Monday, December 21, 2009

Election Debates Get the Go Ahead

It's official. There will be three debates during the general election campaign, hosted by the BBC, Sky and ITV. Each will feature the leaders of the three main political parties and each will have a similar format. Half of each debate will be themed.

While I am delighted these debates will happen I wish they weren't all going to be the same. The beauty of US Presidential debates is that each one is a different format. Still, I suppose we should be grateful for small mercies, as quite frankly, I must admit I thought that something would happen to scupper them.

Full story HERE on the BBC.

And well done to Sky News for their relentless campaign to make these debates happen. Without it I am not sure we'd have had today's announcement.

UPDATE 7.30pm: I totally disagree with Tim Montgomerie's stance on this, as outlined HERE. He thinks it's an early Christmas present from Cameron to Clegg and Brown. Yes, debates are risky things, but it is entirely right and proper for the electorate to judge their potential prime ministers through this format. Tim's argument seems to be based purely on what is in David Cameron's party political interest, although I see he has denied this on Twitter...
I'm not just being partisan @IainDale I've never watched a US debate that turned on a big issue, only by a controlled exchange of soundbites

Well, it's a fair point, but that's rather up to the participants isn't it - and the broadcasters - to try to elevate things beyond that? It's not an argument against the principle of debates.

Of course these debates are risky for David Cameron. He will remember that in the head to heads with David Davis during the leadership contest he never really came out on top. But I have little fear of that happening again. Conservatives ought to have confidence in David Cameron's ability to approach these debates in the right way.

Personally, I can't wait!

On another note, I am not sure why ITV are being granted a debate seeing as they have ditched any pretence at public service broadcasting. They no longer broadcast any political programmes and their news coverage is, well, patchy. If I worked for Channel 4, I'd be pretty hacked off by this turn of events.

32 comments:

50 Calibre said...

I guess that 4h30m will be quite enough to demonstrate to the poor viewer what little any of them have to offer, especially Brown. The man's a walking disaster, unelected, makes up the truth as he blunders along, incapable of answering straight questions, universally disliked by those who do not have 'vote labour' stamped on their birth certificates.

I suspect I might be in for a better time with the earache...

javelin said...

It's very simple ...

Brown has calculated that there is a HIGHER probablity of ( Brown NOT making a fatal election blunder AND Cameron making an election blunder ) than there is of New Labour winning the next election.

Oh as they actually said to Brown ... "You're totally f*cked Gordon, let's just hope that Cameron cocks up and you don't."

Alcuin said...

OK as far as it goes. I am not familiar with the US system in detail, but think there should be an option for protagonists to appeal to the organisation hosting the debate to verify matters of fact. Brown is notorious for distortions of official figures, double accounting and unfounded assertions as to the plans and motives of his opponents, and needs to be pulled up sharply for such behaviour by the chairman, not by his opponents.

BenS said...

So we'll get to see that CallMeDave is a better public speaker than either Clegg or Brown (obviously), and we'll see all three hilariously skip around the similarity of their policies, sweep the expenses scandal under the carpet, and achieve precisely nothing in the long (or short) run.

Well, I'm glad someone's excited anyway. US presidential debates at least can showcase some kind of difference between the candidates...

cynicalHighlander said...

Forget democracy in the UK and carry on the sham of a two party dictatorship. When a publicly (forced)funded BBC decides the politics by agreeing to this farce when we have one Conservative MP is totally immoral, time to leave.

David Lindsay said...

There should not be televised debates between the Party Leaders in the run-up to the General Election. We shall be electing a Parliament, not a President.

Sky News is trying to become Fox. It shouldn't. And the Prime Minister, or anyone who aspires to that office, should not be egging it on. Never mind the BBC or ITN.

Curmudgeon said...

So how is this going to go down in Wales and Scotland, where Nationalists are one of the four major parties, let alone in Northern Ireland where there is an entirely different party system?

Look forward to the writs flying.

Bird said...

