Steve Richards gives his views about the on-off-on-off-maybe TV election debate. He rightly says:
Over the next few months, we should be debating which party has the best solutions for guiding Britain towards an economic recovery and better public services and which has the most constructive foreign policies, not least in relation to Europe. We need to examine in more detail how the parties have responded to the economic crisis so far. Given the gravity of the situation, the election is arguably the most important since 1979.
If there is a series of televised debates, none of these issues will get a look in. The event, or events, will become the only talking point. Right away there would be a major debate about the format of the debates. Should all three party leaders take part? What about the other leaders of smaller parties? How much time should each of them get? Will there be a studio audience? The answers to these questions would take up a thousand front pages and, come to think of it, quite a few columns.
Steve, you forgot to mention the blogosphere.
Then Richards proceeds to mention about all the other little matters that will have to be resolved, how it will be organised, who will transmit the beauty contest(s), etc. It is when he considers who will present the charade that my interest in what he had to say picked up:
Next there would be the battle over the presenter of the debates. This will dominate the front pages for weeks. Jeremy Paxman will be in the frame. Perhaps Nick Robinson would like to do it; Adam Boulton of Sky certainly would. Maybe they could do one each. But then there would be a row about the lack of women. Three male leaders chaired by a man would get the thumbs down. The media would be in uproar: bring on Kirsty Wark! Hold on a minute, what about Martha Kearney?
This jesting is of no use. Serious thought should be given to this matter of national importance. Let’s throw Andrew Neil into the mix. He would be good, takes no prisoners and deserves some prime time exposure. At present he fronts the little watched This Week and the Daily Politics. The BBC should make more use of him.
Your right. I have left out David Dimbleby. Deliberately so. Thinking I had resolved what is good for Newsnight before Robert Peston’s untimely intervention, Question Time was next on the agenda. There is a need to keep something back for the politics free weekend.
In the end the debate will not happen. How to accommodate Clegg will be the show stopper, as he is not entitled to the same air time as Brown and Cameron during an election campaign. It will hardly go down well with the sandal wearing brigade when Neil dismisses him from the studio after his allocated time is up. And then we have Scotland and Wales to think of and all the other minor parties. It is all too hard, when, as Richards rightly says, we should be debating the policies.
Still, it keeps us all assumed while Brown is away developing his strategy for the autumn and worrying himself sick about Alan Johnson.