Why A Leaders Debate Is A Good Thing

It has been published today on the BBC News website that:

The BBC, ITV and BSkyB have put forward a joint proposal to stage three live election debates between the leaders of the three main political parties.
BBC News 2009.

Under the plan, the three broadcasters would stage one debate each in peak time with the footage later being made available to other broadcasters.

This, in most people’s opinion, can be a good thing. But is this (incidentally, debating the leadership debates) more like how we do it in Britain:

We have Question Time, which we have had for the past 30 years or so, with representatives weekly battling it out. PMQ’s is broadcast live on BBC Parliament and BBC Radio Five Live every wednesday, with the “highlights” on the news in the evening. We have shows such as The Daily Politics, Andrew Marr Show, The Politics Show, PM on Radio 4 as well as Today, BBC Five Live Breakfast and Drive, as well as Richard Bacon and the rest, BBC One Breakfast, Jeremy Vine Show, Local BBC Radio, Commercial radio… basically, we have a lot of outlets, and that does not include newspapers!

So, Sky News is pushing for a leadership debate. This would take the form of three debates with all three leaders, putting forward policies and their way forward (which they do in conference speeches anyway) before a chair, probably a Dimbleby brother or someone like Adam Boulton, Nicky Campbell or Jeremy Vine.

It could be good because it would put the person who is supposed to lead this country through the next 4 years under intense public (and media) pressure, which would mean it’d be easier to weed out any bad policies or inconsistencies. It would allow the public to see politicians in front of a “public dispatch box” – and there’s no doubt that people would watch it. The expenses scandal of 2009 put Question Time in the “must watch” category for nearly 4 million people, and put it Live and in Primetime schedules. A leadership debate, being not only new but exciting, could do the same.

But seeing as the way this country is decided is through local votes, through electing local MP’s, is it a good idea? Would it turn UK politics into a “presidential” style debate, focussing too much on personality and not enough on policy.

Over to you…?


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