Who should attend the leaders’ debates?

The media and media quangos are finding it difficult to decide who should be part of this year’s leaders’ debates for the General Election.
The easiest version would be a debate between Labour and Conservative. This would pit the two main contenders for the job of Prime Minister against each other without the intervention of other leaders who are unlikely to be in a position to be PM.
Trying to find a set of criteria to provide an objective view of who should attend is easiest if you confine the debate to the two largest parties in Parliament, the two parties with the highest share of the polls for the GE, and to the current PM and Leader of the Opposition. Each of those criteria gives you the same two people as the answer. They are the two people most people want to hear, and most people think the main judgement in the end comes down to which of those two do you want as PM.
As soon as you broaden out the criteria you get into difficulties. Including Mr Clegg can be based on representing the party with the third highest number of MPs at present, who came a good third in the last GE. It would be a bit odd to leave out the Deputy PM many would say. However, the Lib Dems struggle to qualify if you consider current poll ratings, or performance in the recent European election.
If you include Mr Farage you can make a case on the performance of UKIP in the last European election, and on his current poll rating in third place in most polls. It is more difficult if you wish to make the number of MPs an important criterion, as there are several other parties with more than UKIP, leaving aside the two main parties.
The Greens say if UKIP attends then they must. They are prepared to go to law on this. They point out they did win a seat in the last GE when UKIP did not, and they are ahead of the Lib Dems in some polls. They are clearly a nationwide party with a distinctive point of view.
The Scottish nationalists could qualify if winning a recent election matters, as they won well in the last Scottish Parliament election. However, they can never form a government in the UK or be PM by winning a majority, as they only put up candidates in Scotland. They have a claim based on number of Westminster seats and current poll ratings indicating they are likely to win more than any other of the 2010 minor parties.
Once you allow the Scot Nats there are difficult issues with regional parties from Wales and Northern Ireland.
I understand the broadcasters difficulties. I think we do want a tv debate. The easiest to justify would be Labour versus Conservative. Once you wish to reproduce the rich diversity of a modern election it is difficult to know where to stop. If you are going to have one or two of the minor parties from 2010 there is a case for having them all, as they come from different angles and attack different parts of the main parties, so in the interests of fairness more is better.

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117 Comments

  1. Leslie Singleton
    Posted January 10, 2015 at 5:56 am | Permalink

    The problem arises solely from Cameron’s conceited misjudgement in not realising how boneheaded it was to allow the Liberals entry. It was obvious that gratuitously allowing the bright and shiny new boy to jump in could only help the Liberals. Anything that could have been said in favour of the Liberals’ taking part could just as well have been said in favour of the fourth Party; and so on.

  2. Dame Rita Webb
    Posted January 10, 2015 at 6:17 am | Permalink

    Who cares in the way they are structured they are so boring to watch anyway. Nobody gets to ask the questions that they really want to ask and none of the “leaders” really get put on the spot. Which is hardly suprising as they all believe the same BS, they just package it up differently for the mugs who go out and vote for them.

    • Timaction
      Posted January 10, 2015 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

      The only party that wants to Govern on behalf of this Nation is UKIP. The rest have given up our democracy and sovereignty to the foreign unelected EU who make well over half of our laws. Mr Cameron now defers to Hollande, Merkel and Junker. I find this embarrassing and unacceptable and want to be able to deselect those who make our laws. Who seriously cares about the leadership debates? In any fair contest Mr Farage will win it hands down as the arguments by the legacy parties are already lost. We just have to keep telling the truth to the electorate. Eventually we will succeed.

      • Hope
        Posted January 10, 2015 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

        Another good idea would be to put up Junker for the LibLabConc cartel, Farage and the greens. In reality this is the straight contest on offer. None of the important policies can be made without the EU. Even the budget is read by the EU before parliament knows its contents, how perverse is that! Economics, Energy, immigration, who the UK can trade with, criminal justice ie European Arrest Warrant, you name the EU dictates to the cartel the parimeters it can operate in. Cameron recently had one of,his,speeche’s read by Merkel before he delivered it! Again, how, perverse is that.

  3. Sandra Cox
    Posted January 10, 2015 at 6:55 am | Permalink

    Good morning John.

    The “leaders’ debates” is a fascinating topic and I’d love to comment, but today is a busy but relaxing day for me – lunch with my family – and I’m not sure how wise it would be to comment after a few glasses of wine (difficult doing “dry January” when it’s my birthday month 🙂

    I apologise for going off topic again, but I was catching up on Conservative Home earlier and a piece on election fraud caught my eye. I haven’t had much spare time recently, so I hope you will also forgive me for rehashing a few pertinent comments from the article. I have raised the issue of the electoral system on a few occasions and I am sure I’m not alone in my concerns about eligibility to vote in various types of ballots, and election fraud/abuse of postal voting.

    Apparently, £500,000 is to be spent targeting the problem during the run-up to May in 16 problem areas identified by the Electoral Commission: Blackburn with Darwen, Bradford, Burnley, Calderdale, Coventry, Derby, Hyndburn, Kirklees, Oldham, Pendle, Peterborough, Slough, Tower Hamlets, Walsall, and Woking.

    One comment: “The central issue is that postal voting is open to fraud on an “industrial scale” and is “unviable” in its current form according to Judge Richard Mawrey QC, who tries electoral fraud cases. His view is that postal voting should not be available as a matter of course. It was Blair’s government which made the change in 2001.

    The government has said it had no plans to abolish the current system of postal voting because it makes it easier for people to vote. Of course it does and common sense suggests how those “easy” votes might be used. Sadly the latest funds are not being directed to counter the key issue. So no doubt the fraud will continue.”

    John, with very little time until the GE, is there any chance you would do a diary entry on our electoral system? In haste, but kind regards and many thanks, Sandra.

    • Mark B
      Posted January 10, 2015 at 9:20 am | Permalink

      Have a happy birthday, Sandra.

      • Sandra Cox
        Posted January 11, 2015 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

        Thank you Mark – it was a very happy one!

    • oldtimer
      Posted January 10, 2015 at 9:42 am | Permalink

      You make good points. Postal voting is open to and has been abused – a scandal matched by the unwillingness of the government to do much about it.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted January 10, 2015 at 10:48 am | Permalink

      Indeed postal voting is open to & rife with fraud. So why exactly have the government no plans to change it? Perhaps the courts and police will have to force their hand with numerous legal actions after the election.

      • Dame Rita Webb
        Posted January 10, 2015 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

        It might just have to do with the thing that those towns mentioned all have in common with each other.

    • alan jutson
      Posted January 10, 2015 at 11:03 am | Permalink

      Sandra

      You are right to be concerned about postal voting, but but our politicians have had more than four years to investigate and do something about it.

      Given they have seemingly done absolutely nothing so far, they either think it is not important, is not a problem, or cannot be bothered.

      Such a shame, as I fear this will rear its ugly head again come May when some results are announced.

    • Hope
      Posted January 10, 2015 at 11:47 am | Permalink

      With draconian laws introduced by your party to stop freedom of speech it is particularly concerning that you seem to think a limited debate should take place. Clegg is in power because of the last TV debates not because he was likely to become PM!

      The liblabCon cartel have done everything it can to keep the EU project on course and smear UKIP to prevent the public from making an informed and different choice. We learn from Guido the Electoral Commission is writing to prevent free speech on political websites. There has never been a time when free speech is more warranted when Cameron and other cartel members are trying to hide and deceive the public ie £1.7 billion extra payment to the EU- for nothing in return which could pay for 60,000 nurses and their pensions. Everything EU disguised or hidden to prevent bad press.

      We have Heseltine and other EU fanatics saying that the EU is not high up on people’s agendas. If the people knew how much the EU intereferred with their every day lives then it would.

