Last Sunday, Sunday Politics East Midlands included a debate between four of the region’s five MEPs. There was Roger Helmer, a former Tory now representing UKIP, Bill Newton Dunn, a former Tory now representing the Libdems, and Emma McClarkin, a former employee of Helmer’s, representing the Tories . . and me.
Helmer and Newton Dunn spent most of the debate in an unsightly spat over their respective levels of attendance and activity. As I said at the time, this was exactly the kind of behaviour which turns people off politics, though the media – not least the BBC – seemed to like it.
Then this week, we had the great TV debate between Nick Clegg, who used to work for a Tory European Commissioner, but now leads the LibDems and Nigel Farage, a former Tory, now leading UKIP.
The media subsequently has been full of the results of a YouGov poll of people who watched the debate showed that 57% thought Farage did better, while 36% went for Clegg.
What was largely missing from reports of that poll was that the vast majority of people in the country didn’t watch the programme. The pollsters admit that, in order to find 1000 people for their poll of people who were watching it, they had to ask tens of thousands of people.
And how many people watched me and my Tory and former Tory opponents on the Sunday Politics? I would guess that the vast majority of the East Midlands were doing normal things like having their Sunday roasts, watching another channel, just getting back from taking their kids to football, or about to go out shopping.
And my own conclusions from all of this?
Well, first, there seem to be an awful lot of former Tories around.
Second, that UKIP and the LibDems seem to have decided that fighting each other is preferable to actually having some policies to help people with their everyday concerns.
And third, that the media’s desire for politics as gladiatorial combat, for winners and losers in some kind of boxing match, carries little appeal for the vast majority of people.
Let’s hope that Labour’s campaign of talking directly to individual voters in their own communities can bypass all this.