royal-sarkozy.jpgThere is an election in Britain today. But not in London. So it doesn’t feel like an election at all to me. Indeed I have felt really rather detached from all the posturing of the last few weeks because it has not been inciting me to vote. Kids might be enjoying the day off while their School’s are turned into polling booths outside London, but I’ll probably go to bed tonight forgetting that there is an all night Dimblebython going on. The French election seems more real to me at the moment: perhaps because I was in Paris for the first round of PRESIDENT ’07. Considering that they had an 82% turnout, I was very surprised that I didn’t see a single person go into a polling booth. But elections on Sunday’s work differently to our Thursday School ones, and it appears without that annoying Lib Dem woman standing outside the polling booth crossing off your name.

All democratic systems are a bit weird, but the French one is super weird, pandering to extremists as candidates with similar views get wiped out in the race to be in the top two. But it does mean that the final election, this Sunday, is more clear cut between right and left wing in a way we probably will never see again in the UK. Something else we probably won’t see is the live head-to-head debate, which pulled in almost as many viewers as the World Cup Final. I am in two minds about these kind of debates. The seem redolent of US style personality politics, where the biggest bully wins (or loses)* and plays into soundbite culture. But then you kind of want your president to be good at soundbites, its in the job description, especially the way Head Of State and political power divvies up in France.

What I do like though is the gameshow aspect of this debate. Look at that picture. What dominates the set is not so much Royal vs Sarkozy as the giant stopwatches underneath each desk. There to provide perfect balance, both were only allowed to speak for the same amount of time in the interview. This is of course the only way balance can be achieved, but I know if I had been watching I would have been obsessed by the clock and less on the witty invective being spat. This seems a bad way of running the debate, until you also consider what else could be added to this model. there are two hosts after all, maybe we could add a dictionary corner. A buzzer to stop any repetition, hesitation or deviation. And of course at the end we get to find out which one was bluffing!

*From media reports it seems that Royal’s tactic was to attack Sarkozy so much that his placid media groomed face would crack and the brash, right wing misogynist bullying would appear. Not sure how smart bullying someone so they become a bully is, but apparently it seemed to work.