      It would be better if the LibLabCon cartel put up one person instead of three against UKIP and the Greens. They did this with the EU debate and lost why not do the same with the GE? Manifestos are meaningless, pledges by Cameron meaningless. All like the kudos of the roles but not the responsibility of the job ie Burnham Health Secretary and Mid Staff scandal?

      Cameron stated this week how a former advisor to Blair, Stevenson, is the new CEO of the NHS. There is very little difference between the cartel who want to make our country subservient to the unelected bureaucrats in Brussels and for it to become a regional province of the EU. We heard from Clegg and the public did not like it, Cameron has nothing new to add so put up Miliband against Farage and the Greens. If Cameron will not play, good, do it without him.

  4. Peter van Leeuwen
    Posted January 10, 2015 at 7:15 am | Permalink

    In the Netherlands debates TV debates are held with the six larger parties with strict allocation of speaking time. In the UK you might allocate this debating time according to current popular support.

    • alan jutson
      Posted January 10, 2015 at 11:11 am | Permalink

      Peter.

      “According to popular support”

      Sounds sensible.

      The alternative is more or less appearances if there is to be a number or series of debates.

      Do not see why Welsh, Northern Irish or Scottish Parties should be heard in England as they would take up time and we cannot vote for any of them.

      Same would apply to a Welsh, Scottish and Northern Ireland debate, which should also be held and should exclude parties from outside of the area.

      Such debates would also be more relevant to those viewers who tune in.

    • Hope
      Posted January 10, 2015 at 11:48 am | Permalink

      Steady Peter, you almost appear balanced in your blog.

    • lojolondon
      Posted January 10, 2015 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

      Wow – probably the first time I agreed with a comment comes from Peter – even better, base the percentages of talk time on the last election – it will be great to see UKIP having more talk time than anyone else for a change!

  5. matthu
    Posted January 10, 2015 at 7:21 am | Permalink

    There is a huge problem with having too many participants in the same debate, so my solution would be to decide how many participants might qualify – perhaps 5 – and let each participant “own” one of the debates and decide who to invite to debate against and also have most of the say on which topics to debate.

    Cameron might choose to debate only againbst Miliband.
    Miliband might choose Cameron and Clegg.
    Farage might choose Cameron and Miliband.
    Clegg might choose Cameron and the Greens.
    The Greens may choose Clegg and Cameron.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted January 10, 2015 at 10:51 am | Permalink

      Cameron could not debate Farage without it being a disaster for him. Unless that is he has all the other lefty parties and the BBC chair to protect him.

    • ChrisS
      Posted January 10, 2015 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

      Great idea !

      Shame Miliband, Clegg and Cameron would never agree to it !!!

  6. Lifelogic
    Posted January 10, 2015 at 7:24 am | Permalink

    The idea that we should just have a debate between Labour and the Tories the parties who came second and third in the recent national MEP election is clearly absurd. How can you omit the one that came first? The MEP elections are where people can actually vote for what they want rather than having to compromise for the FPTP voting system. This as MEP have no real power and a just an expensive fake democratic veneer.

    For a start non of the real issues would be even discussed in a Lab/Con debate as both leader are essentially the same – tax, borrow and waste, green crap loving, big state, expensive energy, high tax, anti-democratic and over regulation loving EUphiles.

    It would become, on one side, a pro NHS, soak the rich, politics of envy and on the other a pro NHS, we have economic competence claim. Hardly a hair between them in real terms, just different types of voters, but all largely aiming for the few floating voters in 100 marginals.

    The debate should clearly be UKIP, Tory, Labour then perhaps a second separate debate for the minority parties of Libdems, Greens and the regional ones. Clearly an election is about current opinion and intentions not the history of elections four + years ago. If you take that approach we are lumbered with Lib/Lab/Con for evermore.

    The problem for Cameron is he simply dare not debate openly with Farage. This as Cameron is trying to defend the totally indefensible. His past ratting, his expensive energy religion, his desire to subsume the UK in the EU & destroy democracy and his open door pro EU (& essentially racist) immigration policy. No debating skills he has will ever change the absurdity and dishonesty of his long grass position.

    He thus has to insure he will largely not be pushed on these issues.

    If Cameron is too frightened to appear with Farage, they should just go ahead replace him with a cardboard cut out or someone from the Tory party who is prepared to do it.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted January 10, 2015 at 7:39 am | Permalink

      The other problem with Cameron is that what he says in any debate or put in any manifesto will just be discarded and ignored on the morning of May 8th if elected. Just as we saw at the last election. The people now understand this only too well. At least Miliband can be given the benefit of the doubt.

      What Cameron does bears little relationship to what he says or promises. The latter is chosen to garner votes the former is where his true heart and soul lie. It lies in fake greenery, expensive energy, the UK becoming several provinces of the EU, no real democracy, 299+ tax increases, a dreadful NHS, anti grammar schools, gender equality insurance, damaging employment laws and other totally idiotic and anti business regulations.

      We all know Dave that a Treaty (cast iron of otherwise) is actually not a Treaty “until” it is ratified. Prior to that it is just a proposed or draft Treaty. We all know that the Tories are not “repaying the debt” (nor even are the tax payers repaying it) we are borrowing huge amounts more. We know also we will not be “in the black” in 2018 or anywhere near it. Why do you keep saying this drivel it fools very few?

      • Lifelogic
        Posted January 10, 2015 at 7:46 am | Permalink

        Above all we know (and he must know too) that Cameron will get nothing substantive out of the EU by 2017. Certainly not with his current approach of not even demanding anything much anyway.

        • Timaction
          Posted January 10, 2015 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

          He’s even given up trying to sort out free movement having been given a flee in his ear by our Chancellor Merkel. He just keeps giving……………….our taxes to the EU, foreign aid and all our health and public services for anyone who chips up here. Only 560,000 a year!
          He doesn’t even state what his redlines are. We all know the game is up on so called renegotiation of what? Our bill? CAP? Fisheries? Regulation? Competencies? Human Rights? Propaganda funds? Regionalisation/balkanisation of England?
          Nothing has changed under the legacy parties who are effectively one of the same. Perhaps we could see Mr Milliband have a go at Mr Farage as he destroyed Mr Clegg. A carbon cut out would suffice for Mr Cameron with a draw string to pull with a few one liners about the “economy”!!

    • lojolondon
      Posted January 10, 2015 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

      Cameron clearly is too frightened to debate with Farage – so he is running scared in the typical Cast-Iron Dishonest Dave manner – by insisting on the Greens, he ensures the complete mess that John so carefully detailed above – every party with more votes than the Greens, more seats in parliament or more of anything at all by any measure will be raising a court case to force themselves onto the panel, we will get a debate with 15 representatives, each will speak for 2 minutes and the entire show will be a complete waste of time, so no-one will watch. Mission accomplished.

      • bluedog
        Posted January 10, 2015 at 9:32 pm | Permalink

        The Greens are pro-EU, like Cameron.

      • Bazman
        Posted January 10, 2015 at 9:57 pm | Permalink

        Turbo Tories Lojo.

  7. sm
    Posted January 10, 2015 at 7:50 am | Permalink

    I’m very interested in politics, and indeed was a quite senior and active Party official for many years, and I shall certainly NOT be watching the TV debates, which from all accounts sound like a vaguely sanitised version of unedifying PMQs. The media will be avidly watching, sniffing for blood, and the participants will simply be anxious to throw them foolish soundbites which will only come back and haunt them in later years.

    What I would watch, but won’t hold my breath waiting for, is a series of serious interviews of each and every Party leader by someone (who?) capable of eliciting information without displaying hostility or aggression.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted January 10, 2015 at 11:13 am | Permalink

      The only suitable person the BBC have is Andrew Neil, the rest seem to be virtually all dreadful, rather slow, lefty, innumerate, “BBC think”, scientifically illiterate, art graduates and mostly have a chip on their shoulders. Mainly public school with little knowledge the real world or industry at all.