I hope they don't have a "Question Time" type of audience.
There will be partisan clapping and booing and the BBC, judging by the Griffin programme, can't be trusted to provide a balanced audience.
I'll look forward, however, to David Dimbleby telling Brown to stop reciting tractor stats and "Answer the boody question!"

cbwoolley said...

It will be a disaster, as Brown will just lie, as he does in any interview, and if DC picks him up, it will just become a slanging match - thus pissing off all voters

Paddy Briggs said...

I don't like three way debates. The beauty of the US system is that it is adverserial. Having a third player negates this.

Cameron is the one taking the risk - not Brown. I'm far from convinced that the young looking, fresh faced, public school debating society champ and borderline smug "Dave" will be more appealing than Dour Old Gordon. And Clegg might seem like a bit of a nuisance...we'll see!

I Squiggle said...

I think this is a totally pointless exercise, and one that could backfire spectacularly on Cameron. He’s got it all to lose, if you believe the polls. Why is he risking it? And I go along with the points raised above – this is not a ‘Presidential’ democracy, so don’t go trying to make it one. And if I were one of the Parties excluded, I’d be talking to my lawyers.

Moriarty said...

I wouldn't feel too sorry for C4 Iain, not after tonight's report by Gary Gibbon who on several occasions made reference to Gordon Brown's "mastery of political and economic detail". Yes he does have such mastery but only in the sense that Frank Spencer might display "mastery of detail" of an IKEA instruction booklet.

Does C4 News even attempt a pretence of pol;itical impartiality these days? I ask in a spirit of genuine inquiry...

Moriarty said...

It's a pity in a way that this "Tory lead narrows" narrative will turn out to amount to no more than wishful thinking on the part of the Westminster commentariat. If there was genuinely something in it we could have a sweepstake as to when Brown would renege on his commitment to take part in the debates.

I suppose we could make do with a sweepstake on when, exactly, (and in a spirit of self-sacrificing principle) Shaun Woodward will redefect to the Tory party.

adamcollyer said...

The main issue with the debates is that nobody will watch. There will be endless discussion afterwards about who "won" the debates, as though that has any relevance to who would be a better PM. And the arbiters of who "won" the debates will be, more than anyone else, our dear friends in the liberal chattering class BBC.

Not a sheep said...

Is David Dimbleby fit to be the BBC's moderator of the BBC's debate? After his performance on Question Time when he, seemingly willingly, allowed himself to be controlled by Harriet Harman, I think not. http://notasheepmaybeagoat.blogspot.com/2009/12/election-debates-some-points.html

Moriarty said...

@Not A Sheep

Well yes. If he's biased in that oh so BBC way then clearly he's fit to be their moderator. Who better? :-)

sarah said...

I would be hacked off at Clegg's inclusion at all - a man who has about the same chance as I do of becoming PM.

I agree with you Iain - this should be something all Tories embrace - Cameron should wipe the floor with the other two idiots.

trevorsden said...

CH4 a bunch of self serving lefty bastards. the tories would never get a fair deal out of Sissons.

If Brown goes biblical with his brownies then the attendant publicity would crucify him. With the nation (presumably) watching then any brownies would generate quite a bit od bad publicity. Thats why its useful to have the Sun on side.

These debates were inevitable - but its extremely doubtful that they will change very much. For those who think its clever for Brown - well in these debates he is just another candidate.
Clegg has the most to lose and to gain at Labours expense. How he handles the others and how they handle him will be the most interesting.

Peter said...

Lets hope it encourages more people to vote.

Dorian Gray said...

I know their presence is diluted by other panellists. But surely Question Time usually has the Conservatives, Labour and Lib Dems on a level-footing. Granted also, that these will be higher profile events. However, I fail to see how they are going to be so different as to afford the Lib Dems an unequal platform compared to normal.

I agree with Iain's point over Channel 4 though. I think their news covergae and 'Dispatched' programmes merit their inclusion over ITV.

