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Election date 2010

Nick Robinson | 17:07 UK time, Tuesday, 2 March 2010

If you landed from outer space today what might you make of the news that the three men who have a chance of becoming our next prime minister are to debate live on national television?

Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick CleggYou might ponder why it's taken more than 50 years since the widespread use of television for this to happen.

To misquote Star Trek's Dr McCoy, you might note that these are debates, Jim, but not as we know them.

After all, the prime ministerial debates will involve an audience that can't clap or cheer or boo or heckle. They will involve questioners who can't react to the answers they're given. They will involve TV interviewers who cannot demand answers to questions from evasive politicians.

What you would be ignoring if you focused on all that, though, is that the men who want to be in No 10 will be debating questions posed by voters at length and in detail without playing to the baying hoards on the green benches in the Commons or the noisy audience on Question Time.

You would be ignoring the fact that as well as the carefully timed one-minute answers and rebuttals there will be four minutes of free range debate possible for each question.

You would be ignoring what a big step this has been for a prime minister who doesn't like TV and a leader of the opposition who, as the front runner, had every reason to block rather than promote debates as David Cameron did.

Above all, though, you would be ignoring the fact that this agreement between Britain's main parties and main broadcasters makes history.

The leaders of the UK's main parties have agreed to boldly go where no man has gone before.

Comments

Page 1 of 5

  • Comment number 1.

    I just hope that these debates are not as tepid as the US Presidential Debates.

  • Comment number 2.

    I'll be surprised if they amount to very much at all. No point asking questions if they are not going to be answered, and a pre-prepared script is recited - just like PMQs.

    Complete waste of time I would think ....

  • Comment number 3.

    When in doubt, don't.
    Who can blame them? Nixon / Kennedy put the fear of God into many politicians, no doubt.
    Brown is the most likely Nixon apparently
    Interviews should ideally be conducted only with your favorite interviewer.

  • Comment number 4.

    You gotta love Star Trek.

    Certainly a big moment in our political history, but I can't help think that this is just going to involve so many soundbites, people will become even more apathetic.

  • Comment number 5.

    If I'd landed from outer space today and saw what our political leaders were like, I suspect I'd be hitching a ride on the first Vogon ship home.

  • Comment number 6.

    So.

    Completely pointless then. Brown will just trot out tractor stats....

  • Comment number 7.

    Sounds fair enough. I didn't pick up the "free-range' debate part in the linked report but that should be the most interesting and require a firm moderator.

    How about each speaker being connected to a lie detector with a red light coming on every time a porky is told?

  • Comment number 8.

    The only reason Brown could not block this debate was because he would have been shown once again to be a bottler.

  • Comment number 9.


    So it's going to be a "prime ministerial debate" rather than a "leader's debate" first mooted which therefore rules out Salmond and the SNP. Even if Salmond won every seat in Scotland he still could not have enough MPs to be "prime minster". Was the name change a political or a broadcasting decision?

    A naughty headline nonetheless, Nick. But of course there's a ring of truth in it.

    It's not the debate itself which is important. That's probably a turn off for election weary voters. But it's the date of the debate as part of the general election grid. When you know the date can you let every one know.

  • Comment number 10.

    One small step for a few men, one giant leap behind the settee for the rest of us.

  • Comment number 11.

    I wrote this yesterday in response to the Ashcroft story:

    "It is a perfectly level playing field. The Conservatives have Lord Ashcroft, Labour and the Lib Dems have the BBC... Please, Nick, focus on what is important and shake off the current editorial slant (something not too overt but there, real and persistent) so evident in the coverage of politics on the BBC network."

    Look at the photograph chosen of David Cameron for this blog entry compared with the other two and tell me that this is not part of the "slant" to which I refer.

  • Comment number 12.

    Come on Cameron, don't let us down.

  • Comment number 13.

    The only question that needs to be asked is "when will ALL MPs start acting as employees of the electorate and stop treating them with contempt ???? They are all guilty of this charge although Mr Brown more so.Has he ever actually answered a question ?????

  • Comment number 14.


    I can't make up my mind whether to watch - or not.

    It could be toe-curlingly awful or hilarious. It has so many 'protocols' will anyone be able to actually say anything very much except the usual spiel we hear from ppb's!

    Dreading PM's contribution - he will be reading from print - so it will be very stilted.

