Cheesh – the population of these islands, particularly Britain and the north of Ireland, will be spoilt for choice tonight. There’s the Brown-Cameron-Clegg Dingdong Round 2 (the red and blue corner boys will be throwing everything bar the corner stool at Clegg this time). Then there’s the little local matter of P Robinson, G Adams, R Empey and M Durkan…Oh no, he’s gone, it’s the woman in red, what’s her name, Maddy, no Maggie, that’s it, Maggie Ritchie (watch and marvel as the UUP and the SDLP pretend not to raise family matters with Peter and Gerry but somehow manage to remind viewers about Iris and Liam just the same). And then, of course, there’s Liverpool in the semi of the Europa Cup.
It is exciting. Will the magic dust still sparkle and tingle around little Nick as much tonight as a week ago? Can David possibly wear as much make-up as last week? will Gordon do that funny thing with his lower mouth again, or is that, like violence, a thing of the past? Will Reg wave a £5 note in Peter’s face? Will Peter faint or break the habit of a lifetime and smile? Will Gerry say ‘First of all’ seven times or just five? And will Maggie repeat her claim that by withdrawing their man Maskey in South Belfast, Sinn Fein are really making it HARDER for the SDLP to win that seat? ( No, don’t try explaining it – my head hurts. I suspect Maggie heard Rafael Benitez say his team will play BETTER , not WORSE after their 24-hour overland journey to Madrid and thought ‘If that fat furriner can get away with the likes of that, why can’t I get away with the likes of this? )
And what a pity the whole debate demands silence – no clapping, no shrieks of approval. How wonderful if the lady in red were free to celebrate if she scored a debating point: ‘Hang on, guys, while I pull this red jumper over my head and run around the studio yelling’Sucks-boo to you, you hairy-faced Shinner scum!” And she would, too, believe me. Inside that tightly-controlled little body there’s a veritable volcano of emotion, begging to be let out.