Is it time for a televised leaders’ debate?

Yesterday Gordon Brown faced repeated media questioning asking if he would agree to take part in the UK’s first televised debate between the leaders of the three main political parties. Mr Brown rejected the idea.

Adam Boulton’s blog rehearses the familiar arguments:

Brown didn’t even entertain the idea of debate. Instead he used the same old excuses. It’s not the British Way. A General Election is not a presidential contest, since voters are choosing between parties not directly electing a leader. British party leaders debate regularly in parliament. All these arguments are reasonable but not, I believe overwhelming. Isn’t precedent made to be broken?

British voters may not be directly electing a President but they are choosing between parties to form a government. Those parties have elected leaders who are presenting themselves a potential Prime Ministers. Nobody would deny that who is going to be Prime Minister is still a central issue. …

But the strongest reason for TV debates is democratic. Large numbers of people watch television debates at Election time and that, surely, gets the public involved: just what the Prime Minister and other politicians always say they want. In America 62.5 million people watched the first Bush Kerry debate in 2004. In France 20 million watched Sarkozy and Royal square up this year, at the subsequent election turnout was over 80%. In Germany, which has a parliamentary system like ours, Chancellor debates are the key fixtures of the campaign.

If the Prime Minister wants new politics and engaged voters, he’s just turned down a big chance to do something about it.

Today both Lib Dem leader Ming Campbell and Tory leader David Cameron have called on the Prime Minister to back down, and agree to a televised debate. Ming said that Prime Minister’s refusal to engage in a debate showed “Gordon Brown’s new politics is skin deep.”

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15 Comments

  • Laurence, if you wonder why people seem to dismiss your opinions (and I imagine you don’t), it’s because of uncalled for abuse like that.

  • Hywel Morgan 4th Sep '07 - 7:28pm

    I think you might have lost any credibility you ever had with that comment Laurence.

  • Cheltenham Robin 4th Sep '07 - 8:13pm

    Laurence

    I have been Sympathetic to your Ming comments in the past.

    Comments like those above do little to further your credibility and arguments.

  • We’re a joke

    Less of the “we”. The first person singular would be rather more apposite in your comment.

  • I’m watching Newsnight in the background which has just made the striking point that a certain Gordon Brown argued for exactly such a debate when he appeared on Breakfast Time in 1987 (presented by Frank Bough and Jeremy Paxman).

    Brown hasn’t justified his change of stance and it is he who is losing credibility as a result.

    What a shame that the political leader of our country has to drag us through the mud with his hypocrisy!

  • Yes Laurence, I can see that is the rationale, but we have here clear and unmistakable evidence that Brown makes his choice on the principle of what is more advantageous for HIM, not for anything so unseemly as a common or greater good.

    And the Tories can’t argue either, this issue arose because they have now done the same.

    This is one way in which we can differentiate ourselves.

  • Daniel Bowen 5th Sep '07 - 7:28am

    So what was Ming Campbell saying that will get any coverage whatsover?

    *tumbleweed*

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