  • Comment number 15.

    This comment has been referred for further consideration. Explain.

  • Comment number 16.

    Pointless American garbage.
    After 5 years of these moronic bozos spouting off ad nauseum in the media we're supposed to think that giving them more air time to preen themselves and spin the truth is going to be a major breakthrough for democracy? Pull the other one.
    I wish the BBC had the backbone to boycott this wretched waste of time.

  • Comment number 17.

    I can't wait, Cameron will destroy Brown, bring it on !!!

  • Comment number 18.

    So, in summary, the status is:
    1) Only the BBC is allowed to ask questions about the economy.
    2) ICM (whose main clients are the unions and the government itself) get to select the audience.

    hmmm. well, forgive me if I don't sound too enthusiastic, but to me that's a complete stitch-up.

    I've seen BBC economic interview/debate "chairing" before, and it's a joke. When labour and the tories both say they'll cut the public sector by x%, the chair says "so, that means that you tories will fire 10,000 nurses and 20,000 teachers, yes? and labour will keep the front-line as-is and get the money from their well-thought-out waste-saving plans, yes?"

    Will ICM get the same rent-a-labour-mob in like they do on question time?

    No wonder Brown agreed to it.

  • Comment number 19.

    Good - looking forward.

    It will be very nice to see balanced considered discussion free of mindless rants.

  • Comment number 20.

    I wish the whole darned crew and all the participants of this folly would boldly go where no one has gone before.

    The "rules" sum up the sorry state that our society has gotten into. It is a debate for heaven sakes not a trial, or do none of the organisers or participants actually remember what a good old fashioned debate is?

  • Comment number 21.

    Sticking with Star Trek, I hope they all come on stage wearing red jumpers.

    Y'know, I still can't see this happening. Brown is the greatest coward of our age - Lord Jim for the 21st century - he regularly ducks PMQs on the most pitifil excuses, as he is doing tomorrow. Washing his hair or something. So why go *live* before the general public, asnwering unknown questions?

    Well, I guess he might - if he knew damn well it wasn't the general public, the questions wouldn't be unknown (to him), and it wouldn't be live...

    Even so...

    I'll put money on this not happening.

  • Comment number 22.

    I think it's got the potential to either be a massive success or a massive cock-up - such are the joys of live TV. I do hope that it does go out live and unedited though.

    If nothing else it may at least prove to be a draw to those who may otherwise not have taken an interest in politics, so if it helps improve the voter turn-out, then it's at least been beneficial for democracy.

    However, I do worry that the party leaders of all sides will spent more time concerning themselves with PR matters such as body-language, rather than the somewhat more pressing matters of policy.

  • Comment number 23.

    The opportunity to misrepresent themselves and the views of their opponents to the masses. Progress.

  • Comment number 24.

    I hope that there is something good on the other channels.

  • Comment number 25.

    Have they really agreed to stoop to this? So desperate for votes that they've agreed to pander to your dumbed-down, X-Factor, soundbyte journalism? I hope they can be bothered to wear a tie for the occasion. No need on my account however, because I won't be watching.

  • Comment number 26.

    Three debates with three leaders, but I bet nothing of substance on Europe after the Lisbon stitch up from all three parties.

  • Comment number 27.

    Do you mean Brown is actually going to answer a question. How will he cope.
    I must say listening to Mandleson today calling for an enquiry into Ashcroft was hypocrisy beyond belief. Let's have an enquiry into Mandleson, how could he be made a peer with his sleazy background, and how did Mandleson afford his London villa residence.

  • Comment number 28.

    These debates will be a complete waste of time. Everyone will see somthing in them to re-inforce the opinions they allready have, the real people who politicians should be reaching out to to try and get to vote probably won't even watch. All it will do is give journalistic hacks material to keep spewing out banal articles about who was most comfortable in the spotlight, who was the sweatiest, who mumbled an anwser etc etc.

    The UK is a parlimentary democracy, those who want celebraty politics should go and live in the US, and that includes all the media hacks who live for an exclusive soundbite from any MP or "insider" The media is ruining politics a lot quicker than our politicians are, and considering how hard some of our MPs try that is incredable!

    If you want to know in-depth what a party stands for read their manifesto and use a search engine to look up your MP and the party leader, it won't take anywhere near the 4 1/2 hours of these debates and it will be a lot more informative!

