The format was extremely simple: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn were supposed to debate for an hour. Each candidate was able to make a short statement at the beginning and make a conclusion at the end. In between, they should answer questions from studio guests and letter writers. But instead of a hearty exchange, the audience got a show without content.
Nevertheless, three scenes surprised.
Johnson answered almost everything with the same answer
In the major topics of the election campaign – especially Brexit – both candidates insisted on already known positions: Johnson demonstrated his unconditional will to leave the EU and confidently referred to his agreement rejected by parliament. Corbyn campaigned for a new, better deal with Brussels and a referendum in which the people should vote between a new Labor deal and remaining in the EU. So far, so well known.
However, Johnson also answered almost all the other questions with his Brexit answer, which was worded differently: "I've negotiated a fantastic deal, I'll do the Brexit."
Is the climate the biggest challenge? Johnson: "It's the biggest crisis in the world, so we need to do Brexit."
Which politician do you admire most? Johnson: "All 27 EU leaders, because they have made this great Brexit deal possible for me."
How can you improve the health system? Johnson: "We can only do that with a strong and dynamic economy." And "we should do the Brexit quickly".
Like two schoolboys
Above all, the interpersonal relations of the two candidates were eagerly awaited, which in many respects could hardly be perceived more differently: Johnson as an economic representative of the elite, Corbyn as a union friend with an environmental and disarmament agenda.
Already in the course of the day both had worked on social media in the dissemination of a picture of themselves, to which they also held in the broadcast.
Corbyn had posted pictures of herself to the hairdresser in the morning, said a few minutes before the start, he wished a "respectful and informative event." And he was also just as accessible – he turned to Johnson in his answers, even if he turned away unfavorably from the camera and his glasses reflected unfavorably.
Johnson, who is clearly ahead of his rivals in the polls, aggressively made the move throughout the day, posting pictures on Twitter showing him visiting a boxing studio. Then he apparently strikes towards the camera, on his boxing gloves is his overriding message: "Get Brexit done" – "Do the Brexit".
Stefan Rousseau / dpa
"Doing the Brexit": Boris Johnson, shadowboxing
The first half of the duel he ignored Corbyn as far as possible, stoically stared towards the camera, but not to his stage partner. Only when this irritated him with proposals from the left spectrum too much Johson gave up his gaze short term.
The supposed role-playing game became whimsical when the presenter asked the two of them to join hands and promise each other a more friendly tone in political debates – which they did, and then returned to their lecterns like two schoolboys.
Shakehands between brawlers
Emotional became the duel, as the questions came to the improvement of the British health system NHS, which is perceived by many as inadequate. There is a shortage of doctors, nurses and funds.
Corbyn told of a Labor activist who had died the previous morning after being hospitalized for several hours for emergency treatment. 30,000 foster homes are currently vacant, Corbyn continued, calling for the end of privatizations that he believes are responsible for the plight.
But even in this situation, both got rid of stereotyped statements: Johnson said that worse than privatization was the four-day week, after which Corbyn mused on the benefits of a four-day week for "health and well-being" – and both the discussion leave the previous role allocation again.
Finally, there should be something more conciliatory – both should answer the question of which Christmas gift they would put under each other's Christmas tree.
Corbyn: "I know that Boris likes good books". He should therefore get "A Christmas Carol" from Charles Dickens. An intellectual swipe: In the English literary classic wins in the end, the charity on greed and avarice.
And what would Johnson put his competitor under the tree? "A copy of my brilliant Brexit deal."