I thank Dr Alf for sharing this article and publishing my viewpoint.
First things first, what is the point of these television debates? DO we really honestly believe that whether leader “A” has a bad headache that day and so comes over as rubbish (or, turning that on its head, leader “B” has fortified him/herself with some suitable substance and comes over as fantastic) is the right way to decide which political party should rule the country for the nest five years or so. Contrary to popular opinion I think not. What will be demonstrated is that certain people have the ability to cope with trick questions better than others, and that some are quicker thinking than others. One of the men I knew who was a large influence in my political thinking would never answer any question without giving himself time to think. Sometimes the gaps were almost embarrassing – and would have come over on the television as being indecisive and slow-witted – but what followed was pure gold. There is, of course, the story of the Zulu chief (whose name I fear I have forgotten) who was forced into a position to negotiate with the British army following a defeat in the Zulu wars. Fearing that the man’s outspoken style would make matters even worse, his advisers persuaded him to put a large pebble in his mouth and to remove it only when he had something to say and replace it immediately afterwards. That way, they explained to him. you will ensure you have time to think before you speak. So – for starters: no debates, please, we’re British.
One thing the debates demonstrated in 2010 is that they are by nature to the disadvantage of the incumbent. Many decisions have to be taken where the answers are by no means straight forward and a whole host of compromises have to be made in order to take those decisions. These are often difficult to explain in a slow and measured debate and impossible on television. Thus the person defending an action is forced to take in headline terms when the subject really demands deep consideration. We see the result of this on programmes such as Question Time. Meanwhile it is incredibly easy for the others to put forward policies which sound attractive (but are riddled with problems) knowing that there is no possibility of such policies being tested during the programme.
In passing, I would also mention that I believe we should be ruled by some system of representative democracy (basically the one we have with a few modifications) and not by the media.
If I were Cameron, I would have nothing to do with them – the empty seat could stand as my announcement that I do not believe it is in the UK democracy’s best interests to behave as if were a presidential democracy. We are not.