What is going on with this leaders’ election debate? Seems to me that it’s going from the sublime to the plain bloody ridiculous…
Winding back a bit, it all started when the Limp Dumps got into a coalition and insisted that there would be a five year fixed term parliament. Presumably this was because it was the only way Clegg was going to hold on to his slice of power for anything longer than a few months by preventing the PM from deciding when to call an election. As a result we have ended up with the longest election campaign in British political history. Believe it or not – and from the shenanigans that have been going on since the New Year it’s hard to believe – the official election campaign period hasn’t even started yet!
So let’s wind back a bit further to the 2010 election and the introduction for the first time of head to head leaders’ debates. They might well have bored the arse off most of us, but it was at least a chance to see the three main party leaders putting their cases forward as to why you should vote for them. But that was then and this is now. You might well think it set a precedent and therefore it was a done deal that it would happen again this time around.
You’d be wrong, of course. I think that it’s the emergence of UKIP as the third party in the opinion polls that caused the problem. That and the total collapse in the Lib Dem support.
Cameron is using every trick in the book to avoid a debate. I’m guessing he’s doing that because he doesn’t want a repeat of the ‘I agree with Nick’ scenario coupled with the fact that under his lacklustre leadership the Tories have had to adopt some pretty unpopular measures to address the mess left behind by Gordon Brown.
I look at it this way : If you don’t field candidates in at least half of the constituencies in the UK then you have no prospect of being PM and therefore you don’t need to be included in the debate. When I heard that a seven way debate was proposed, I thought ‘That’s damned silly’ – partly because of what I just said and partly because it’s just plain unwieldy. And, frankly, I couldn’t name seven national parties. If you look at the picture above, can you honestly say you recognise every one of them.
And it gets worse. Downing Street is now saying that the DUP – the DUP FFS! – should be included too. Well if that’s the case, let’s include Sinn Fein, the EDL, the BNP, the Monster Raving Loonies and Al Murray’s FUKP. At least it would improve the entertainment value.
Then I thought “It should be restricted to the top three parties in the opinion polls” but to be fair I suppose as Clegg is in government he should be allowed to defend his record, so that brings it to four. In my view this is the way forward : A four way debate Con/Lab/Lib/UKIP and then follow it up with a straight debate between Miliband and Cameron who are, let’s face it, the only two with any prospect of actually being PM after May.
Cameron is, of course, having none of this and his proposal for a ridiculous single 7 way debate even has the rider on it that it must take place before his manifesto is published. What the hell is he afraid of? I can only speculate that Labour will trash him on health, UKIP will trash him on immigration and the EU, and Clegg will trash him by saying everything he wanted to do was blocked by Cameron.
So my guess is that these debates will not happen at all because the PM is running scared – and I have to tell you, Dave, that running scared is not a good way to win an election…