Arguing Not Debating

The unedifying squabbling over the proposed televised pre election debates characterises the campaign so far. It’s full of half-truths, mistruths and untruths from all participants. That not one of them have the courage to face up, or face down the elephant in the room which is the out of control all-consuming monster NHS has become is immoral and appalling. It’s going to have to be dealt with by someone at some point and that point will be when we’re in abject crisis and there is no other choice. Some would say a crisis is now only ever one series virus away. Rather, the debates bring debate down to the lowest denominator with the contenders slinging as much mud as they can articulate knowing that there is no time to refute what they say and hope that some of it sticks. It invariably does.

Lord Grade waded into the television debate today and put television heads firmly in their box by telling them they don’t run democracy and it’s not their place to make pronouncements on who should appear, when and with whom. Well said Lord Grade.

There is rarely an incentive for an incumbent to appear in such orchestrated events. They can go badly wrong as Alistair Darling discovered last year in the Referendum debate. Moreover, the make-it-up-as-you-go-along mudslinging is a very real issue, especially if the debate is not strongly moderated which we also saw last year. I suspect this year that another factor is at work and that is that David Cameron has probably been told by donors categorically that they will not support him if he appears in more than one debate. This is important. There are likely to be two general elections this year, one in May and another in the Autumn to clean the mess up. That will require deeper resources than the parties can currently finance so any quiet conditionality, or “advice,” with donations may have more resonance than might otherwise have been the case.

David Cameron will be aware too that it is always easy to disadvantage the core support you know you can take for granted in order to play to the prejudices of the few floaters over whom the battle is really being fought. Yet the electorate is becoming more fickle and therefore fragmented so it becomes dangerous to take any of them for granted.

Perhaps we ought to remember that Tony Blair ducked debates on the advice of Campbell, something that appears to have been conveniently forgotten. After all, in 80yrs of television we have only had one set of televised debates and it was hardly fair. In my view,  I reckon the squabbling it goes on the less likely they will happen and that perhaps is a mild positive for democracy.