On a purely subjective point, Cameron afirs far better than the other two under pressure live. We all know Brown's failings (see Bolton etc) and Clegg gets snappy. I would not right this off.

Osama the Nazarene said...

The main problem with the debates is that there will be no follow up, no one to interrogate the pronouncements of the protagonists. Everyone will attempt a mini ppb on each issue. Without any IMMEDIATE comeback the debates will be sterile, incapable of probing below the veneer.

JMB said...

One big question is whether the Liberal chap spend all his time attacking the Conservatives as usual or join Cameron in countering Brown.

Anoneumouse said...

I live in Cumbria. Why should I be interested in the opinions of MP's from Fife,Oxfordshire or Yorkshire? I can not vote for them!

This is all about party (duck house politics) and nothing about local parliamentary representation. Shame, deep shame.

Vote ONLY for an Independent candidate (or become that candidate yourself)- whom you know to be genuine- who declares publicly - in writing - for individual liberty and choice. When enough Independent MPs replace Party MPs, appointment of Ministers will automatically return to the Monarch. The division of power will accompany this re-separation of government from parliament .

Adbul said...

This is another step in trivializing politics and pandering to show biz and celebrity culture. See the following:

http://belfercenter.ksg.harvard.edu/publication/19646/we_mustnt_judge_leaders_by_values_of_hollywood.html

I Squiggle said...

I’ve had another thought on this – it isn’t going to happen. I can’t see how this can be possible to broadcast in Scotland, when the SNP are the governing party in that devolved government, and would obviously cry foul not to be party to such a debate when it came to a GE. And even in Wales and NI , the nationalist parties can claim a share of the representative pie. So is this an English only broadcast? And if it is, what constituency does Gordon Brown represent? Riddled..

Bryan William Christopher said...

Gordon should have said a resounding "No!" His so-called friendly advisers must really want him out! Or will he surprise us?
If Simon Cowell was leading a panel of judges for the great Debate, who would he choose to sit alongside him? Any suggestions?

Pogo said...

The idea of a debate is that opposing sides present their differing views in an attempt to change the mind of the audience. On which basis I can't see how it's going to be much of a "debate", there's virtually no ideological difference between the three "big" parties. They're all big-state, authoritarian, high-tax, pro-EU, "green", "social democrats".

It'll just degenerate into an exchange of carefully-prepared sound-bites.

I'll probably give them a miss and concentrate on doing something more important and rewarding, de-flea-ing the cat perhaps.

Zoran said...

If I worked for Channel 4 I would be pleased to have been left out.

Political debates are a big turn-off for most people, so they would be more likely to switch over to Channel 4 while the broadcasts are on.

Gerry57 said...

Will the BBC's opening question be :-"Which school did you attend ?"

William said...

'ITV have ditched any pretence of public service broadcasting.'
I'm not sure what you mean by that Iain. I think you could easily level that criticism at the BBC, but ITV are a commercial channel, they should be able to do what the hell they like. If you were to say that ITV doesn't produce any half decent programmes anymore because it's skint I would agree with you.
It is going to be very hard for any media outlet to put up much of a fight against the BBC who are funded in a communist manner that belongs in the 1950's. However, like all corporations that get so ridiculously huge, the BBC will probably collapse spectacularly not so long from now.
As for TV debates, I think they are a good thing, but I do worry about the power of parties and leaders over individual MP's. Mainly because people don't believe that their MP's can make a difference.

Newmark said...

William said...
'ITV have ditched any pretence of public service broadcasting.'
"I'm not sure what you mean by that Iain. I think you could easily level that criticism at the BBC, but ITV are a commercial channel, they should be able to do what the hell they like."

They are not free to do what they like. Under the terms of their licences the various ITV companies are required to broadcast programmes covering news, current affairs, political events, religion, etc. which all come under the heading Public Service Broadcasting.

Bryan William Christopher said...

I agree Gordon Brown will be unable to give a direct answer, but Dave's attempt to be just an ordinary bloke may not cut it either. Could this be Nick Clegg's X-Factor moment?