      Anyone who thinks governments “invest” or “create jobs” or believes in “magic money tree economics”, as nearly all in the BBC do, is clearly unsuitable.

      I heard a BBC chap this AM questioning if the Muslim murders in Paris were because Muslims in Paris do not get better housing in the banlieue! Yea sure that will solve it!

      That sort of thinking and banning certain images on the BBC as they do tends to make one come to the conclusion the insufferably “PC” BBC is much of the problem. Is it not rather more likely they have just been indoctrinated to do it by a warped branch of a religion?

      The government should abolish the Incitement to Religious Hatred Act 2006 and similar acts which have become an evil restriction on free thought and free speech. Many religions are often the main source of incubating hatred, making cleavages in society and a sort of religious racism.

      • alan jutson
        Posted January 10, 2015 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

        Lifelogic

        Tuned in the TV to the BBC 24 hours Newscast to listen on the updated situation in France yesterday at 15.00 hours.

        To my amazement and absolute horror the local BBC reporter Christian Fraser broadcast to the world that a 34 year old woman was still in hiding within the basement of the supermarket, he knew this because he had spoken to her distraught mother, who had spoken to her daughter over the phone.

        He then proceeded to give the location of the French security services snipers on the adjacent roof tops, and other more useful information about Police cordons.

        Now bear in mind this was BEFORE any police assault on the premises.

        With absolute idiots like this giving out vital information to the world, which could be picked by the terrorists inside, is it no wonder many of us think this news reporting is now getting completely out of hand.

        With the BBC it seems sensible people have no chance.

        I have to tell you I was screaming at the television, words that were rather stronger than stop, stop, you bloody idiot.

      • Max Dunbar
        Posted January 11, 2015 at 2:01 am | Permalink

        I suppose murder and mayhem is as much subject to fashion as anything else. It looks as if surgical assassination by rifle is replacing the old fashioned bomb as the trendy way to despatch the opposition, possibly influenced by computer gaming from the much maligned USA.

      • Bazman
        Posted January 11, 2015 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

        You mean they do not follow a right wing agenda such as Fox News does how do you square off SKY News and Channel 4 often showing the same point of view? SKY and the BBC are showing the same coverage of the French demonstrations what do you have to say on this?
        To claim that what they say is not based on fact is a bit rich coming from someone who chooses their facts to fit an agenda and then goes on a muck spreading spree hoping some will stick repeating untruths hoping for them to become fact

    • Leslie Singleton
      Posted January 10, 2015 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

      sm–Personally I cannot see what the TV (and this applies to the News too) has got to do with it

    • Vanessa
      Posted January 10, 2015 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

      Well said sm. I do not understand the salivating media who organise this drivel (BBC usually) which tells us nothing about what parties want to do or what they think. We did not get any mention of homosexual marriage or HS2 from the last ones but we got these idiotic ideas in government all paid for by us. I cannot think of a more stupid waste of my money.

  8. Lifelogic
    Posted January 10, 2015 at 7:59 am | Permalink

    “so in the interests of fairness more is better” in the interest of Cameron is what you really think.

    In deciding who to include it is clearly current voting intentions of voters that matters, not the historic seats outcome through the distorting FPTP voting system. At the last (unbiased by FPTP) indication, in a real MEP poll, UKIP were first.

    Any debate should be UKIP, Labour and Tory only. With the minor Libdem/Green and regional parties having their own debate, a second debate or regional debates.

    Cameron is just frightened to death of the prospect of trying to defend the indefensible and his record of serial ratting.

    • Richard1
      Posted January 10, 2015 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

      Miliband would love that. The right of centre vote would split between Conservatives and UKIP and Miliband would get in. Back to all spending called ‘investment’, no borrowing is too much, the rich can always pay ‘a little bit more’ for ‘our’ public services. Union-linked Labour politicians block any public sector reforms, so educational standards start to slide again and in the NHS cancer survival rates, now the lowest in Europe, sink even lower. No thanks to another Labour govt.

      • Lifelogic
        Posted January 10, 2015 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

        I suspect Miliband will get in anyway despite his best efforts and his idiotic rent act proposals, all thanks largely to Cameron being in essence a Libdem and not remotely a Tory. Under Thatcher the Tory vote kept going up but under Cameron it declines and party membership halves.

        Cameron did not even manage to negotiate fair constituency boundaries out of the Libdems.

        A three way debate would show how little difference there is between big state, higher taxes, expensive energy, open door immigration and more EU Cameron and big state, higher taxes, expensive energy, rent act II, price controls, open door immigration and more EU Miliband. Not very much.

        • bluedog
          Posted January 10, 2015 at 9:37 pm | Permalink

          Miliband has no chance, his electoral appeal outside the metropolis is close to zero. Hence Ukip’s success in targeting the socially conservative working and lower-middle class, many of them Catholics in the north and west. This is a demographic that the Conservatives should have been able to win without difficulty. But then Cameron blew his chances with a non-mandated social policy…

    • Lifelogic
      Posted January 10, 2015 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

      I see Cameron was asked for his proudest moments. He said gay marriage and that Britain has “the fastest growing economy in the developed World”.

      It says all you need to know of Cameron.

      Personally I tend to agree with gay marriage, if they want to call it “marriage” rather than “partnership” so be it – but it is hardly a priority?

      The second claim is simply not true (as he must surely know) rather like “we are repaying the debt”, “a treaty is (magically) no longer a treaty once ratified”, “we will be in the black by 2018”, “I promise a (cast iron) referendum on any Treaty that emerges from Lisbon negotiations” and “I am a low tax conservative at heart”.

      All is compete drivel and illustrates why he is so scared to debate Farage.

    • agricola
      Posted January 10, 2015 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

      Sounds very sensible, but do not hold your breath. On the elephant in the room subject, membership of the EU and all it implies for the UK, I would love to hear the substance of both CMD’s and EM’s love affaire with the EU. It would need to be chaired by someone of Paxman like substance who would accept no prisoners, and be very short with anyone who failed to answer the questions.

  9. Douglas Carter
    Posted January 10, 2015 at 8:13 am | Permalink

    I don’t recall learning a single new thing from the ‘debates’ last time round. The forums were predictable and the emplaced questioning restrictions made the occasions fairly sterile. The kind of person who would look to political forums on a Saturday morning is also the kind of person who would not have been taken by surprise by the existence of more than two party leaders, and so the appearance of Clegg would hardly have monitored. (Academically, it was Clegg himself who enthusiastically demonstrated his legion weaknesses at the TV EU debates earlier in 2014).

    A more rigorous forum with regard to questions asked, and allowing the questioner themselves to follow the question up might be preferred but again, I doubt the occasion will prove valuable in demonstrating something which is new to learn in policy terms. So exactly who turns up I’m not really worried about (except that whichever party does appear, it MUST be represented by their current leader – no Chairmen or deputies…).

    In fairness the regional parties will have their own regional TV appearances – Salmond for all his electoral strengths is not a UK-wide representative so his appearance in the UK-whole debates is rightly disqualified. Beyond that I’d say that because Sinn Fein run away from their UK Parliamentary obligations, they would also disqualify themselves from such public debate.

    But whilst off-topic, on that subject, I’d want to see Parliament introduce a situation where Parties with fewer than fifteen Parliamentary seats – if offered a place in a Coalition – that particular link of the Coalition negotiation MUST take place in a public forum – no off-camera or off-the-record deals. Where such a party is so small it would be an affront to democracy if their part in a coalition was to unduly influence policy simply for the temporary convenience of the majority party in that coalition.

