Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Why I am opposed to television debates

There is, once more, a groundswell of support for there to be televised debates between the leaders of the main political parties when the next election comes around. I'm not in favour of these for a number of reasons.

First of all, the main problem with these debates is that it will exclude the minor political parties. Although these parties enjoy considerably lower levels of support than the main political parties it does not necessarily follow that their policies, opinions or viewpoints are any less valid than those main parties. Consequently, any debate which does not include these minor parties will marginalise them further. To some extent, this is already a problem with our TV dominated political scene - where the major political parties can enjoy mass coverage for their opinions that other parties can not.

Secondly, it potentially boils the whole election process down to who comes across better on screen rather than who has the best policies for Britain. Contrary to popular belief, elections are not a personality contest - nor should they be - but rather a system for airing and explaining a political party's policies for governing the country.

Thirdly, there is the potential for a well planned and executed election campaign to be completely derailed by one simple slip of the tongue by the leader during the debate. For this reason, the debates are highly unlikely to be of a free form necessary for proper debate to take place, but will instead by carefully stage managed and mostly consist of each leader attacking the others on their policies rather than going to any great effort to explain their own. As such, the debate would provide no real substance to the election process.

Fourthly, the argument (which I have heard put forward) that these debates take place in the USA and other countries is hardly a good reason for having them here. Just the opposite if anything! The last thing I want to see in Britain is British politics being dumbed down to the extent it is in the USA - where the Presidential election really is a personality contest.

Finally, and perhaps most crucially, we are not electing a Prime Minister. I realise that many people do base their vote purely on which leader they like best - and that even more people simply vote for the same political party regardless of their policies or leadership - but what we are supposed to actually be doing is voting for a particular person to stand as our MP and represent us (and our constituency) to the House of Commons.

By televising debates between leaders we are losing sight of this important point even more than we already have done - and yet it is crucial to our electoral system and our system of democracy and parliament.

This is why I am opposed to televised debates. More than this, if it was down to me there would be no party political broadcasts in the six weeks prior to an election and no appearances on television for any person standing as an MP. Instead, those people who wish to be elected will have to get out there and meet the people whose vote they seek.


JuliaM said...

"Contrary to popular belief, elections are not a personality contest.."

I can think of one that was, and it didn't work out too well...

commoncents said...

Great post - I really like your blog!!

ps. Link Exchange?