, the Andrew Marr Show proved another depressing moment in my faltering attempts to help my daughter see why she absolutely, positively, must vote in the forthcoming election.

Having learned the obvious last week (that Ed Miliband is a decent, committed, passionate politician if he is allowed an unbiased platform to address real questions), this weekend’s viewing was surely going to be about policies, silly?

Surely at some stage someone in the two leading parties, might deign to explain the policies upon which we might make our decision?

How very dare we! Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, made it clear that he wasn’t going to let us, the electorate, know how the Tories would lop a further £12bn off the welfare budget by 2017-18. “Taxing disability benefits” was one suggestion leaked to the BBC, but IDS wasn’t elucidating. How boring of us to want details in advance.

Labour doesn’t want to be boring either. Given an opportunity to put clear daylight between his party and their “nasty”, uncharacteristically shy, opponents, the party’s campaign chief, Douglas Alexander, declined. “We’ve set out our agenda,” was all he would say.

It’s all very well for the shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Rachel Reeves to say Labour has a better plan to “control the costs of social security” by tackling low pay and housing costs, but how can she contend the Conservatives must “come clean” on cuts, when her own party declines to do just that?

It’s been a depressing campaign thus far: two kitchens, three terms and zero head-to-head debates being the only numbers that have stuck. Don’t expect better this week when ITV’s Julie Etchingham tries to marshal seven party leaders. “It will be fascinating to see how they interact,” she said, but I think we already know.

The British public really deserves better. We should be able to hear what those who would have us vote for them have to say, beyond sweeping generalisations and macho posturing. The way things are shaping up for the last six weeks, we shouldn’t hold our breath.

Stefano Hatfield is editor in chief of High50