  10. Richard1
    Posted January 10, 2015 at 8:21 am | Permalink

    Certainly there must be debates, its become part of our electoral process and under our system now we are effectively electing a president. The PM is no longer primus inter pares. There must be a straight Cameron versus Miliband debate, that is the choice for PM. If the fringe parties are to be included then they all should be. There is no reason the LIbDems should get preference over UKIP, and there is no reason to exclude the leftist fringe parties, the Greens and the SNP. Labour and their media supporters esp at the BBC won’t like that of course because the Greens and the SNP are more likely to take votes from Labour. I think we should have an all-comers debate soon and get it out of the way and then have a couple of proper debates between Miliband and Cameron.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted January 10, 2015 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

      It might make sense to include the SNP in debates for a UK-wide election shown on UK-wide TV if they were putting up candidates across the UK; which of course they are free to do – when they might even get a significant number of votes in English constituencies, both from Scots living in England who want to make themselves foreigners, and from English people who want to make the Scots foreigners whether they like it or not – but they won’t actually be doing.

      • Richard1
        Posted January 10, 2015 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

        I dont buy the argument the SNP shouldn’t be included because they are only fielding candidates in Scotland. The argument for having the small parties in is they may influence a coalition or be part of one. On that basis there’s a very strong argument for the SNP as a Labour govt relying on SNP votes is a distinct possibility. In fact a neo-marxist Labour-snp-green coalition is a possibility.

        (Anyone who counts themselves right of centre or eurosceptic better therefore vote Conservative – or tactically against Labour- to stop it).

        • Max Dunbar
          Posted January 11, 2015 at 1:46 am | Permalink

          Have a separate debate just for the tiddlers then and they can conduct it in a meetings room in Holyrood or at the European Parliament.

        • Bob
          Posted January 11, 2015 at 9:42 am | Permalink

          @Mr Redwood
          I thought you had disallowed from your blog this kind of blatant exhortation to vote for a particular political party?

          Notwithstanding that, the evidence is that the majority of Tory MPs unlike yourself Mr Redwood are neither conservative nor Eurosceptic.

        • Denis Cooper
          Posted January 11, 2015 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

          There is really no point of having the SNP involved in UK-wide TV debates before UK-wide elections when only a small minority of UK voters will even have the option of voting for them. Similarly if some other party was only going to put up candidates in 59 out of the 650 seats it would become an imposition on the viewers in the other 591 seats to have the leader of that party taking part.

    • fedupsouthener
      Posted January 10, 2015 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

      I disagree very strongly with your comments on the SNP taking part. They only have Scotland’s interests at heart. They don’t care about the rest of the UK and that is what the election is about. Not Scotland versus England!!!! This is what the SNP will make it. They have had their referendum and this is about the whole of the UK. No SNP.

  11. Ian wragg
    Posted January 10, 2015 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    I’m sure you would like the debate to be against Dave and Ed. Problem is the new kid on the block will wipe the floor with them, exposing their complete lack of vision and how they intend to deceive the electorate
    I see Dave says his proudest moment was getting SSM on the books
    Methinks he will be remembered as the one who destroyed our armed forces and wasted billions on aid and the EU.
    The chances of a Tory majority recede by the day.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted January 10, 2015 at 11:16 am | Permalink

      I agree.

      Without Cameron moving rapidly towards UKIP and doing some deal he is done for and rightly so. His word is worthless with UKIP giving him some backbone.

      • fedupsouthener
        Posted January 10, 2015 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

        Give UKIP a chance and stuff the SNP

    • Hope
      Posted January 10, 2015 at 11:51 am | Permalink

      I think millions will remember SSM as a reason not to vote for Cameron. Not just the issue but the way he did it without a mandate. A bit like his disgraceful conduct over the European Arrest Warrant!

  12. APL
    Posted January 10, 2015 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    JR: “The media and media quangos are finding it difficult to decide who should be part of this year’s leaders’ debates”

    A bunch of fat bald men fighting over a wig.

    Who cares?

  13. bluedog
    Posted January 10, 2015 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    Dr JR, you have screened participation in the debates through the criterion of current and potential representation.

    What about screening for the debates through the issue of EU membership?

    After all, the future of the UK’s EU membership is a matter which divides the nation across party lines. Given the SNP’s insistence that they can immediately join the EU if Scotland is ‘independent’, EU membership is also a fulcrum on which the future of the Union pivots.

    As a leading Eurosceptic, who would you like to see speaking?

  14. agricola
    Posted January 10, 2015 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    Debates should be based on major differences, not on nuances of emphasis. Whatever you care to say, the big issue is Europe and all that flows from it, and an ever increasing amount does. Your party are by their actions pro EU as are Labour, Lib/Dems , Greens, and the BBC. I have no idea about what the SNP or Plaid Cymru believe in outside their parochial domain. The only party that can and will comprehensively demolish the pro EU cabal is UKIP. It is they that the afore mentioned are running scared of. That is unless a selection of Conservative MPs such as yourself would care to publicly debate with CMD the subject of our EU membership.

    As around 50% of the UK electorate would, given the opportunity, leave the political EU, they deserve a prominent voice. In practical terms, and without besmirching your loyalty, we know that that can only be UKIP. I can guarantee that, diluting or avoiding the UKIP contribution will only strengthen their appeal to an already highly cynical electorate, who increasingly use social media for the exchange of ideas.

  15. Old Albion
    Posted January 10, 2015 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    The truth is, Cameron is scared of debating with UKIP and is looking for a way of avoiding it.

    • formula57
      Posted January 10, 2015 at 10:07 am | Permalink

      If avoiding UKIP was his aim, Cameron would not risk lobbying for the extra inclusion of the Greens (for he might obtain that) but rather for a debate only with the hapless Miliband. But surely Cameron knows that he has to take on UKIP or surrender his own credibility and authority. Moreover, he has every prospect of making the case that UKIP, in contrast to himself, will not be in a position to change anything. (It must be said, of course, that alas for the electorate, likely no-one will be able to change anything as we live in a market state.)

      • bluedog
        Posted January 10, 2015 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

        This writer thinks Cameron would potentially walk all over Farage in a one on one debate. By opting not to include Farage in the debating programme, Cameron is loosing an opportunity. But that’s Cameron.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted January 10, 2015 at 11:19 am | Permalink

      Exactly he simply has no rational positions to defend.

      On Immigration, Green Crap expensive energy, grammar schools, the deficit, open door immigration, the NHS, the 299+ tax increases – whatever the issue he is done for against Farage. All he can do is call him a racist but is it Cameron immigration policy that is racist by definition.

      • fedupsouthener
        Posted January 10, 2015 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

        Farage is not a racist for talking about immigration. It is an important issue and affects every aspect of our lives. The NHS is struggling. Much of this is due to the fact that our population is escalating out of control and many people are using our NHS posing as tourists. How can a heavily pregnant woman arrive in Britain and then get treatment? I thought air travel was not allowed if you were over 28 weeks. Just what is Cameron’s policy on so called ‘green energy’? I thought he was going to stop subsidies for onshore wind? John, can you enlighten us please? At least with UKIP we know they have common sense when it comes to energy and cheaper energy which will benefit our country. Cameron needs to tell us more and not keep going on just about the NHS which is playing right into Miliband’s hands. All the time we are in the EU Cameron can do nothing about immigration and it is about time he was honest about this. Farage knows this and this is one of the issues Cameron will be worried about in a public debate.

  16. Gina Dean
    Posted January 10, 2015 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    How about no debate. The last time it was boring, shouting, full of false information.The aaudience seemed to be rigged + the questions.

    • fedupsouthener
      Posted January 10, 2015 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

      Yes, agree. Just like Question Time is rigged. No sensible questions allowed and the debate is rigged around the MP’s and guest speakers invited.

