What greater challenge could there be for a political enthusiast than to be given ten minutes to tell twenty sixth formers the ten most important facts about the 2010 general election?
Top of my list was a no brainer given the age of the audience. One in four of all 18-24 year olds commented on the election via social networking sites. Eighty per cent of them expressed an interest in political issues during the campaign. On polling day the turn out in their age group was up seven per cent on the 2005 general election, just one illustration of an unprecedented level of online interaction and participation. Old-style doorstep politics was overtaken by conversations via the web on sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and the rest.
So another key fact was what I called the ‘online insurgency’: David Cameron’s air-brushed poster became the most mocked image of the campaign thanks to viral graffiti artists; Nick Clegg was supported by an online fightback when accused by the Daily Mail of a ‘Nazi slur’; and Gordon Brown's disastrous 'Bigotgate' encounter became an online sensation.
But it was the three televised debates which were the election game changer – changing the dynamics of the way the campaign was reported. Without the three live confrontations between the leaders there would not have been ‘Cleggmania’ and Clegg would not have been able to command the Westminster stage as the kingmaker in the post-election hard bargaining that led to the formation of the UK’s first peace time coalition government since the 1930s.
Nicholas Jones was guest speaker at Overton Grange School in the London Borough of Sutton. He will be discussing his new book, Campaign 2010: The Making of the Prime Minister, at Gants Hill Library tonight at 7.30pm. Entry is £2.50 and you can book ahead on 020 8708 9206.
Campaign 2010: The Making of the Prime Minister is available to buy here.