On polling day - and if you are a postal voter that could be from Monday 26 April right through to 10pm on Thursday 6 May - every voter's choice is described on the ballot paper by the name of a candidate, a party logo if the candidate remembered to authorise its use, and the registered party name.
As I sought to highlight here on this blog, the prime ministerial TV debates are between the prospective parliamentary candidates for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, Sheffield Hallam and Witney. Regulation of most other aspects of human activity is intense and subject to scrutiny, except politics - until recently. So when exercising our democratic rights to vote in a General Election, we are only electing a person to represent the parliamentary seat in which we live. The rest - government, and prime minister - is by proxy.
The party with most seats has expectations to form the next government. Its leader (who has already been elected by its members) is invited to do so and, if successful, appointed by the constitutional monarch as prime minister.
As we have seen in the 2010 campaign to date, more vividly perhaps than ever before the medium of television -together with competition between television channels - appears to be quickening the transformation of our parliamentary democracy into a presidential-system of government. The appearance of the party leaders, their body language, facial mannerisms, we are told, account for the vagaries of their respective party's standing in opinion polls more than their party's manifesto policies.
Party politics for me is defined by motivational values - personal greed (Conservatives) vs the common good (Labour). The Liberal Democrats seem to err in Tory areas more towards sating greed, and in Labour areas more towards the common good, through so-called neighbourhood politics. So their existence as a separate political party today for me reflects more the personal ambitions of its relatively small membership base and elected representatives than a distinctive value set that shapes its policies.
This simple categorisation has been thrown into disarray by presidential creep, or the advance of the elected dictatorship. Instead of being encouraged to focus on the policies, we are being bombarded with images of the leaders and invitations to watch debate, rather than participate. The results of round one of the 2010 'prime ministerial' TV debates has been an unprecedented convulsion in public opinion as measured by the opinion polls - showing a meteoric 50% rise in possible support for the Liberal Democrats from 15 - 20% up to 25% - 30% or more. Under Britain's current electoral voting system, it is possible that Labour could win the largest number of seats with the smallest share of the popular vote. Some say that would strip the largest party of democratic legitimacy. I say that's what you get if you allow TV moguls and professional politicians to pervert parliamentary democracy.