Dr Steve McCabe, Birmingham City Business School

It’s a bit rich of Cameron who in the period preceding the last election goaded the then prime minister, Labour leader Gordon Brown to engage in a TV debate so that, like the USA where such events are common, the voters could see the key people who they would be electing outside of the rarefied atmosphere of parliament.

Cameron probably thought that he was onto a winner as Brown was a notoriously awful performer unlike his predecessor Tony Blair who was masterful in front of a camera. The outcome was, from Cameron’s perspective a bit of a disaster; a piece in the Mail on Sunday on 19th April 2010 by Andrew Pierce reading ‘Who’s to blame for David Cameron’s TV nightmare?’ Cameron didn’t come across as well as hoped but worse for him as it turned out was that Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg did. And we all know what happened in the election.

Cameron has been scarred by his experience of TV debates and isn’t keen to allow debate with Nick Clegg who, whatever may be said of him, comes across as reasonably personable; see his recent appearance on the satirical show The Last Leg. Even though Ed Miliband’s Labour party is the main threat in the election and its leader is not seen as a terribly good performer, a bit like Gordon Brown, Cameron remembers the pitfalls of assuming that you will come out better.

What all this tells us – the voters – is that politicians are keen that we only hear what they want us to hear and that the message should be ‘cleansed’ and stage-managed ideally through ‘sound bites’. In a televisual age we need to hear what political leaders debate with each other so we can make genuinely informed choices.

That Cameron wants to hold one debate that as well as including Labour and the Liberal Democrats, will involve UKIP, Plaid Cymru, the SNP and the Greens is interesting though risks the event becoming overly confused. Moreover as the Lib Dem’s election chief Lord Ashdown pointed out, by wanting to hold the debate before the Conservative manifesto is published will undermine his credibility.

It’s all become a bit unseemly.

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Dr Steve McCabe

Dr Steve McCabe

Birmingham City Business School
Dr Steve McCabe

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