Getting me to miss a law lecture is a tough job, but I have to say that my excitement over an hour and a half of politics, journalism and debate won over my conscience on Tuesday afternoon.
The Independent Live debates began in Brighton Pavillion, where those of us lucky enough to get a ticket drank free wine, ate free canapés and then proceeded to get a rare chance to put our candidates in the spotlight.
The panel - which included representatives from the Conservative, Labour, Lib Dem and Green parties - had the chance to give a brief opening statement each and then proceeded to answer questions about education, Afghanistan, nuclear weapons, banks and immigration, amongst other things.
But did this actually sway anyone’s vote? Well, although traditionally averse to such per personality-driven campaigns, it seems the British public is getting a taste for these events and I would not be surprised if more than one floating voter left last night with a clear idea of who the MP should be.
Here is my take on the candidates.
Conservative – Charlotte Vere.
Away from home turf, the Tories perhaps felt their presence was almost a token gesture on behalf of the Independent. A few cynical laughs and ‘boo’s are the most memorable element of Charlotte’s contribution, and she was nowhere to be seen after the debate, when the rest of the panel was mingling with he audience and answering more specific questions.
Lib Dem – Bernadette Millam
Unfortunately for all the Lib Dem voters in Brighton, Bernadette put on a sorry show on Tuesday, barely identifying a single policy, fumbling over notes and generally appearing uncharismatic and dour. Of course few politicians would end up gleaming after ninety minutes trying to take on Caroline Lucas, but even Charlotte held her own better than our Lib Dem candidate. The ultimate mistake came when a member of the audience asked about the situation of the working class. Her answer was “I've been out cleaning lavatories to put food on the table”. Yes, lovely, but what are your POLICIES?!
Green Party – Caroline Lucas
Member of the European Parliament, Party Leader, and soon to be the first Green Party MP? She put the other speakers to shame by eloquently and officially setting forth important party policies - such as the introduction of a living wage, a reformed electoral system and a new generation of council housing. As far as I can see the competition is between her and Labour candidate Nancy Platts and it looks like the seat is going to everyone's favourite tree-hugger!
Labour – Trevor Beattie
No this is not a typing mistake. Neither the current MP David Lepper nor the candidate Nancy Platts were there, leaving the Labour Party representative to be a marketing executive with little apparent knowledge of policies, local issues or public speaking. Given that Mr Beattie is not a politician or candidate I don't feel his performance can be judged in comparison to the other speakers. However I would say that if Labour is hoping to win over any Green voters they need to get their act together and start at least turning up to opportunities like this to recruit valuable voters.
You can download a complete podcast of the event here.