Thoughts turn to the 2015 general election TV debates

The Guardian reports:

Some senior cabinet members want to limit the number of TV debates in the next election campaign to just one, but they are likely to face a counter-offer from Channel 4 that there should be four debates: two during the campaign itself and two in the months before the election, due to be called in June 2015.

Discussions between the parties and the broadcasters are likely to start soon with initial feelers being put out by the broadcasters.

There is cross party concern, but by no means a consensus that the three debates held during the concentrated three weeks of the campaign made the whole campaign focus excessively on the leaders’ performance in the TV debates, in the run up to the debates and then lengthy post debate analysis.

Some cabinet members feel this focus on the leaders’ debating techniques squeezed any focused analysis of the broader party policy prospectus on other issues.

What format would you like to see at the next election?


* Mark Pack is Party President and is the editor of Liberal Democrat Newswire.

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  • Richard Dean 23rd Oct '12 - 10:01am

    I would like one debate between candidates for each constituency.

  • I don’t care about the format. Just want as many debates as possible. It’ll neutralise our fundraising weakness contra the other two parties (which is why they will push for as few debates as possible).

  • The 3 debates last time were far too long and far too similar. They also helped create the growing perception that we have a presidential system, when in reality we have a cabinet system.

    I would back Alisdair’s call above: hour-long debates with the candidates for Home Secretary, Foreign Secretary and Chancellor, then finally a 90 minute Prime Ministerial debate.

  • Matthew Huntbach 23rd Oct '12 - 12:54pm

    I opposed the idea of the Leaders’ debates at the last general election for the reasons others are now giving. I am glad a few more can now see the point I was making then.

  • Alex Matthews 23rd Oct '12 - 1:21pm

    I like the idea of having more people involved in the debates than just the Party leaders. While that offered a lot, I think the electorate need to realise that there are more candidates than just the leaders, and more positions in government than just the PM’s office. While it is novel to say that the electorate should learn this for themselves, how can they learn it if we do not teach them, and this is one step in tackling this issue. (Though, of course, I realise it is far from being the answer.)

  • Laura Gordon 23rd Oct '12 - 1:43pm

    I like Duncan’s idea a lot – and focusing on (say) home affairs might allow more time for policy explanations of some of our good-but-less-popular policies (like immigration)*. When things like this are buried in a leaders’ debate, then it tends to be ‘soundbite, move on, soundbite, move on’. Sector debates might allow for more detailed discussion.

    Might be a problem for the Lib Dems though, as we don’t have a full shadow cabinet – though I suppose that could be got around by having ‘campaign spokespeople’ for each area, or similar.

    *obviously this doesn’t mean the public suddenly starts liking them, but I’d still rather have informed objections than not-informed objections.

  • Well, if the format I suggested above was used in 2010, then it’s clear who we would have put up for each debate:
    Home Sec – Huhne
    Foreign Sec – Davey
    Chancellor – Cable
    PM – Clegg

    Yes, Coalition complicates things for us, but by 2015 we need to have a clear idea of who would fill each of our top government posts when the public hand us a majority 😉

  • Mister_Ennui 23rd Oct '12 - 8:25pm

    It is questionable whether any such debates will be fair in 2015, given that the Lib Dems and Conservatives will have to defend their shared record in government. They are unlikely to be overly critical of one another and will no doubt direct their fire primarily at the Labour party. It is very difficult to see how the debates could be truly 3-way affairs next time around.

  • Stuart Mitchell 23rd Oct '12 - 9:58pm

    I see the debates as a circus and I can take or leave them.

    From the point of view of a Labour supporter, I’m unhappy that a three-way debate (as everyone is assuming) would basically be a case of two people from the government versus one from the opposition. This seems iffy to me from a fairness perspective.

  • Tony Dawson 24th Oct '12 - 8:55am

    @Stuart Mitchell :

    “From the point of view of a Labour supporter, I’m unhappy that a three-way debate (as everyone is assuming) would basically be a case of two people from the government versus one from the opposition. This seems iffy to me from a fairness perspective.”

    Don’t be surprised if UKIP haven’t made a strong case for inclusion by the time 2015 comes around.

  • I saw the debates as a positive thing last year, I knew a few people who otherwise would have totally ignored the campaigning who sat and watched at least one of them. It also gives the wider public a chance to hear what the perspective parties had to say about things rather than just what the media chose to report.

    I agree with some of the above posts, I’d like to see more debates on TV rather than fewer – however I wouldn’t want it to be oversaturated by leaders debates (despite that I feel this is Nick’s great strength and a weakness of the others). Perhaps having 4 spread out debates could help, but I’d rather additional, more publicised debates including other key members of each party. I really enjoyed watching some of the daytime debates (perhaps they were on the Daily Politics, I don’t really remember) that took place last time (I seem to remember a very informative health debate).

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