The unaware viewer might have been forgiven for thinking they had tuned into the gloomiest ever episode of Take Me Out. No likey? No votey. If only. Settling down with a cracking bottle of Louvel Fontaine champagne (£10 from Asda, don't bother looking for any tomorrow, I've bought it all) I was prepared to be wowed by seven people all determined to run the country.
It began with a brief party political broadcast from each leader. Zzzzzzzzz. Ed daringly chose to wear a grey tie. Nick stuck to egg yolk yellow. Perhaps he was celebrating Easter? A more likely option was that he was looking past his party being wiped out at the coming election and was hoping for a job as a Cadbury's Creme Eggs rep. Dave plumped for deep navy, probably hand-made for him by Johnnie Boden. Nige went for navy with white polka dots, the better to set off his sweating Mr Toad face. Natalie (Green Party, do keep up at the back) wore a grey suit made of wool generously donated by sheep who agreed with her party's manifesto. Nicola (SNP, ditto) looked good in a natty red suit. Leanne Wood (Plaid Cymru), sporting a glorious beehive hair-do, had obviously popped into Next on her way to the studio and chosen something from its "Workwear" range. Julie Etchingham, dressed as a surgeon on her day off, stood in for Jeremy Kyle. The studio audience dozed off. It was all very, very boring.
It livened up slightly when they got onto austerity. Mr Toad said half the panel said they were prudent, the other half were saying the cuts went too far. With seven people on the panel, he clearly saw himself as the singular voice of reason. How wrong can a man be? Scotland, he added, got too much money, and he would stop this. Was he going to suggest creating jobs by re-building Hadrian's Wall? Alas, Dave's botox interrupted him.
34 minutes in, and Mr Toad was sweating like a pig who'd just found out the truck he was in wasn't actually taking him to a farm in the country. Nick, meanwhile, remained gloriously matte. What kind of face powder was he using? Leanne said everything slowly and carefully, as though reading aloud to a particularly slow-witted toddler. Mr Toad suggested that thousands of foreign HIV/AIDS sufferers were flocking to Britain for free NHS treatment. Leanne, horrified at this outrageous statement, put him in his place. The audience woke up and applauded her heartily.
There was more grandstanding from everybody about the NHS, and then ITV cut to the commercial break. Frankly it's a bloody good job we have a free at the point of entry health service, because by this point 95 per cent of the studio audience had slipped into a coma.
Back in the studio, the stand-by defibrillation team having done their work, a question on immigration was put to the panel. Dave and Ed bored on about caps and control. Guys, we're talking about Johnny Foreigner here, not contraception. "I want Britain open for business, but not open to abuse," said Nick, looking smug at managing to get in the soundbite written by his PR team. "Mrs Merkel is the real boss in Europe!" declared Mr Toad, his sweat now leaking into his shirt collar. Meanwhile, Twitter was going bonkers; the great intellect that is Gary Lineker weighed in with the kind of razor-sharp insight so sadly lacking in political commentary today:
"Always reluctant to offer a political view, but Farage is a dick"
Nick pointed out to Mr Toad that they both had foreign wives. "I'm married to a foreigner, you're married to a foreigner - be open hearted." Toady looked unmoved by this fact, and concentrated on not revealing that he was now sweating into his socks.
We moved onto education and jobs. "We should make sure there are good jobs for people to do," declared Dave. Who'da thunk? "Nick, you let young people down with university fees," shouted Ed. "Say sorry for the banks," retorted Nick. "Yeah well, they were under-regulated," replied Ed. "Young people suffer the most," added Dave. Seriously - is this the best Britain can do?
It ended with another party political message from each of the leaders. "You can vote for the same old parties," preached Nicola. "To people in Scotland, I say vote SNP." No shit. "Thank you for sitting through this two hour political marathon," said Nick, who had clearly given up and was looking forward to the day when he didn't have to wear a vomit yellow tie. "There's one fundamental choice," intoned Ed. "I'll make sure everyone plays by the same rules." "I hope what you've heard tonight doesn't fill you with too much despair," smiled Leanne, knowing exactly what her audience was feeling, but losing points for reading from her notes. "If you want change, you have to vote for it," announced Natalie, not even bothering to pretend she'd learned her speech by heart, looking down at her notes every two seconds. "If you want things to be shaken up, you've got to put more UKip MPs in Westminster," said Mr Toad. "Let's create a job for everyone who wants and needs one!" yelped Dave, his smooth buttock face reddening like it had just received a good spanking from nanny.
It was a ground-breaking study in tedium. A snorefest of gargantuan proportions. A coma of crap. We need new leaders, with new ideas. Anybody?Suggest a correction