Monday, January 12, 2015

Yes, let's have the Greens in the TV debates...

The news that David Cameron is insisting that, unless the Greens are included, he won't be taking part in the TV debates, is almost amusing. It is highly unlikely that he cares about the Greens very much - after all, he allegedly thinks that environmentally friendly policies are just so much 'green crap' - rather that it is a strategy to either avoid the debates altogether (can he possibly be frit of Ed Miliband or, more credibly, Nigel Farage?) or, more Machiavellian, he wants the Greens in to potentially leach support from Labour.

I've always taken the view with campaigns that, if you invite all of the candidates, giving them reasonable notice, a failure to show is your problem, not that of the organiser or the other candidates. There should be a risk in leaving your chair empty. And, making an assumption that nobody would possibly dare to carry on without the Prime Minister is, in an era where deference is anything but a given, highly risky.

There are some potential setbacks with increasing the number of participants, regardless of who they might be;
  1. You need longer to fit a decent number of questions in - the attention span of the public is not brilliant, and the more broadly similar answers you get, the less enlightening it is likely to become.
  2. The debate is harder to manage - both presenter and candidates have to very disciplined lest the debate deteriorate into people talking over each other.
  3. It becomes harder to exclude increasingly smaller parties.
For the record, I tend to think that exposure to cross-examination might not be that helpful to the Greens or UKIP, in that their arguments are likely to be exposed for their weakness in a way that the media seem mostly unable, or unwilling to do.

But, I may be wrong, and the public deserve to have an opportunity to hear from the Greens, because that's how democracy works...

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