Are you not entertained? The also-ran Breakfast Club enter the electosseum | Marina Hyde

19 May

Roll up, roll up, for ITV’s post-debate spin room, the place where democracy gets treated like a female victim in the opening minutes of one of the network’s dramas.

The sheer, artless depravity of it – journalists interviewing journalists, spin doctors denying things you’ve seen with your own eyes, Team Nuttall … It’s hard to think of a way they could make this space more toxic, short of formally relocating it to somewhere inside the Chernobyl exclusion zone. Bit of a Sky move – but these days, who’s counting?

The central premise of the spin room is that voters are too stupid to understand the debate they’ve just watched on their tellies, and need to have it filtered through leading members of the arseoisie. Which is to say: spin doctors, journalists, attack dog politicians, and various other people who ejaculate before the title sequence of Game of Thrones is even finished.

To the justified annoyance of the parties whose leaders didn’t wimp out, the Labour and Tory press operations spent most of night slating their performances. This is a bit like a bunch of draft dodgers explaining what they’d have done differently at Khe Sanh. Thanks for your thoughts and everything, but do you mind pissing off right now before I beat you to death with my prosthetic leg?

I didn’t hear that line getting a lot of run-outs, to be fair, because who DOESN’T want to hear Labour’s campaign chief, Andrew Gwynne, come all the way to Salford to explain that the whole event was “a bit of a sideshow”? Who DOESN’T want to hear the Lib Dems’ Brian Paddick atomising any potential threats to Tim Farron’s debut as the world’s most relentless childhood memoirist? “You couldn’t have a party that’s more split on Brexit than the Greens,” explained Lord Paddick. “This is the first step that Tim Farron has made on that journey to be recognised as the true leader of the opposition to this Tory government.”

Or to put it another way: Tim Farron makes every policy sound like something that would be written on the baby animal poster peeling off the wall in your dentist’s waiting room. You know the sort of thing: a puppy tangled up in knitting wool beneath the words, “It’s time for some hope”.

Still, the debate itself had passed off as watchably as you might expect given it starred the leaders of parties polling collectively at 14%. There they were behind their five desks: the also-ran Breakfast Club. A brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal. I guess what we found out was that each of them was all of those things. And that none of them has a more than zero chance of being the next prime minister. But then, perhaps we knew that all along. You had to feel for ITV, though, who seemed to be realising in real time that they’d forked out several million pounds for a dire Paul Nuttall comedy.

But who’s this swooping in to the spin room to save the day? Did someone order the full Injustice League? Delta Farce? The Bro-alition of Chaos? Because it’s Team Nuttall, on hand in the spin room to explain whose fault it was that the Ukip leader called two of the women on stage with him Natalie. Even though none of the women on stage with him were called Natalie. “Well she kept interrupting him!” “I’m not surprised he did,” another was saying. “He was getting interrupted.”

Ukip always bring along a full nest of spinners: couple of sharp suits, a few local heavies, and one guy who looks like he might ask you to help him lift a sofa into the back of a van. “It would have been better if the other four had just agreed everything beforehand and just one of them had debated Paul,” one explained. But another thought it couldn’t have gone better, “and he looks the part”.

Does he? Paul Nuttall has two political outfits: one, the dark suit, which makes him look like the sort of passively-aggressed employee whose boss greets him daily with the words, “What you doing in that daft suit, Paul? You in court or something?” And two, the tweed-on-tweed, which makes him look like the efit of a man wanted in connection with a roofing scam. So, on balance, maybe that was probably the least disingenuous thing uttered all night: it was probably best to go with the dark suit.

All of which concludes another night of scintillating combat in the electosseum. To quote Maximus Crowe: are you not entertained? ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?!?! Is this not why you are here?

Well quite. Me neither.

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