  17. Mick
    Posted January 10, 2015 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    I’ve heard that Mr Cameron’s favourite food is KFC (other food outlets available) best watch film The chicken run and all time favourite cartoon character is Chicken George, Your leader is very scared of a face to face with Mr Farage because of the thumping he gave Mr Clegg last year, your party is going down big time, not bad for a bunch of fruit cakes, tick tock tick tock

  18. Kenneth
    Posted January 10, 2015 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    I strongly disagree with leader tv debates, especially at election time.

    My reasons:

    1. The enormous reach of tv gives the tv companies almost God-like powers over the election result. The decision of who to include is an example of how the desires of tv companies could decide the outcome of the general election. No unelected person or body should have that power.

    2. Turns the election into a presidential contest. This puts the cart before the horse. The choice of PM should emerge after the People have decided the make up of the Commons

    We already have tv debates that take place in parliament every day, with the main ‘presidential debate’ once a week at PMQs. We already have local hustings.

    Why should tv companies muscle in and undermine our democracy in this way? Who elected them?

    • Martyn G
      Posted January 10, 2015 at 10:14 am | Permalink

      I agree. The commercial media TV and radio stations each have a financial axe to grind and as for the BBC, well, over the years it has demonstrated huge bias with rigged audiences, refusing air time to unbelievers in the green blob and so on.
      And the thought of perhaps 4-6 party leaders (green, UKIP et al) having a sensible debate with a rigged audience present is beyond bearing – it would be like PMQ where he/she who shouts the loudest looks and sounds the most stupid. I suppose that it might just make sense if the debate was carried out without an audience, no questions from the floor and an unbiased chair. Other than that, forget it!

    • Tom William
      Posted January 10, 2015 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

      Very much agree. Live audiences also make “debates” into a circus (admittedly rather like PMQs).

      Better would be to have each leader interviewed by someone of Jeremy Paxman’s ability, albeit with some boundaries set by the producer. I doubt if the Green Party would want their policies shredded by him.

    • fedupsouthener
      Posted January 10, 2015 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

      Yes, the papers and in particular the BBC are at fault here. They already have a set agenda and we all know the BBC want us to stay in the EU. They are also supporters of expensive and intermittent ‘green energy’ which will leave all of us poor and with power cuts (this time due to storms) as a regular occurrence. We have been without power today for over 8 hours and it has not been pleasant. Bad enough during the daylight hours but at night – a right pain in the a***e.

      No computers, no phones, mobiles, no cooker (if electric as Mr Davey wants) , no iron, no electric kitchen gadgets, no heating. God help us when they don’t let us have gas!!! The lunatics are surely in charge of the asylum.

      • Max Dunbar
        Posted January 11, 2015 at 1:22 am | Permalink

        Add to the list blown out windows, wrenched open front doors and garage doors, frazzled computers, phones and TVs, underground communications cables melted to blobs of copper, above ground cables and junction boxes burnt out, alarm systems ruined and heating systems damaged.
        All this took place about a month ago in Argyll due to a thunderstorm.

  19. acorn
    Posted January 10, 2015 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    How about having none of them, at all! As Westminster has delegated everything to Quangos and I don’t want a Quango deciding who gets on the pitch.

    None of the legacy parties have anything new to say. All of them have the same defective economic policies. None of them are capable of forming a Board of Directors to run UK plc.

    It always fascinates that Conservative’s claim they have run big businesses at the highest levels, but their laissez faire, neo-liberal ideology, automatically prevents them from investing in public sector primary drivers of the economy, in the same manner.

    Anyway, at street level, UKIP is looking chipper and splitting the right side vote. Lib Dems appear to be uniting the left cos they now hate the Tories more than they did before the last election. Conservative foot soldiers appear to have found better things to do.

  20. Margaret Brandreth-J
    Posted January 10, 2015 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    No I don’t agree here John. To give change a chance of happening all parties should be included .The status quo is, as you have rightly said, a fight between labour and conservative ,but tidier or easier just to have a tug of war is not a sound reason to exclude other parties.

  21. JoolsB
    Posted January 10, 2015 at 9:09 am | Permalink

    The debates should only be between candidates who are eligible to become Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. For that very reason, that should exclude the Scottish and Welsh Nats from taking part as their elections for Scots and Welsh Governments will come the following year in 2016.

    However, as there is a good chance Alex Salmond could be Deputy Prime Minister come May with the SNP propping up a minority Labour Government, all determining policy which will only affect England, maybe the SNP should qualify after all. Especially as Cameron and the Tory party look set to rat on their promise of English votes for English laws. You’ve gone very quiet on the matter John!

    Reply No I haven’t gone quiet at all – spoke it about last night again when speaking in Reading – White Paper recently issued

    • JoolsB
      Posted January 10, 2015 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

      Apologies John, just that we’ve not heard much from you on this recently and the silence from your party is deafening which is a shame because if they could be bothered to support you on this, it could be a big vote winner in England.

      When can we expect to see the house voting on this? This side of the election I hope. Even if it fails, at least the English public will then get to see the even more anti-English Labour party and LibDums vote it down.

    • fedupsouthener
      Posted January 10, 2015 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

      God, just reading about Salmond becoming Deputy PM makes me want to emigrate!

    • Max Dunbar
      Posted January 11, 2015 at 1:08 am | Permalink

      The SNP thought they had already won the referendum before it took place. Sticking another pin in Salmond at the General election and watching the already half deflated balloon finally shrivel up to a flaccid piece of overblown rubber would be a pleasure to behold.

  22. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted January 10, 2015 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    JR: “The media and media quangos are finding it difficult to decide who should be part of this year’s leaders’ debates for the General Election.”

    No; your leader is finding it difficult to find an excuse for not taking part.

    We know that your party has a strategy to portray this election to the electorate as a simple choice between Cameron and Miliband. We don’t buy it and don’t appreciate your attempts at gerrymandering.

    Reply Not so – it is the media – they now face legal action from the Greens for their possible exclusion.

    • Brian Tomkinson
      Posted January 10, 2015 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

      David Cameron has said he will not take part in TV debates ahead of the general election unless the Green Party is also included. It is he who is trying to make it difficult for the media because, as Lady Thatcher would have said, ‘he is frit’. You really do your own reputation no good at all when you blatantly try and spin on behalf of your leader

    • Lifelogic
      Posted January 10, 2015 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

      Clearly the Greens and the Libdems should both be excluded, they cannot even hold their deposits currently.

  23. Mark B
    Posted January 10, 2015 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    Good morning.

    Tough one this.

    You forgot ‘Gorgeous’ George Galloway MP of the RESPECT Party. Just to add to you headache 😉

    Personally, I would just dump the whole idea.

    You cannot ignore the SNP and Scotland. politically that would very unwise. The SNP would make great hey out of that. For Labour, a Tory, Labour and SNP debate with RedEd and CMD would play into the SNP’s hands, at a time both parties, especially Scottish Labour, need to distance themselves from Westminster.

    For me though and why I think these silly debates need to be dropped ? Is because you have given most if the power away to the EU. You cannot form an energy policy or even a foreign policy without EU approval. You even have to show them our budget before our own MP’s such as yourself can see and debate on them. Shameful !

    Elections are no longer about deciding the next government or policies, since you can form any government you like a ditch all the policies you promises and bring in new ones. Elections have become another branch of the Entertainment Industry.

    Here is a suggestion. Why don’t we put all the Leaders (sic) on a desert island, and we can set them tasks to perform. We can vote each week a candidate off, and the last one gets to be PM.

    Or we can ask them to bake a cake ! Or the do the foxtrot or pasadoble or the cha-cha-cha !

    Its not as it matters who wins, does it ?

    • fedupsouthener
      Posted January 10, 2015 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

      Don’t be silly – they’ve got no experience of life to do anything like this. Farage might just come out in front! At least he’s had a ‘proper’ job.

      • Max Dunbar
        Posted January 11, 2015 at 12:55 am | Permalink

        The Admirable Crichton.

