Friday, 16 April 2010

The Leaders' Debates - a minority view!

As a Lib Dem I ought to be over the moon this morning about Nick Clegg's performance last night. He was certainly the best of the three in the debate, an opinion bourne out by a range of public polls and critics commentaries.

And I am of course pleased. As a Lib Dem Parliamentary Candidate Nick doing so well can only help me.

But I have to say I still wish we didn't have these debates.

I've blogged about this before, so this isn't a sudden opinion.

Not everything I said before was right. I did say I thought the debates would be a yawn a minute stream of soundbites, and actually the one last night was a lot livelier than that.

But I still maintain my opinion about the real problem.

Politics is, or should be, about ideas, policies.. about what sort of society we want. It should be about people choosing between approaches and ideals.

I already feel that politics in this country is becoming too Presidential, too fixed on a few lead characters.

These debates can only hasten that change.

We should be making our decisions based on principles and policies. Instead I fear that Presidential style debates will mean we end up making decisions based on whether or not someone made a gaffe on TV (remember George Bush looking at his watch) or whether someone made a good put down (remember the remark about Dan Quayle).

What's more, in a General Election we vote in constituencies and most of us aren't voting for the party leaders. I will be voting Paula Keaveney for example! My worry is that as more and more is transferred to this national Presidential approach, people will feel less and less interested in who actually they are choosing to represent them.

But putting all of this aside, if the Leaders' Debates become significant in terms of persuading voters, parties will have to choose leaders who are telegenic in a traditional way. What if you are very short? or very fat? or have a facial twitch? or a slight speech impediment? None of these should rule anyone out of being Prime Minister but I bet they'll start to.

So well done to Nick - but I still hope we don't have debates next time!

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