The 2019 General Election was a contest no-one wanted between UK political leaders no-one trusts. Most of us will be glad to see the back of it. But it will go down in history for one thing. In past elections it would have been unthinkable for a television station to replace the Prime Minister with a block of ice.

Channel 4 confirmed that the age of deference is truly over by refusing to accept the Deputy Prime Minister, Michael Gove, as a stand in for Boris Johnson in their climate change debate. To the Conservative Party's dismay, the TV regulator, Ofcom, sided with the block of ice.

Elsewhere on the dial, the BBC has been the target of unprecedented criticism for alleged bias in favour of the Conservatives. Two editing errors, one of which removed laughter from a clip of Boris Johnson in an earlier debate, became the justification for a social media tirade against the corporation. The clips have been watched and shared many times more than any of the TV debates.

The BBC's political editor, Laura Kuenssberg, has been widely portrayed, unfairly, as a Government spokeswoman. Contrariwise, Andrew Neil, who used to be attacked for having right-wing views, became an unlikely Twitter hero when his piece to camera condemning Boris Johnson's non-appearance on his show went viral. The block of ice, it seems, was otherwise engaged.

Social media had been encroaching on the conventional press and media in the last two elections; this time it came close to eclipsing them altogether. Analysis by Research Reality suggests that people are increasingly consuming political news through fragmented and partisan clips on their mobile phones, rather than from watching TV debates or reading articles. Politics has merged with entertainment. Comedians are now as influential as journalists or even politicians in shaping attitudes.

Young people derive their political information almost exclusively from the internet, with its preoccupations about race and gender identity. Labour, with its media-savvy Momentum shock-troops, has dominated the new medium, churning out memes, jokes and provocative videos. If this were an election for the under-35s, Jeremy Corbyn would already be measuring the curtains in Number 10. He's called “the absolute boy”.

Boris Johnson is portrayed as a Bullingdon blowhard, a racist, misogynist and, above all, a liar. Each speech and interview is tracked by a flotilla of “fact check” posts of varying quality demonstrating that his pants are on fire. These are amplified by comedians and commentators condemning the Tories for being in the pockets of billionaires, letting children starve and for harbouring Jacob Rees-Mogg. The Eton-educated Leader of the House has been kept well away from microphones since his suggestion that people consumed in the Grenfell Tower blaze lacked common sense.

Labour has had its own image problems, of course, not least the charge of anti-Semitism that simply won't go away. Last week an extraordinary dossier of allegations from 70 Labour current party staff, compiled for the forthcoming Equalities Commission investigation into anti-Semitism, was leaked at a crucial moment in Labour’s campaign. The leaders of all the major UK religious faiths had earlier condemned Jeremy Corbyn for failing to stamp out hatred towards Jews in Labour ranks. A succession of Labour candidates have been dumped for trading in anti-Semitic imagery and tropes.

Mind you, a number of Tory and SNP candidates have also been dropped over anti-Semitism. One of the SNP casualties, Neale Hanvey, in the key target seat of Kirkcaldy, has not gone quietly. He enlisted the support of many in the Yes movement, including the outspoken nationalist blogger Wings Over Scotland, aka Stuart Campbell, who has urged supporters to vote for Hanvey on Thursday.

Then, in a bizarre twist, the SNP's conduct investigator on the Hanvey case, Denise Findlay, also resigned. Someone revealed that she too had tweeted last year that: “It is not anti-Semitic to call Israel a Nazi state”. Many of Campbell’s readers believe these candidates have been casualties of a growing factional division in SNP ranks, mainly fought on social media, between transgender activists and members, like Hanvey and Findlay, who oppose self-ID.

This winnowing of candidates would have been unimaginable in previous elections. It demonstrates again how social media has become a parallel battleground even at constituency level. Candidates' social media accounts are ransacked for dodgy remarks. Twitter has taken on the character of a McCarthyite inquisition.

The Big Issues, like taxation and spending, have taken a back seat. Labour evidently decided that it was no longer necessary in the social media age to be cautious about spending pledges. In for a penny in for a billion. The Labour manifesto is bold and radical, and has been compared to the 1945 Labour manifesto of Clement Attlee. It also involves the biggest peacetime increase in Government spending.

