Tombola Bingo, sponsors of ITV soap opera Emmerdale, have expressed anger at the replacement of its usual highly-rated sponsored programme on Thursday with the first televised leadership debate in the UK election, and demanded that the channel take steps to ensure their usual key demographic is maintained throughout the highly anticipated political discussion. Drinking pints of bitter in a set replicating The Woolpack, the three party leaders will be required to couch all their answers in terms of how it will affect the residents of the village of Emmerdale, and will also be expected to use the local accent of the principal characters in all responses.
The Labour Party was bullish about the development, with a spokeswoman claiming that ‘public-private partnerships were what Gordon is all about, tha knows’ and that the Prime Minister was ‘happy to work with major beneficiaries of Labour’s relaxed gambling legislation to explain the benefits of a fourth Labour term to hard-working families like the Dingles, and make sure number 10 remains Gordon’s Den’.
The Conservative party hit back claiming that it was a sign of how out of touch with ‘t’people’ the Labour government was if their main ‘big government’ idea was ‘to keep giving handouts to that loverat Cain Dingle’ while also promising that David Cameron could return the country to ‘the glory days of iron lady Annie Sugden’. A spokesman for the Lib Dems wondered if anyone had noticed that Nick Clegg bears a certain resemblance to brooding ex-Emmerdale hearththrob Frazer Hines ‘who was also in Doctor Who, you know, which is pretty cool, um, pet’.
However, the deal to clear the live debate on the country’s main commercial channel doesn’t end with guarantees that answers would be peppered with plot details from Emmerdale, and an agreement for Alistair Stewart to call Tombola’s big money full house game before questions are taken from the floor. Tying in with ITV policies on programme cross-promotion, the three leaders are to re-appear on the channel on Saturday tea-time, when Harry Hill, on an election special TV Burp will ask the big question, ‘Who’s better, Gordon or David?’ In time-honoured fashion, the presenter’s call for a ‘Fight!’ will see the PM and leader of the opposition wrestle on the studio floor while Harry and Louie from Pineapple Dance Studio egg them on, and Nick Clegg marches in the background with a placard saying ‘Don't you know who I am?’ while dressed in a badger suit.
‘It’s all about our remit at ITV News bringing politics into the world of the ordinary voter in as dignified way that they can understand,’ an ITV insider said.