The Leaders’ Debates still need a re-evaluation

1 Nov 2014


Despite UKIP’s recent victory and arrival in Westminster, we are still finding issues with how we will approach the campaigning in the run up to the General Election next year. What has astonished me about the proposed Leaders Debates’ is the fact that we have four main broadcasters, but only three televised debates. Anyone who thinks about this properly can see that this format is flawed. 


The media establishment's poor planning doesn't finish there. It is proposed that we have a lazy format where only certain voices of the major parties are going to be heard. Why on earth will there be a debate just between Mr Cameron and  Mr Miliband? Do we not see and hear this every week in Parliament? I don't know about the rest of my readers, but I would rather have lunch with Hannibal than watch these two tired politicians lock horns.

Since the 1960’s, America has lead the way with regards to their leaders engaging their voters in televised debates. Who wouldn't want to see or listen to Kennedy vs. Nixon, or Obama vs. McCain? I for one absolutely love the concept of a Presidential style debate. The UK didn't get on board with this idea until the run-up to the 2010 General Election; when we witnessed the three (so called) major party leaders have the first televised debate. 

As ever, I am willing to offer the public a solution. Let's have four televised debates; one for each broadcaster that has extended the olive branch. I would also suggest that we have a maximum limit on the programmes of two hours. Additionally, we need to have all five main political party leaders present in every debate. That's Cameron, Clegg, Miliband, Farage, and Bennett.


There are many people that may think Nick Clegg's Liberal Democrats are on borrowed time, however I feel he has earned the right to appear by previously debating UKIP leader Nigel Farage on the EU earlier this year. These debates also showed that if you make politics matter, people will engage and take part. 

I would also limit each debate to four topics. For example; on one debate the leaders could discuss crime, prisons, the NHS, and the economy. Then on another debate the topics of immigration, the EU, defence, and Foreign Policy.

Once we have the broadcasters and the leaders in place, much like they have in Sweden, we can have a representative debate from all of the major political parties. This will also give our voters the chance to make a more informed decision. I'm not fussed which broadcaster covers which issues or how that is decided. What I am fussing over, is that once the leaders have discussed an issue, it shouldn't be discussed again.

I'm fearful we are going to get the same nonsense trotted out on each debate, so let's sharpen the format. Let's engage, not only those that are voting, but those that, more importantly aren't voting.
For me, this is the most important election of my adult life. The interest which has been generated is truly exciting. However the media establishment has got the format for these debates totally wrong. 


We really need to get this right, because with over 2/3 of our population not voting, the level of apathy towards politics couldn't be higher. Making politics matter and relevant must be at the front of our thinking. Because if we don't, people will simply turn off and the apathy will continue to grow. 


By Sean Mallis

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