"French election gets dirty: Insults that marked a fierce debate.BBC News.

Well, that was embarrassing.

Following in the footsteps of a famously ugly US election, this was another low point of democracy in the era of identity politics - and a major own goal for the reputation of the democratic free thinking world.

The cornerstone arguments on both sides were based on identity: Daughter of far right Le Pen, vs. the prodigal son of a discredited bureaucracy. 

France, the seat of philosophy, scientific reasoning, and intelligent debate - saw her two potential leaders involved in something close to a street fight. 

High drama, low quality.

Surely, we want the leaders of countries to be the best of us, to be something to aspire to, to earn and cherish our trust. To be multi-faceted human beings with a complex understanding of the nuance of policy, and the ability to articulate it. This format brings out the very worst in people.

The 'pro' argument for the head to head debate TV format is that it helps the candidates explain their position to the public - and if that were the case, then I would be all for it. 

But the whole set up is confrontational, and sadly leads to the kind of aggressive and insulting language that simply must be a turn-off to the kind of right minded people we want to serve us. 

We're torn between the religious lunacy of the middle ages, and a technocratic dystopian future built without regard for ethics. 

We're in need of right minded leadership, for good ideas to take root everywhere, for countries like France to show the world how it's done. 

If I were watching this trash talking TV from a dictatorship on the other side of the world, I'd be wondering if free speech is worth fighting for. 

It is.

I'm sorry to say that after this ratings grabbing shambles, we're none the wiser, and a damn site poorer.

I for one, hope we don't do the same thing in the run up to the General Election. Surely there must be a better way for leaders to explain complex policy positions in a way people will understand and remember.

...And no Mrs May, repeating 'Strong and Stable Leadership' until the country goes numb, is I'm afraid, just as fatuous.