So the BBC and other broadcasters are upset that David Cameron is not dancing to their tune and not cooperating with their efforts to turn the election into a telethon (mostly at the tax payers’ expense). I wish that they would drop the mock outrage and take a look at the reality.
The last set of leaders’ debates was also the first in UK history and was therefore an experiment. What did it achieve other than coming up with the surprising result (which turned out to be an error) that Cameron and Brown agreed with Nick Clegg? Did we learn anything more about the candidates? No. Did Brown get shredded for his destruction of our economy? No. The professional politicians did their job, mouthing platitudes and evading questions.
Why would anything be different this time? No matter what the format none of them is likely to slip up (apart from the Green’s cretinously inept president Natalie Bennett). The audience will learn nothing new and, except for those in the seven constituencies contested by the leaders, nothing about the person whom they are actually going to vote for.
Of course, the media will then have a huge debate about who won the debate, what will happen in the next one. All this will be integrated into social media; those that care and those who are paid to care will comment, tweet and blog on the debates. All of this will detract from coverage of the issues and policies, which are far more important.
Naturally the other six are saying Cameron is afraid – although Prime Ministers’ Questions gives the lie to this; Cameron regularly wipes the floor with Milliband. But they would say that, wouldn’t they? Of course, given the alternative of a fatuous debate or the risk of a penetrating one on one interview with a decent TV journalist, say Paxman, it’s easy to see why Clegg Milliband and Bennett would prefer the debate. However as a taxpayer and voter I would prefer the interviews.
The interview format also solves the problems of what to do with the non-national parties; just broadcast their interviews in their countries.
Will the BBC or any other broadcaster run a debate without Cameron? I very much doubt it. For a start the BBC would be in breach of its duty to be fair. While the Representation of the People’s Acts predate television the BBC’s charter requires them to be “fair and balanced.” At a party political level I am sure that the Tories are well enough funded to seek and obtain an injunction preventing any TV debate excluding the Prime Minister. Given the complete cock up that the broadcasters have made of it to date I doubt any of them want to end up in a witness box.
I hope now that the broadcasters can return to the issues. These are (1) The economy (2) Europe (3) NHS (4) Scottish Devolution (5) Terrorism. Of these the economy is by far the most important, not least because another conservative government might just, at last, demonstrate that socialism does not work because only free market capitalism can.
I’d vote for that.