Political Promise

Are the televised debates really worth it?

In Graeme Morrison on April 29, 2010 at 10:00 am

The news that the SNP are to take court action over exclusion from the main televised leaders debates has raised questions over the benefit of having TV debates at all. I must admit that I always supported the idea of these debates and have thus far thoroughly enjoyed watching them. I do however worry about the role they are going to play in future election campaigns.

Alex Salmond’s position would be understandable if his party was unable to debate in front of his audience. There are three Scottish leaders’ debates, one of which Alex Salmond has refused to participate in. His complaints that he is not receiving exposure do not hold up.

As one member of the Question Time audience said last week, there is a danger that one party can benefit from a few 90 minute debates rather than being assessed on their record or proper scrutiny of a manifesto. The shot in the arm the debates gave to the Lib Dems is clearly evidence of this. The hit smaller parties than the SNP with no debate exposure only highlights the can of worms that having debates open.

Most crucially however, I feel that we are not giving due attention to the importance of party policies, cabinet government and tackling the spin culture that has seemingly spiralled out of control in our politics. Literature that details the “presidentialisation” of British politics will have far more content on this matter in the months and years to come. We no longer talk about voting Labour, Tory or Liberal. We talk about voting for Brown, Cameron or Clegg. We don’t talk about substantive issues. We instead focus on who is staring into a camera. For instance, it was clear that Brown won the second leaders’ debate on competence but the “post-match” talk was all about who presented himself the best. This is a worrying trend. Are we to surmise that anyone who holds political office now that isn’t the Prime Minister is irrelevant. These debates point to this development.

It’s going to be difficult to remove this part of election campaigns in future. I’m afraid though, if we are to protect part politics and deter individualism then they will have to be reviewed for the next set of elections. We don’t elect a Prime Minister. We elect MPs.

Graeme Morrison

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: