HALFWAY through an already seemingly never-ending General Election campaign and I have reached the conclusion that far from allowing our 'top' politicians the oxygen of publicity, we should instead deprive them of it almost to the point of blackout.

As an upholder of democracy and advocate of free speech, it pains me to have to declare that if I never see any of the party leaders' faces again, it will be too soon.

At the moment, I can just about stomach reading about their claims and counter claims, their smears and snarls of outrage, their promises and refusals to commit to promises. I can even manage a few minutes of bickering on the radio.

But when they appear on television it is as if I am struck by some strange virus emanating from the screen. I am seized by an uncontrollable desire to flee the room and go for a quiet lie down with the curtains shut.

Apparently, the nation has been gripped by the televised leaders' debates, by the live cut and thrust of politics in the raw.

But seven party leaders (or five, or three, or however many appear in any given debate) standing behind lecterns as if ready to announce the winners at a school prizegiving evening is not my idea of fun, especially when the finger pointing, interruptions and shouting begins.

It is impossible to get a true idea of what any of them stand for, when they only each manage to get parts of their points across, before their voices are drowned out by the baying of the rest.

Alas, radio is not good for this sort of stuff either. Little more than an hour before writing this, I managed to endure (and that is being polite) an exchange on BBC Five Live between retiring Liberal Democrat MP Malcolm Bruce - retiring as in stepping down as an MP, because he was anything but retiring on air - and a Scottish Nationalist Party representative whose name sadly escapes me.

Suffice to say that such was the extent of the incoherent jabbering coming from the radio by the end of the piece that I finished making my youngest son's packed lunch for school through gritted teeth, cutting the bread with an abandon that put my finger ends and the subsequent ediblility of his sandwiches at grave risk.

Really, these things should not have such an extreme effect on a veteran of seven previous General Election campaigns at the end of which I have had the right to cast a vote. Perhaps I should have learned by now that politicians in extremis lose all sense of decorum and do little more for the duration of such campaigns than the equivalent of howling at the moon.

Maybe I am incredibly naive, but I think we, the voting public, deserve better, and we are constantly let down by their mewling and puking.

Indeed, the only thing that would make such exchanges tolerable to me at this point, would be if those steering the televised debates or radio discussions were to have the right to insert a baby's dummy into the mouths of those party leaders or politicians who resort to such antics.

At least when reading about what the parties involved have in mind for us after Thursday May 7, in newspapers or online, one can do so without being interrupted.

I imagine that were we to let them into our homes while we were reading about their policies, we would be interrupted too, by a tug on the trouser leg, or the shirtsleeve, accompanied by the political equivalent of "daddy, daddy... daddy, daddy, daddy, daddy..." or "mummy, mum, mum... mummy" very much like a three- or four-year-old.

It ought to be as simple too as seeking out each party's manifesto and reading those for definitive guidance on the direction in which the UK might be heading after May 7.

But having had a look at the manifestos that are out there so far, I can only conclude that taking any one of them entirely at face value is an exercise in, at best, admirable faith, and at worst, folly.

So then, maybe I ought to steel myself and watch the party leaders in action, stare into their eyes on screen and attempt to make sense of what is coming out of their mouths, even if they are - as they seem most inclined to do - all speaking at pretty much the same time.

But I'm afraid I am not tolerant or patient enough to do that.

I shall exercise my right to vote at the end of this extended exercise in the political equivalent of dragging fingers down a blackboard, but when I do, it will be in the relative silence and calm of the polling booth, when all the squawking and squabbling is thankfully at an end.