  24. DaveM
    Posted January 10, 2015 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    I would prefer to see each party leader given an uninterrupted, un-edited 20 minute slot on prime time TV where they can present their main policies and plans, then let the public vote (online) on who they want to attend a debate on a later programme. The audience would also have to be a GENUINE cross section of the electorate.

    The problem with that would be that we would just hear a bunch of soundbites, and CMD has engineered himself into a position where no-one actually believes anything he says anyway.

    Regarding the Greens – I couldn’t actually tell you who their leader is off-hand, and I’m never going to vote for them anyway.

    SNP – don’t care because I don’t live in Scotland. I’d just like them to assure me they wouldn’t interfere in English affairs. Likewise Welsh and NI parties.

    LibDems – people were swayed by Clegg’s performance on TV last time, but I don’t think even a stellar TV performance would undo the almost fatal damage they’ve done themselves in the past 4 years, so nothing to worry about there.

    UKIP – now there’s YOUR problem. Nigel Farage would win any TV debate with his realistic, rational arguments and popular policies. Not to mention his ability to answer a question with a straight answer. Your real problem with Mr Farage is that it’s easy to pick personality traits and little scandals (which incidentally are absolutely trivial in comparison with past Tory scandals) and get the papers and the BBC to publish them, but on live TV you’d have to deal with him face-to-face, and he’d win. Everyone knows UKIP is largely a one or two-policy party, but those are the most important policies in many ways (at this time at least), and neither of the LabCon leaders are willing to give a straight answer on them. Ironic that the Clegg-on-TV-in-201o factor could be what scares the LabCons regarding giving Farage the same platform.

    If this is a democratic country, the LabCon controlled media should give everyone a fair platform, including the BNP, the Communists, the English Democrats, etc, but its hard to see that happening.

    A suggestion to CMD – if he doesn’t want to go on the TV and debate, he could just ask Angela Merkel to do it. After all, his policies now seem to be dictated directly by her anyway.

    I would suggest you do it yourself John, given that all your public appearances are sober and honest, and reflect the views of most traditional Tory voters. I’m not sure your party would allow that though, given that your policies are Tory and Cameron’s are LibDem/Labour. If you formed a new party called the Real Tories or something, you’d get my vote with or without TV debates, media support, or anything else!!

    • fedupsouthener
      Posted January 10, 2015 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

      Wholeheartedly agree with your last paragraph. John would be an ideal candidate as he speaks true Tory values. The king is dead, long live the king.

  25. David Murfin
    Posted January 10, 2015 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    “the rich diversity of a modern election” will be reflected by news and current affairs broadcasters because it is good TV. Politics and getting the right PM has nothing to do with it. DC and GB saying ‘I agree with Nick’ produced splendid moments last time, but look where it got us.

  26. Andrew S
    Posted January 10, 2015 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    In England I think it should be Conservatives, Labour, UKIP, Greens, LibDems.
    I’m not interested in seeing SNP or Plaid. BBC Wales and Scotland do whatever.

  27. Anthony Harrison
    Posted January 10, 2015 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    A fair discussion of the issue, Mr Redwood, but I disagree with what seems to be your favoured format: if debates are confined to Cameron and Miliband, it can safely be said that around two-thirds of the electorate is opposed or indifferent to either one.

  28. Richard
    Posted January 10, 2015 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    If the media really want to see real debates on the important issues of our time then UKIP must be included.

    All the other parties have identical policies to continue EU membership, to continue with mass immigration (EU and non-EU), to continue with the Climate Change Act, to continue with vast amounts of foreign aid etc. etc.

    Already we are told that Labour intend to talk only about the NHS and the Conservatives only about the economy.

    Neither intend to talk about EU membership or immigration despite the fact that UKIP came first in the last (EU) election. Or indeed about the Climate Change Act where they both completely agree again.

    So a debate between Mr. Cameron and Mr. Miliband would be a complete waste of time. And we have already seen it many times before at PMQs.

  29. oldtimer
    Posted January 10, 2015 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    Re debates I believe that two`s company and three`s a crowd. Furthermore the two should be the party leader and a knowledgable interregator. Andrew Neill is the prime candidate for this role.

    On past evidence putting two, three or more party leaders behind a dais to argue with each other has proved both to be unedifying and unhelpful to understanding their policies (as opposed to their spin on their opponents policies).

    As for Mr Cameron`s stance on the participation of the Green party it is either because he wants an excuse not to be involved or he feels under pressure from the Green Blob. More likely it is the former to avoid debate with Mr Farage.

  30. waramess
    Posted January 10, 2015 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    Very very convenient the thought that the debate should consist of just Labour and Conservative. Fortunately the cat is out of that bag and it would be very obvious that the electorate were being herded, so to speak.

    Also very convenient for Cameron to make the number of parliamentary seats the deciding criteria.

    The problem with politicians these days is that they believe they can dodge the issue if it is convenient to do so. Whether it is immigration where they insist they are powerless to act or whether it is the leader’s debate where they try to ignore the clear wishes of the electorate, they see themselves as answerable to no one.

    Average polls show Cons 30.8% Labour 34% UKIP 15.5% Lib 8.5% Greens 4%. Who then do you think should reasonably participate if the politicians are to be seen as being on the same page of the hymn book as the electorate?

    http://www.electoralcalculus.co.uk/polls.html

    Reply The issue is what are fair criteria? If you take current share of polls then UKIP has third place after Con/Lab, but if you take predicted seats then Lib Dems/SNP are fighting for third/fourth places.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted January 10, 2015 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

      Clearly you need to consider voting intentions and not potential MPs. This as the number of MPs, given the FPTP voting system, is a huge distortion of the electorate’s wishes. Regional and smaller parties being hugely under represented.

      The MEP election share of the vote, by party, is a far better indication as people can vote in those as exactly as they wish – as MEPs are just a fake democratic veneer anyway so nothing to lose. In MP elections it is often just least bad option or stop X voting.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted January 10, 2015 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

      Cameron cannot face Farage as he would be demolished even more than Clegg was.

      Clegg is a Libdem and so we expect lunacy from him. Cameron claims to be a Tory and thus is far more vulnerable to Farage. Real Tories think far more like Farage than Cameron.
      All that Farage would have to do would be to read out selective bits of the last Tory manifesto to show how little of it Cameron has achieved, and illustrate how much he has totally ratted on Tory voters.

      Starting with the EU, IHT, 299+ tax increases and his expensive energy religion.

      • fedupsouthener
        Posted January 10, 2015 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

        Lifelogic, what you say here is so true and what many Tory voters feel at the moment. When is Cameron going to realise we want a real Tory in charge. He should do the decent thing and just walk.

  31. Ex-expat Colin
    Posted January 10, 2015 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    Dear Electoral Commission,

    Thanks, but we’re not registering with you and
    we’re not going to pay any attention to your rules.

    Yours in freedom,

    Paul Staines
    Editor Guido Fawkes’ Blog

    Its a joke Y/N ??

  32. Iain Gill
    Posted January 10, 2015 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    The leaders of the two largest parties at the last national election, is Nigel and miliband. All others are minor parties.

  33. Bert Young
    Posted January 10, 2015 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    TV debates – as some responders have stated , are boring and misleading . Cameron vs Milliband is not news ; the fracas happens every Wednesday . Of course I would like to see a Cameron vs Farage – but that will not happen for all the reasons others have mentioned . A larger debate with all the parties would be difficult to present and uninteresting . On balance I would opt for interviews with each of the party leaders not controlled by the BBC .

    The truth is the run up to any election is full of “promises” , ego and unreliable statements . I am old enough to have witnessed so many that I cannot face this one with any interest . My main concern is the threat of the SNP emerging and influencing English matters and laws ; equally the regaining of our sovereignity . I wish that Margaret Thatcher was around again aided and supported by the wise and down to earth Norman Tebbit . Were this so , I know that we would soon be free of EU control and bureaucracy .

