The National General Election Debates began last night, hosted by the Jamaica Debates Commission, with teams of 3 representing the two main parties—I really missed the chance to hear from the now-crashed-on-takeoff Jamaica Progressive Party.

It wasn’t riveting to watch, and being a declared fogey, I found the 9pm start time too late for my tastes. I gave it 15 minutes, went to bed and enjoyed catching up with the rest this morning—it’s just over an hour. I don’t need to listen to analysts discussing things after.

I’m no fan of televised political debates, which are too often just platforms for party sound bites, a bit of back biting, and often short on real substance; more damage-inflicting on the opponents, if possible, and damage limitation for your own side. Because politicians are often fast and loose with their facts, many such debates now come with fact checking; I didn’t detect it last night.

My vote won’t change because of the debate, but my views on politicians may. However, all on show last night have given us hours of airplay over the past four years, so little new will surface for me. A few odd juxtapositions happened, for instance, when Raymond Pryce (brought in to replace a COVID-infected Peter Bunting) was dealing with a question on roads, I couldn’t help but see him protesting at the weekend by lying on the rain-sodden street in the constituency he is contesting. His explanation to the Gleaner is worth a read:

‘Pryce said he was told by the policewoman that he was in contravention of the Disaster Risk Management Act, insisting that unless he lived in the community or had a spouse there he had to leave. The politician said he demanded to know what section of the act he had breached, but the deputy superintendent could not say. “So, mi siddung, then mi cut me two hands behind mi neck and mi cross mi feet at the ankle,” he said. Pryce said the policewoman told him that he was “an embarrassment” and that his antics were unnecessary.’

The video is as good:

The debaters started off mainly nervous, but Lisa Hanna showed that she has been good at this stagecraft for a while. Pryce, too, was the consummate debater in terms of tone and demeanor, and how words and looks must meld to give the right aura. It was all genteel stuff, really, for the most part, and because it’s supposed to be about politesse as well as politics, it’s just a bit sad.

It was not until after about 50 minutes that things got a little spicy. First, Dr. Tufton went after Dr. Campbell (stating clearly “the member opposite”–Dr. Campbell is an MP, like him–except he apparently looked at Mr. Pryce, which caused him some offence) about a reference to a death ‘during’ the COVID-19 pandemic and linked it to the government “campaigning”—the by-election was in early-March (well before any national COVID issues) and the unfortunate death during childbirth was in mid-April. Not sure what Dr. Campbell was trying there, except a badly aimed cheap shot. Anyway, back came Mr. Pryce to correct the minister of health on yet another ‘piece of misinformation’–the apparent misdirected glance–and he went there!!!! He got in his quick jab about ‘marketing…’ and stopped short enough to for it to not cross the ‘Market Me’ line (a matter related to the company and its contract with the ministry of health and wellness, that some want to suggest comes from a personal relationship between the minister and one of the company’s principals). It was truly bizarre, not least because, all through the Tufton-Campbell exchange, the cameras panned only between the two of them, so we the viewers were in no doubt about the exchange. As for Mr. Pryce, perception is a funny thing.

But, we had to put up with some stolid stuff, instead, the rest of the time. With no audience, the atmosphere was also lacking. None of the piped crowd noise like in recent COVID-affected football matches, sadly: “C’mon, Tufton! C’mon, Tufton!” 🙂

I’m a sports buff, so I have no doubt that things like debates are fine for a country’s intellectuals or insomniacs, but I would like to see a change-up. Why not some arm-wrestling, or a simple display of strength test. In this era where almost everyone is working out and looking to get fitter, put some of them under a barbell and add the weights till they say ‘Stop!”. Burpees, crunches, push-ups, wind sprints. We want to know these people have the stamina. So, have them do a few wind sprints, or spin around a pole and then answer the questions, while catching their breath. At the least, it would be entertaining. I know some would welcome a no-holds-barred WWF slam down.

In passing through the corridors of social media earlier, I was intrigued by the range of opinions, praise and criticisms. I was also intrigued by various displays of what could be called ‘shade’. This one from Phase 3 Production’s head had me rolling. It’s innocent enough on the face of it, but, did it need to be noted? 🙂

Some interesting ;social distancing occurred

We have two more of these to deal with.

But, hey, spare a thought for our northern neighbours having to endure the Republic National Conference, with screech-fest performances such as that of Kimberly Guilfoyle:

Sometimes, you have to be grateful for life’s small mercies 🙂