Debate likely to be the political Celebrity Squares option

seven candidates

US Republican Presidential nomination primary debate 2012
Don’t hold your breath at this stage, but it looks entirely conceivable that we have possibly got a robust plan for a seven-way leaders debate during the general election campaign. It could well be on April 2nd, although Labour have yet to agree.

According to the Guardian, there could also be these televisual feasts:

Cameron and Miliband would be interviewed by Jeremy Paxman and then questioned by a studio audience in a Sky/Channel 4 special on 26 March. But the two leaders would appear separately – never sharing the stage, depriving Miliband of the chance to confront Cameron directly.

Just after the dissolution of parliament at the end of March, Cameron would appear in a debate featuring the leaders of seven parties on ITV on 2 April. This appears to make ITV the big winner of the deal, should it go ahead.

On 16 April the BBC would host “a challengers’ special” involving the SNP, Ukip, Plaid Cymru the Greens and the DUP. This will anger Nigel Farage, leader of Ukip, who wants the party to be seen as a major player.

Finally, on 30 April, Cameron, Miliband and the Lib Dem leader, Nick Clegg, would appear separately in half-hour segments in a Question Time-style event hosted by David Dimbleby on BBC1.

Does anyone care any more what debates there are? We’ve been hearing about the machinations over the arrangements for months. It will be good to get them over and done with.

One can’t help but think that the British people are being cheated out of a real debate between the key challengers. In America, they often have multiple candidate debates for the Presidential primary contests. Above is a photograph of a seven-candidate field for the Republican nomination in 2012.

It’s an obvious thing to say but there is not much room for debate with such large candidate fields. Each candidate is just making a statement and then it’s on to the next one.

It’s a sort of political Celebrity Squares. A quick quip, a short answer and then the caravan rolls on….

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist. He is one of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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  • Paul in Wokingham 18th Mar '15 - 11:01am

    Well indeed. Those of us who watched the US primary selection debates will know that there is no opportunity for any real policy discussion. With so many people on the stage you really just need to make sure your flies are done up, and avoid sweating, and excessive verbosity. My abiding memory is of the Rick Perry (remember him?) “oops” moment:

    It’s the bloopers that people remember in these things…

  • Seven way ‘debates’ will merely be a theatre of soundbite politics, with Farage dominating the show.

  • A win for Cameron…..If Ed’ is so hopeless why would he be any threat….Perhaps Es not as bad as the Mail makes out and Dave’s not as good…Still, now we’ll never know. j

  • The only reason anybody ever watches these debates is in the hope they see one (or more) of the candidates screw up in some epic fashion, right?

  • These can work rather better outside the US. For instance the Dutch debates ( ) have worked pretty well. In part because the party leaders can talk to each other and not just sequentially answer questions.

  • Nick Collins 19th Mar '15 - 1:42pm

    The illustration looks like a still from a tv game show; which, I suppose, is what it is.

  • Paul in Wokingham
    “…make sure your flies are done up, and avoid sweating, and excessive verbosity..”

    In that case it is a good job Eric Pickles is not leader of his party.

    Russell Brand would not get on too well either.

  • Julian Heather 20th Mar '15 - 7:03pm

    @Nick Collins
    I am afraid you are showing your youth, while Paul Walter was showing his age, in entitling the article “Debate likely to be the political Celebrity Squares option” . “Celebrity Squares” was indeed a tv game show in the 1970’s, which was then resurrected in the 1990’s :

    I am just pleased that if the schedule advertised in the Guardian article does indeed go ahead, that we are included in the final three “big party” Question-Time events on 30th April and not demoted to the “challengers’ special” featuring SNP, Ukip, Plaid Cymru the Greens and the DU, held two weeks earlier.

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