As you may have heard from other sources, the leaders of the two main parties, plus the Liberal Democrats, have agreed, at least in principle, to take part in a US-style TV debate in the run up to the general election. Apparently, this will all be Jolly Exciting, so much so that the BBC, ITV and Sky are lining up to broadcast one debate a piece.
I’m not entirely sure who the intended audience is though. Who really wants to listen to an Old Etonian, the Most Boring Man in Britain, and a bloke who no one has ever heard of from a party with no hope of forming a government? At best it will be like an extended version of Prime Minister’s Questions – a cheap point-scoring match betwen three people, two of whom we know have next to no chance of winning the election anyway.
One also has to wonder what is in it for the party leaders in this whole charade. Cleggs’ motivation is obvious, it will put him on television to the extent where people might actually recognise his name the next time they hear it. If it is a face to face debate, Cameron will probably appear more polished than Brown, though he may come unstuck if members of the audience are allowed to ask questions. For Brown, it’s likely to be an utter disaster – he is simply in a different league when it comes to charisma, and not in a good way.
The Scottish National Party has already got into a tiff about the whole thing, because Alex Salmond, poor little lamb, hasn’t been invited to the debate. If the SNP mount a legal challenge and win, the debate will probably turn into a special edition of Question Time, which rarely elicits interesting answers from the politicians on the panel. No doubt the other parties will want a piece of the action too – though I’d be prepared to waive all my objections if the Monster Raving Loony Party are allowed to take part.
Personally, I think a series of football matches would sort out the men from the boys – and the women from the girls of course, lest I get Harriet Harman sobbing about sexism – better than a TV debate. It has the advantage of being entertaining, not involving politics and devoid of boring speeches Any party which can’t make a team of eleven players plus a coach, manager and three substitutes can be considered too insignificant to warrant taking part. Regardless of who wins it will be an excuse to drink beer and cheer on your favourite team, and if any of the politicians show real talent we can always put them in the next England squad. Excuse me whilst I go and write this up into a programme proposal for Channel 4…