So the debates are happening

So the debates are happening

Prime Ministerial Debates 2010   YouTube (1)

The first event is four days away.

Yesterday it was confirmed that we would have the debates and the format of said debates, they are as follows

  • 26th March: Live question and answer programme on Channel 4 and Sky News featuring David Cameron and Ed Miliband, presented by Jeremy Paxman and Kay Burley
  • 2nd April: Debate with the following party leaders David Cameron, Nick Clegg, Ed Miliband, Nigel Farage, Natalie Bennett, Nicola Sturgeon and Leanne Wood on ITV, moderated by Julie Etchingham
  • 16th April: Debate between five opposition party leaders, Ed Miliband, Nigel Farage, Natalie Bennett, Nicola Sturgeon and Leanne Wood on the BBC, moderated by David Dimbleby
  • 30th April: BBC Question Time programme with David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg, presented by David Dimbleby

My initial thoughts were that Ed Milband is in every event/debate, and all publicity is good, however, the more I think about it, Ed’s appearance on the debate of the 16th of April could be a mistake.

He’s going to be, relatively speaking, the voice of austerity versus four populists offering anti-austerity policies, which generally go down well with the electorate.

The risk for the coalition parties from this debate is that it turns into one long kicking of the coalition on prime time television, which might not help their polling, which makes it even more surprising that Nick Clegg agreed to Cameron vetoing his appearance on the 16th of April debate.

For a party that is regularly polling in the single digits, even with their most favourable posters, this could be a serious mistake by Clegg, especially as they don’t have an equivalent opportunity for a rebuttal.

But I think the major loser from the format of these debates might be UKIP, there is a supposition that UKIP’s poll ratings are higher when they are in the news (for good or bad reasons) but when they are out of the news cycle, their ratings tend to be lower.

So one week before election day, the three major established parties have been a very public platform to get across their policies, whilst UKIP don’t have that opportunity.

No wonder Farage seemed quite frustrated and angry yesterday as the below tweets show.

Longer term, it would appear that the debates are now an established feature of our general election campaigns. When parties have future leadership elections, a person perceived to have good debate and presentational skills will be considered to have an advantage. Something that might help Boris Johnson in a future Tory Leadership election.

In past years, it could have had an effect, if the Tory Party knew there would be debates in 2005, would they have elected IDS instead of Kenneth Clarke?


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