Good news! After many long weeks of laborious negotiating the political parties and broadcasters have finally reached an agreement on the TV debates. Now that politicians have overcome that difficult hurdle they should have the Islamic State situation solved in about three thousand years.
On April 2nd we can enjoy the televisual feast of a seven-leader debate; on the 16th there will be another one, but this time with only five leaders, Cameron and Clegg being excluded; and finally on April 30th the three main party leaders will appear on Question Time. All of this means that April will have an even more exciting TV schedule than Christmas – I won’t be surprised if Nick Clegg starts singing The Sound of Music and Nigel Farage makes some Great Escape related war jokes.
But, despite the difficulty of arranging them, are they really necessary?
Take the arrangements of the first debate: If seven people with contrasting views discussing politics isn’t a guaranteed fight I don’t know what is. Viewers will think that they’re watching Eastenders. Having so many leaders will mean that their responses will have to be kept short to ensure that everybody has an equal opportunity to speak, so short that no thorough explanations can be given. This is going to be a real issue considering how complicated matters such as the economy and immigration are – especially for Natalie Bennett, who’ll have to spend most of her time coughing.
Another problem is with the parties that are being represented. Considering that Plaid Cymru and the SNP are country specific parties, why are they involved in national debates? No matter how much I am overwhelmed by the brilliance of these two parties, I can’t vote for either of them because I live in England. The five-leader debate is also a waste of time because the Conservatives and the Lib Dems – who have governed us for the past five years – won’t be represented, meaning the broadcast will be biased (cue ‘British Biased Corporation’ tweets).
The wrangling and pettiness that have marred the organisation (and will probably also taint the broadcasts) of these debates are further reasons to have them dropped. The last thing the ruined credibility of British politics needs is the leaders of the biggest parties childishly criticising Cameron for being posh or calling Miliband ‘Red Ed’ – these things weren’t funny five years ago. I am honestly expecting Nigel Farage to make a ‘yo momma’ jibe at someone.
Similarly, how many times are we going to hear the phrases: “hard-working families”, “long-term economic plan” and “same old Tories”? How often is Nigel Farage going to mention Romanians, and Nick Clegg say he’s sorry, while wiping away tears? One thing I can’t wait for is Nicola Sturgeon telling us that Scotland is unbelievably fantastic, whereas living in England is about as perfect as living on Pluto. This torrent of clichéd rhetoric isn’t going to persuade any more voters to trudge down to the polling station in the rain on May 7th.
In reality, television debates are not as good as they look on paper. What the public need is facts and the truth; what these debates are offering is more confusion and more lies. If people want more political spite they can buy the Daily Star, but for the majority who don’t, scrap the arguing and stick Robert Peston on instead.