So, on the day of the second televised leaders debates what are we to make of the new political landscape? Are we heading for a revolution in the way we see and perceive our political leaders or is it all just smoke and mirrors.
Certainly, there is a real danger that voters could be seen to be concentrating more on the televised debates than the policies of the main parties and we are seeing skewed polling figures as a result.
There is a danger that the polls are simply reflecting people’s reaction to the debates rather than their voting intention, a view reinforced by one poll’s immediate reaction from the debate showing the Lib Dems with a 51% share of the vote - more than enough to confirm Nick Clegg as Prime Minister with a healthy working majority.
These views are not necessarily based on the policies of the Lib Dem Party but how Nick Clegg is perceived by television viewers. The debates only provide time for the briefest of glimpses into the party’s policies - there is no time for any discussion on the the detail behind the policy headlines.
The subsequent reduction in the Lib Dem share of the vote in polls demonstrates that the televised debate certainly had a short term but significant effect in voters’ minds. The impact of the debate and the poll rise for the Lib Dems, even if short lived, has given a boost in momentum for the Lib Dems which may be hard for the other parties to counter.
So, has the televised debate reduced the election campaign to little more than a non-political beauty contest?
It will be up to David Cameron and Gordon Brown to react to the Clegg factor and I am sure that they will be working harder than ever to try to alter the perceptions and work on the lessons learned from the first debate to regain some lost ground.
This may give rise to personalised politics and possibly more negative campaigning, we shall see.
Either way, it is unlikely that the public will be taken in by magic tricks or sleight of hand.
We have also heard from the party leaders that “the people” will decide if there will be a hung Parliament or not.
I’m quite sure that if there was a candidate in every constituency under the name of “hung” or “hung Parliament” then they would have a better than even chance of being elected but let’s be clear, you cannot gerrymander or tactically vote for a hung parliament - it requires an unusual set of circumstances.
The people will certainly decide but they will not go into the polling booths thinking they can vote for a hung Parliament. If we end up with a hung Parliament it would be an associative outcome rather than causality.