Between an Emmerdale cliffhanger and the start of I’m A Celebrity stood Jeremy Corbyn and Boris Johnson. Despite the fact that neither politicians nor viewers were desperate to see the first TV debate, it nonetheless taught us something.
The initial opening speeches, on a Crystal Maze-like set, were a bit stilted as Johnson said Brexit, +Brexit and again Brexit.
While his alliteration went on about dither and delay from Corbyn, dying in a ditch didn’t detract Corbyn from talking about the NHS.
Johnson’s strategy was simple -- make every question about Brexit. Corbyn’s mistake was to make sure that everyone knew what Labour’s policy was on Brexit.
There was a meeting somewhere within Labour that said, “Don’t attack Johnson.”
When they got to a question of trust, the fact that Corbyn didn’t crush Johnson was a worry.
But every time Corbyn went off script and did attack Johnson as a crook and untrustworthy, he scored.
When the question of the border in the Irish Sea came up, Corbyn did badly on the specific of trade but better on the simple fact that Johnson lies and lies.
Johnson in trouble thought of raising immigration as an attack point but went back on script, yet again raised dithering about Brexit.
Corbyn’s best point was a simple one. “We will end austerity, I’m absolutely clear about that,” he said.
Throughout the debate Johnson was not clearer on anything apart from his desire to mention Brexit the posh bluster looked a more like fluster.
The Tory press office changed its twitter handle to “Fact check UK” for the debate. But like Johnson’s replies there were few facts and much repetition.
When it came to the NHS Corbyn hit home, arguing against more privatisation and an end to the internal market. Johnson responded with one nation rhetoric but he had the glint in his eye that said, “One Reich.”
But this wasn’t an anti-establishment insurgence. Accused by Johnson of wanting to overthrow capitalism, Corbyn responded by making taxing the rich sound a bit dull. He promised to return tax levels to those of 2010, which depending on how you view the opinion polls was a good or an awful answer.
The trivial bits at the end were trivial. Unfortunately that included climate change. It was also where prince Andrew and Epstein were raised. Corbyn was far better and showed empathy to the victims. Johnston didn’t.
But it was still next to a joke question about Christmas presents.
Both leaders were hidebound by trying to stay on message. Johnson’s is that this election is just about ending the Brexit boredom. Corbyn’s is about showing he is a safe pair of hands to run the country.
In truth Johnson is a liar and a crook, and Corbyn’s commitment to taking back our wealth is where the election could be won.