  34. English Pensioner
    Posted January 10, 2015 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    If only we had an impartial interviewer, I’d argue for each party leader to be individually interviewed by the same person asking questions on the party’s manifesto, particularly with regard to the financing of their policies. Viewers would then be able to make their own decisions as to whether they are interested in what a party has to say.
    Unfortunately, I can’t think of a suitable interviewer!

    • bigneil
      Posted January 10, 2015 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

      We all know a manifesto is a bag of sayings, that they have no intention of ever sticking to. Being a minister is the only job where the “job description,” i.e. the manifesto, can be completely ignored once elected (i.e. – given the job ). Anywhere else someone who doesn’t do the job description is fired.

  35. forthurst
    Posted January 10, 2015 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    “The easiest version would be a debate between Labour and Conservative.”

    Certainly for CMD, espcially after having had a tete a tete with Angela in his parlour at no 10, in which she agreed to make sympathetic noises about changing the fundamental principles of the European project until the GE to obviate CMD’s embarassment at not been able stem the flood of EU migrants whose presence may not be as welcomed by all and sundry as they clearly are amongst our ruling political class of treacherous social engineers. With a more representative debate, CMD’s fig leaf is likely to be blown away in th first robust exchange.

    • fedupsouthener
      Posted January 10, 2015 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

      We are going to get shafted on issues concerning the EU. The BBC, the papers and Cameron will do a good job of making everything look ok and the British public will vote to stay in and then realise what a mess everything is when it all gets changed afterwards. By then it will be too late and it will be the end of Britain as we know it – or knew it.

  36. Denis Cooper
    Posted January 10, 2015 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    I’m unenthusiastic about TV debates between leaders, and especially when they’re held too close to a polling day for there to be enough time to properly pick apart the nonsense that the participants are likely to spout so that many voters go to the polls on the basis of gross misinformation and false arguments.

    All of the three participants in the TV debates before the last general election chose to argue about proposals for relatively small cuts in public spending and left most voters with no appreciation of the sheer scale of the government’s financial problems, which itself made it more difficult for the new government to deal with them; moreover by allowing Clegg to pose as some kind of judicious moderate, with all that “I agree with Nick” business, they helped to land us with a coalition government; and by doing that they also helped to keep the pro-Labour anti-Tory bias inherent in the electoral system by enabling the LibDems to block the proposed boundary changes, so that we are more likely to end up with another coalition government, quite possibly once again involving the LibDems, after the next election as well.

    Nor was I at all impressed by the TV debates between Salmond and Darling before the Scottish referendum, when Darling allowed Salmond to get away with repeating a lot of misleading nonsense shortly before people voted; in fact the best TV debates were the two between Clegg and Farage, which being held some weeks before the polling day for the EU Parliament elections allowed plenty of time for dissection of what they had each said. There’s no reason why such debates have to be confined to election periods.

    However if there are to be TV debates between party leaders before the NEXT general election there is no logical basis for allocating air time on the results of the LAST general election five years before, in fact it is an absurd way of approaching the question.

    Far better to look at the current levels of support for the different parties as shown in the opinion polls and allocate air time roughly in proportion; which would mean that the leaders of two parties, the LibDems and the Greens, would get one unit of broadcasting time each in which to put their respective cases and rebut those of their opponents, the leader of UKIP would get two units of air time, while the leaders of the Tory and Labour parties would get four units of air time each.

    Moreover in my view these should all be one-to-one debates, allowing unabated cut and thrust between the two protagonists without the distractions and confusions caused by interventions from third, fourth or fifth persons, and maybe the best plan would be for 12 two-hour debates spread over 6 weeks, as follows but in a randomised order:

    Cameron v Miliband – 7 debates, therefore notionally 7 hours each
    Cameron v Farage – 1 debate, 1 hour each
    Miliband v Farage – 1 debate, 1 hour each

    Therefore Cameron and Miliband have each had their allocated totals of 8 hours.

    Farage v Clegg – 1 debate, 1 hour each
    Farage v Bennett – 1 debate, 1 hour each

    Therefore Farage has now had his allocated air time of 4 hours.

    Clegg v Bennett – 1 debate, 1 hour each

    Therefore Clegg and Bennett have now each had their allocated totals of 2 hours.

  37. libertarian
    Posted January 10, 2015 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    Who cares ?

    They all talk rubbish, promise the earth using other peoples money and deliver nothing.

    Manifesto promises are moonshine, talent is absent and the only conviction they are likely to have is a criminal one

    Why not just pick one out of a hat to be PM it would certainly be more democratic than our current system

  38. ChrisS
    Posted January 10, 2015 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    I would have thought the answer was obvious :

    We are talking about UK wide debates between potential Prime Ministers here.

    It stands to reason that ONLY the leaders of parties that are

    1. classified as major parties and

    2. contesting the vast majority of seats across the UK should take part.

    That clearly means the leaders of the Conservatives, Labour, Lib Dems and UKIP.

    The Greens may put up candidates across the UK but they have been declared as not a major party so should not take part.

    The leaders of the Welsh Nationalists, SNP and the NI parties would obviously be excluded from the National Debates.

    It’s hard to see how there could be any legal challenge to the broadcaster on this basis.

    As a Conservative, I’m extremely disappointed to have to say that, in my view, David Cameron is obviously playing games to prevent there being any debates at all. He can only be trying to prevent UKIP being given more publicity and because of the embarrassing fact that so many Conservatives support so much of IKIP’s policies.

    You can’t really blame him, I suppose, because we were only lumbered with the LibDems in Government because of Clegg’s presence in the debates last time. He came over well because his impractical policies were attractive to some and Brown was such an utter disaster.

    Clegg’s party has now paid the price for being unable to fulfil his election promises on tuition fees and LibDem supporters have seen how you have to govern in the real world rather than the fantasy world the LibDems seem to think we all live in.

    Their resistance to anti-terrorist legislation is a perfect example.

  39. Max Dunbar
    Posted January 10, 2015 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    This discussion of who speaks when, where to whom and with whom is all somewhat contrived and ultimately appears to rest with decisions made by the BBC, the state within a state.
    Are there not enough news channels on television and radio to satisfy the public’s demand for lively and stimulating debate without having to depend on the BBC?
    The only party that I would be keen to exclude is the SNP as it does not stand for election throughout the UK and represents a regional constituency only.

  40. CHRISTOPHER HOUSTON
    Posted January 10, 2015 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    There is a case to be made for any party once having served two consecutive Parliamentary terms of office to be forbidden from fielding its candidates in at least the next General Election which follows.

    Especially valid and most useful in Local Council Elections. One can have too much of a good thing. But I see our American cousins are getting round the idea of their Presidencies not running for ever, by having Batman, Son of Batman and now possibly Grandson of Batman taking the reins of State.

    There is certainly evidence of such dynasty-making in our Local Authorities. Oh and of course the British Parliament where the truth of the politicians’ adage ” No-one who goes into politics can possibly be doing it for the money because it is so low ” means because of the number of hungry years in power whole families in Westminster must need to make regular outings to the local food-bank.

    As for those taking part in a General Election Debate. Only those parties who did not field a leader in the last debate should be allowed to take part. The British people have already heard the Rt Hon Mr Cameron , the Rt Hon Mr Clegg and the Rt Hon Mr Miliband put their respective cases ad nauseum.

  41. Rods
    Posted January 10, 2015 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    Route 1: It must be all parties with an MP, who is member of a political party with a leader. It has taken me one short sentence to work this out, so where’s the difficulty?

    Why?

