Tom Peterkin: Voters deserve better than TV “rammies”

For those of us working in the Holyrood bubble, rancorous political squabbling is as much part of life as eating the chips served up in the parliament canteen. On a rare excursion into the real world this week, it was interesting to hear a chum saying over a pint of beer how appalled he was by the quality of a recent general election debate.

Ed Miliband, Leanne Wood, Nicola Sturgeon and David Cameron during one of the televised debates. Picture: PA
Ed Miliband, Leanne Wood, Nicola Sturgeon and David Cameron during one of the televised debates. Picture: PA

He was referring to the “discussion” hosted by the BBC on its Sunday Politics Scotland show involving the Scottish party leaders, Nicola Sturgeon, Jim Murphy, Ruth Davidson and Willie Rennie. The session, my friend said, reminded him of the pre-referendum confrontation between Sturgeon and then Labour leader Johann Lamont, broadcast on STV. The ferocious and meaningless nature of those exchanges were such that their encounter was nicknamed “the stairheid rammy”.

As someone who had wasted an hour or so of my precious Sunday off by tuning into Sunday Politics Scotland, I was able to compare my reaction to the programme to that of my friend from the real world. He had watched with jaw-dropping astonishment at the chaos unfolding. I had merely continued staring blankly at the telly, muttering “par for the course” and taking another sip of tea.

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It would seem that countless hours watching First Minister’s Questions and listening to politicians tearing into each other had inured my critical faculties when it came to discourteous public shouting matches. Alarmed that I had lost the ability to spot a stairheid rammy, I wasted another hour of my life by watching Sunday’s debate again on the BBC iPlayer service when I got home from the pub.

Looking at it again in a less complacent mode, I saw Sunday’s debate as my friend had seen it – in all its gory detail. Politicians spoke over each other, interrupted each other and made snide remarks during a belligerent session that offered little in the way of answering questions but much in the way of score-settling. SNP supporters would have seen three pro-Union politicians ganging up on Sturgeon; those not of the SNP persuasion would have seen Sturgeon fail to give satisfactory answers to crucial questions on the SNP’s economic and constitutional plans.

For long periods, Murphy and Sturgeon spoke over each other in an unedifying advert for Scottish politics. “Let me finish, Jim,” implored Sturgeon as she struggled to make her point amid the interruptions. “You have hardly started,” Murphy duly interrupted in one of the many unenlightening and ill-tempered exchanges.

That sort of dismal badinage may be de rigueur for the political classes, but the general public deserves a bit better from our elected representatives.