One thing’s for sure post GE17 – incumbent PMs won’t risk skipping the TV debates again

One thing’s for sure post GE17 – incumbent PMs won’t risk skipping the TV debates again

This means the debates are here to stay

After the manifesto the other big avoidable mistake of TMay’s GE2017 campaign was the refusal to take part in TV leaders’ debates which became part of the UK political scene at GE2010.

No doubt the decision by her campaign to avoid them was driven by the very comfortable position the Tories had in the polls and that they appeared to be on course for a big win.

Initially the CON leader’s decision was helped by the fact that Corbyn had not indicated that he would be taking part. The BBC said they would be going ahead even if LAB and CON were not going to be represented by their leaders.

Then on the day beforehand Corbyn announced that he would after all be participating which highlighted even more TMay’s absence.

In retrospect not taking part in what is being established as part of how General Elections now happen was a big mistake and reinforced the narrative that she was avoiding situations where she would be put on the spot.

Remember how her non-participation caused stories about her refusal to go on Woman’s Hour and other programmes to appear. The public expect leaders to come under scrutiny at election times and woe betide those who don’t accept that.

Given TMay’s GE2017 experience it is going to be a very brave incumbent prime minister who refuses next time. These will now become an even more established part of UK politics.

    My point is best made by contemplating the reverse of what happened. The future of leaders’ TV debates would have looked pretty sick if in spite of her refusal to participate Mrs May had got her whopping majority

The “audience” for these set pieces is substantially greater than those who watch the programme live on the night. Clips are broadcast on other programmes and now many get their coverage from the commentary and clips circulated on social media.

Mike Smithson

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