HAVING spoken to a few Conservatives off the record, my understanding is that Sunak called the election for July 4 because he wanted to mitigate the political damage the Tories would suffer after a summer of boats crossing the channel.

Judging by the Conservatives performance so far, it is hard to imagine what that would look like.

With poll after poll indicating that the Tories will be all but wiped out on polling day, you could be forgiven for assuming that all will be well. Whilst political obliviation for the Tories will bring a smile and a sigh of relief for many, we have to be aware of what we are set to replace them with.

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I’ve already written in detail about the fact a Labour Government under Keir Starmer will simply be a change of the guard as opposed to the significant change his election slogan implies.

With the debate beginning on the topic of the NHS, social care and our struggling public services, listening to both of them bicker about who will win the race to the bottom in cutting taxes is beyond disheartening. Public services need investment. Urgent investment.

When asked if they would use private health care, Sunak unsurprisingly said he would and Starmer said he wouldn’t. What Starmer failed to elaborate on was the fact that his soon to be Labour Health Secretary wants to rely on private health care to improve the NHS.

Listening to Starmer criticise Sunak for saying one thing and then doing another is too hypocritical to ignore. Starmer promised to abolish the House of Lords, then changed his mind. He promised to embrace immigration then changed his mind. He promised to invest in public services but is now wedded to the same austerity agenda as the Tories. Although they are a shade saner, if you pick any big issue, you will find Labour are fundamentally on the same side of the argument as the Tories.

As much as I wish everybody based their vote purely on policy, the reality is that the majority of votes cast at any election are at least informed by slogans, personalities, and the national mood. Where many commentators believe that TV debates are a waste of time and rarely change the minds of those watching, I disagree.

Including the Liberal Democrats in the TV debates for the 2010 General election undoubtedly changed the trajectory of their fortunes. According to Nick Clegg’s then advisor, Clegg’s performance in that debate altered the outcome of the whole General Election. David Cameron looked set to win a majority over a tired Labour administration until the TV debates allowed the Liberal Democrats to offer an alternative perspective.

The National:

The power of televised debates was again apparent in 2015 with the famous photograph of Natalie Bennett, Leanne Wood, and Nicola Sturgeon hugging at the end of the debate. Not only does it make for a better debate to have multiple viewpoints, but it enriches our democratic process to know there are other options on offer than simply Tory or Labour.

That is precisely why this debate was so disappointing before it even began. A return to a simple Labour/ Tory debate plays into a more presidential style of politics despite the fact we do not elect Presidents. Some will claim that it is right to only have Tory and Labour present since they are apparently the only ones who can become Prime Minister. However, nobody in 2010 believed Nick Clegg had a chance of getting anywhere near number 10 - until he participated in the TV debate and found himself holding the balance of power in office.

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With the late arrival of Nigel Farage, we know that the next parliament looks set to drag even further to the right. Nothing we heard in last night’s debate allayed that prediction. Having left the EU, embraced xenophobic dog whistles, watered down workers’ rights, and stripped back the ability to protest, it is terrifying to think what an even more right-wing parliament will be capable of.

One thing the debate does prove is that the tribal trash talk that usually works in the House of Commons does not work in the real world. Where Sunak is used to Tory MPs braying in a wall of noise behind him, instead his pitch was met with silence and sniggers. As I try to type over the incessant shouting over each other, I cannot help but think that, with a complicit media, Starmer and Sunak hope that we forget there are other options available for Scotland. We would be foolish not to use them.