Labour is planning to spend and invest a grand total of £800 billion over five years, to be financed, improbably, by a 5% tax on those earning over £80,000 (conveniently just above the earnings of MPs). And this is only for its declared spending. The Labour manifesto “Grey Book” did not include the cost of a four-day week, freezing the pension age or nationalising a raft of industries like energy and rail.

It is easy to pick holes in the Labour programme, not least in the uncosted £58bn that Labour belatedly offered to the so-called Waspi women, who feel they lost out when the pension age for women was equalised with that of men. The Institute for Fiscal Studies was scathing about the Labour programme in general and that in particular.

However, the influential IFS was scathing about all the parties' programmes. It said the Tories' promise of no increase in income tax, VAT or National Insurance is unsustainable. It also criticised the SNP's proposals, adding that independence would lead to greater austerity than under the Conservatives. This blanket condemnation of the respective parties' numbers meant that the spending issue was largely neutralised as the campaign progressed. In the social media scrum, fiscal issues have hardly registered.

Focus groups suggest that most voters do not believe Labour's promises are credible, however. There has been an air of desperation about Corbyn offering free broadband, cheap rail tickets, lower rents, free childcare, free elderly care, cheaper fuel etc. Labour claimed this week that families will gain £6,700 a year if they win the election. It's a shameless exercise in retail politics, but that doesn't mean it isn't effective.

The Conservative manifesto, by contrast, offers thin gruel. It does include increases in spending but only around £3bn a year, mainly on health, police and gigabit broadband. But the increases mostly restore the cuts made by the Tories in these areas since 2010. The proposal for 40 new hospitals looks provisional at best and the promise of 50,000 nurses includes 19, 000 already employed by the NHS.

If you want free stuff, and are prepared to suspend disbelief, Labour certainly sounds attractive – if you live in England, that is. Most of the headline measures like free personal care, free tuition fees, free childcare and higher health spending, are already in place in Scotland. Nicola Sturgeon said, with some justification, that Labour's manifesto was a “cut and paste job” of the SNP's record in office.

However, not even the SNP has proposed borrowing on the scale Labour envisage. The shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, wants to spend £250bn alone on retooling the economy to meet the challenge of climate change. Electrification of transport, planting two billion trees, investing in green industries. There has been a greater tolerance of government borrowing in this campaign, largely because the Conservatives have stopped using their old language of austerity: of “spending what we can afford”.

Both main parties are saying, in effect, that now is the time to invest because the cost of borrowing has significantly reduced. Indeed, with near-zero interest rates, money is almost free right now. The UK deficit is only 1.2% of GDP. However, the absolute debt pile is higher than ever.

It has already increased from £1 trillion to £1.8 trillion since the Conservatives came to office. This debt will eventually have to be repaid, and if there is an increase in interest rates – historically averaging 4% – then there could be a huge bill for millennials to pay. This on top of their present burden of tuition debt (in England), high housing costs, insecure work and low pay.

The generational divide has never been more apparent than in this general election. “OK Boomer” and “gammon” have become widely-used terms of abuse on social media, directed at those born in the decades after the Second World War. The over-60s are, of course, the generation that overwhelmingly voted for Brexit.

This was supposed to be a Brexit election, but Europe has for much of the campaign been crowded out by other relatively trivial issues. In the final days it will no doubt return, with the Tories repeating their mantra of “get Brexit done” beyond pain threshold. Jeremy Corbyn will be defending his much-criticised pretence that he has no view on the most important issue facing the country in 40 years.

The Liberal Democrats, who've had a disastrous election, will be trying to remind us of their existence. Their leader, Jo Swinson, has been called a marmite politician – if no-one liked marmite. Nicola Sturgeon still wants a referendum on independence next year and is expected to gain many seats.

But this is a binary election for a non-binary age: between Jeremy Corbyn and Boris Johnson. For good or ill, one of them alone will be entering Number 10 on Friday. The Conservatives have led the opinion polls throughout the campaign, but there is great volatility and it could still end with a hung Parliament.

The weather on this December Thursday could have a major impact on the turnout. That ice could be about to get the last word.