Robert Hampton

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5th March 2015

Taking Debate
Posted by at 8.46pm | No responses | Uncategorised

Our beloved Prime Minister is accused of trying to dodge television debates. He said he will only do one debate with six other leaders, and he will not do it during the “short campaign” after Parliament is dissolved for the election. He said that this is a “final offer”, as if he and he alone has the final say in this.

Some people are claiming that Cameron would rather these debates didn’t take place at all, but that is so cynical. After all, back in 2008 he criticised Gordon Brown for being unwilling to take part in TV debates. To do a total about-face now would make him a massive dish-faced hypocrite.

Picture of Cameron, Clegg and Brown at BBC Election Debate

In my view, there are two debate formats which make sense. One is to have a debate with any party leaders that have a reasonable chance of being Prime Minister after the election. At the moment, that means only two: Ed Miliband or David Cameron. Sorry, UKIPpers, your man Nigel isn’t getting anywhere near number 10.

The other workable format is to include any party which has demonstrated a reasonable level of support at a UK-wide level, by some objective measure (number of seats in Parliament, performance at elections, opinion polling, that sort of thing). That probably means the Tories, Labour, Lib Dems, UKIP and Greens get invited.

That’s almost what we got with the 7-way debate proposal, but I think it was a mistake for the broadcasters to muddy the waters by throwing in Scottish and Welsh nationalists as well. With seven people standing round podiums answering questions from a fierce inquisitor, people tuning in halfway through will think they’re watching The Weakest Link.

It’ll be interesting to see how the broadcasters react to Cameron’s ultimatum. The Guardian seems to think that Cameron will be empty-chaired. I predict that the empty chair will win the debate, and go on to take Wirral West from Esther McVey.

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