    Route 2: There is very easy to construct, persuasive, alternative argument and answer. If you are going to limit it to the two main party’s leaders to being on TV, by those that would like to keep politics simple, so the two main parties have a dominant electioneering platform. Lets call them the ‘incumbents’, so it is always buggins turn to be in power, it makes no sense to just limit leader and party representation of the ‘incumbents’ exclusion area to just TV, but also newspapers, the Internet and all other media, why let the awkward minor parties, waste paper and resources on expensive election campaigns, manifestos and local campaigning, so they are a distraction from the two main ‘incumbent’ parties electioneering campaigns, where they have no chance of gaining power? The ‘incumbents’ could then bring in say Putin, Yanukovych or maybe even Mugabe as consultants to help make ‘democracy’ even cheaper as they are allegedly experts at creating cheap to run, one party systems. Lets call the new party the ‘LC’, they would never need any donations for campaigning again, where they work together, politics would therefore be ‘cheaper’, ‘easier’ and even more ‘efficient’ and at polling stations they could have armed security against terrorism, who are also on hand as helpers to show those that are unsure where to put their cross, that it needs be with the official ‘LC’ candidate, where this has allegedly worked very well in recent Crimean and Donbass votes or they could even adopt an even more ‘efficient’ system like ex-FSB (KGB) Colonel Igor Girkin’s allegation about how Russian elections work, The ‘LC’ can get get the equivalent of the FSB, (MI5/MI6?) to use their computers work out the correct results!

    IMO in a democracy, you either give all the population and their political parties an equal opportunity for their arguments to be heard by the electorate and they are then free to vote accordingly – “Route 1” or you are to a lesser or greater extent avorcating “Route 2”. There is no “Route 1.5”!

  42. David Price
    Posted January 10, 2015 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think there should be a debate. However, if the media circus is to proceed then, since you cannot determine the voters true intent without an election, all parties who have MPs at Westminster should take part.

  43. Shieldsman
    Posted January 10, 2015 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    If Cameron gains a small majority will that guarantee a 2017 Referendum – the simple answer is NO.
    Vote Conservative and you will have a referendum is ‘pie in the sky’
    The present Conservative MP’s are split between europhile and eurosceptic, so how would that work out in votes for a Referendum Bill?
    Look at the statistics for the Wharton Bill. Labour and Liberal Democrats stayed away, then the Lords threw it out.
    Then we have Cameron looking at a fudged Article 48 for minor changes to welfare handouts to EU migrants.
    No real return of sovereignty, border control or IN/OUT Referendum.

  44. Alan Wheatley
    Posted January 10, 2015 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    I am far from convinced TV debates are worth the time and anguish it takes to watch them. If TV debates are are to be, then I suggest several and varied, one of which would be between the Dave and Ed.

    My suggestion for the Dave-v-Ed debate is that it should take it’s form from chess. Thus, both would be allowed to speak for 30 minutes, and when each is speaking their microphone is live and the other’s is off. When the speaker chooses he would press his clock to stop it and start his opponents, and the live microphone would switch over at the same time. Both would say what ever they like for as long as they like up to their 30 minute limit. They would toss to see who goes first.

    This way we would hear what both has to say without being interrupted or spoken over by the other. And the debate would be conducted on their terms without a “chairman” getting in the way.

  45. JoolsB
    Posted January 10, 2015 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

    As the debates will be about the ENGLISH health service and ENGLISH education and immigration which mostly affects ENGLAND, is there any chance you could ask your leader to mention the forbidden word – ENGLAND just one perhaps when debating alongside the even more anti-English Milipede and Cleggie?

  46. Atlas
    Posted January 10, 2015 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    John,

    I’m not sure I can take another 4 months of ‘Long Term Economic Plan’ v. ‘NHS crisis’ – let alone having it all over the TV in Leaders debates !!

  47. bigneil
    Posted January 10, 2015 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

    As has been suggested on another website – for these live debates, have all the leaders wired up to lie detectors, with the results being shown along the bottom of the screen as they answer. Surely our honest completely trustworthy politicians would be ultra keen to show the tax paying electorate how much they tell the truth. This would be equal to ALL parties -which is only fair. I have no doubt that ONE leader would arrange for an “urgent call” to demand his undivided personal attention, conveniently elsewhere, at the time of the debate.

  48. ian
    Posted January 10, 2015 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

    As a non voter i do not watch prats driveling on about SFA, the only time i watch is election night so in the morning i can put my bet on acording to who won the election. Idea is to make money on the back of which ever prat wins and that means watching were they are to throw your money away down a fox hole so i can make a little bit off the back of it. I always go with what ever the people vote for.

  49. Sean O'Hare
    Posted January 10, 2015 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

    I note how you cleverly get around OFCOM declaring that UKIP has become a major party by appending the qualification “in 2010 election”. Surely the question should be which parties have substantial support now? I think the Greens should have a place as should Farage, but unless you increase the number of debates to perhaps 6 the schedule is always going to look unfair to some.

  50. ian
    Posted January 10, 2015 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

    The land will be hear long after the political prats and we are gone. It might not have any people on it but it will still be going along waiting for some type intelligence to hit it as it rolls through time and space and one day in the future that time will come and the planet and others will be very happy.
    I would not tell anyone to come hear keep away at all costs and wait till they burn themselves out.

  51. JGD
    Posted January 10, 2015 at 9:34 pm | Permalink

    Mr Redwood,

    I am disappointed that you seem to support what I regarded as Cameron’s quite arrogant suggestion that the forthcoming election was solely about whether he or Miliband should be in Number 10.

    I was unaware that we had switched to Presidential elections. While I have been a lifelong supporter of Conservative values, I have seen them so traduced by Cameron that an exhortation to vote for him is totally unappealing.

    If that means that the existing “Conservative” left-Liberal incumbent of Number 10 is replaced with a Socialist left winger, I see little change in the social engineering agenda.

    Would it not be better to champion a conservative manifesto embodying a return to conservative principles and the implicit undertaking that if the party is unlucky enough to retain Cameron as titular leader, at least his feet will be held to the fire and there will be a halt to the creeping, destructive socialism, begun under Blair and condoned or even connived at ever since?

  52. JoeSoap
    Posted January 10, 2015 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

    A silly post.

    We need to hear different points of view on the main questions of the day, not two shades of grey.

    We need to hear contrasting views on the
    EU
    Deficit
    Health service
    Welfare bill
    Education system
    and many others.
    Having just Labour and Conservative would be limiting any different creative thinking on these issues dramatically, and would frankly not be worth watching.

  53. Iain Herd
    Posted January 11, 2015 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    If we’re going to have X-Factor politics, then we should do it properly. Once you embrace this, the potential solution becomes obvious imho.

    I would recommend 4 programs:

    The program first would give the leader of each party with a sitting MP five minutes to pitch directly to the electorate. After all the leaders have pitched the audience can vote for each leader (online and phone) – successfully registration requiring the voter to provide their passport number (not ideal, but simplest solution). Top six go thru to the second program and first debate proper – although actual votes are not revealed.

    The audience again votes at the end of the program – with the top 4 going thru to third program. And then lastly the top two going thru to the final debate. So debates would look something like:

    1st: ALL
    2nd: Con, Lab, LibDem, UKIP, Green, SNP/Plaid Cymri
    3rd: Con, Lab, ???, ???
    4th: Con, Lab

  54. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted January 11, 2015 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

    Why not devolve the debates so that Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have to organise their own.

    Make the English debates a two round system. In round one, the minnows debate (including Respect). Voters text in who they think has ‘won’ and the winner goes through to round 2 to face Labour and the Conservatives. All to take place at least 4 weeks before polling day.

  55. REPay
    Posted January 12, 2015 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

    I think the simplest solution is to abandon the public debate concept completely. Far more instructive for experienced interviewers to interrogate politicians one on one. We have a long running debate called parliament where are politicians get to to test their arguments against each other. We do not live in a presidential democracy. I would like to see more focus on the:
    workability/affordability and likely outcomes of proposed policies.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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