30m viewers to watch the debate? Don’t believe it
The Mole: Opinion poll says half the viewers could be influenced by tonight’s television debate
Who are they kidding? A ComRes survey for the Independent and ITV News found that 65 per cent of the adult public say they will watch the three election debates starting tonight – that's about 30 million people. And with half of those polled saying the TV contests could influence how they vote on May 6, that's 15 million votes up for grabs. Which is, of course, bullshit.
Former Tory strategy guru Tim Collins poured cold water on the ComRes figures, saying on this morning’s Today programme that a senior insider at ITV, the network hosting the show, had told him they would be happy if they get seven million viewers tonight.
Their chances are boosted by a dull line-up of alternatives to the Brown-Cameron-Clegg show: neither DIY SOS (BBC1), nor Country House Rescue (C4) - nor Pineapple Dance Studios (Sky One) for that matter - looks likely to keep the electorate away. Only Have I Got News for You (BBC 1), which begins 30 minutes after the election debate starts at 8.30pm, seems poised to steal away viewers if the prime ministerial contenders are lagging at their lecturns.
The debate is taking part in the old Granada studios where Coronation Street is made. Will the Corrie audience stay on to watch? We’ll see. Will they be swayed? Perhaps.
As for the poor hacks who are trailing all the way to Manchester to witness this great event, it turns out they won't even be allowed into the studio. Under present plans, they are being corralled in another room to watch it on a TV link like everyone else.
Far better is the soap opera unfolding at the mega-union Unite - now Labour's biggest financial backer - where Brown's old spin doctor, Charlie Whelan, the union's political director, is being accused in this week's Spectator of plotting the takeover of New Labour.
Charlie has used Twitter to brush off the allegation as 'hilarious rubbish' but the fact is the union has parachuted 59 candidates into Labour constituencies.
That is the perfect base for the Brownites to get Ed Balls elected as the next leader and stop geeky David Miliband and the Blairites staging a comeback if Brown makes a pratfall on TV and has to step down after the election. Perhaps the mud-wrestling bout on ITV tonight will be worth the Mole's television licence fee, after all. ·
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