  • Comment number 29.

    Nick

    based on the political reporting of recent times I'm not charged with enthusiasm.

    I hope against hope that I will be proved wrong and they will be an illuminating experience for the electorate.

    Every party will want to 'get their message across'.

    But will a true and fair appraisal of the current situation and the required actions to bring us out of our dangerous position come out?

    I think not but it is a step forward.

    The ball is now very much in the broadcasters court to make what they have wished for a worthwhile event.

  • Comment number 30.

    I feel the televised debates will not add anything, PMQ's has become more about personalities than policies with DC wasting his questions, and GB not answering them, the 'punch and Judy' show would simply transfer to the TV. Just a thought: Perhaps the MP's asking the questions at PMQ's should accompany each one with an Freedom of Information Act request.

  • Comment number 31.

    Gordon brown is well known to be the master of giving an answer to the question he thinks you should have asked rather than the one you did. I just hope the media will highlight this in the days following the broadcasts. Some hope I know !!!

  • Comment number 32.

    If I landed from outer space today, I’d wonder why these three men in nice suits weren’t using the psychic energy of telepathy to exchange thoughts withn the audience. I’d think that words are so primitive, so misleading, so easily forgotten…Is this word-debating any way to select a leader? Isn't it the thoughts and beliefs of a man that count?
    Then I’d realize that these creatures weren’t very evolved; after all, they’re using the mediumn of television; television hasn't been used in outer space since the popularity of the universal mind-melt: which transmits 100% honesty and therefore prevents misunderstandings.
    Of course these prime ministerial debates will involve an audience that can't clap or cheer or boo or heckle; they can’t even know what the speaker really means because the lips are moving, words are flowing, but there is minimal compatibility between words and meaning. (I'm getting a headache.)
    I listen to the questions from the voting public; but my ability to understand their words is overwhelmed by their feelings of worry, distress, even hopelessness...I can barely hear what they are asking. They are worried – for tomorrow, for money, for their families, their safety, for potential war…Such worried creatures are in this audience that I am left weeping, even more sad because the potential leaders cannot see this worry, cannot hear it...Cannot feel it.
    My mind drifts from the worry and the words (or lack thereof) and I see world-wide starvation and disease; I see all this earth-money being spent on killing machines and disaster-makers; and I think this society has hardly evolved one step above absolute barbarity – little compassion and no realization of humankind’s oneness with all of existence: Just at the level of survival.
    Well, Mr. Spock you told me not to expect to much. This was the first earth debate in this place called UK; it was important to witness this earth history.
    Now take us home, Mr. Spock - warp speed.

  • Comment number 33.

    While I admit my bias in wanting Brown to perform well in these debates, I find it hard to believe I'm alone in thinking he will indeed do well.

    Without baying opposition MP's and with the time to formulate considered responses to both Cameron and Clegg I can see Labour doing quite well out of these debates.

  • Comment number 34.

    The news of televised debates between the leaders just shows how Presidential our system has become.

    If I'm supposed to vote for my local MP, then what good is this going to do me?

    Less show boating and more policies.

  • Comment number 35.

    After years of Nu Labour obfuscation and spin, the adjudicator should at least be in a position to challenge the veracity of the statements from Mr Brown. Otherwise, the exercise could be futile. I also think that any viewer contributing to the debate should declare any formal Party political status.

  • Comment number 36.

    I hope the BBC moderates the election debates more quickly than it does this website.

  • Comment number 37.

    Thoroughly looking forward to it. Perhaps the subject of Lord Ashcroft will crop up. Or mortgages. Wouldn't surprise me.

  • Comment number 38.

    Try [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]which presents a different political choice for people living in England..

    Let us English wake up from our political slumbers for once, and dump the tired old political brands.

  • Comment number 39.

    God knows whats going behind the scenes. Either the mods are all watching Holby or they're on strike...

  • Comment number 40.

    Back in the day, bias was always stilted towards the right. Now, when anyone left of a cat's eye is deemed too demented to be living, bias has strangely switched sides. Reading some of the comments here you'd think that Brown became Prime Minister purely so that the BBC didn't have to change its first initial.

    And so it is that Nick Robinson who, from his first utterance before the camera has always struck me as Tory stooge, is everyday paraded as a Labour Lacky. He must really hate this blog and be praying that, come the big axe, his blogging duties will be assigned to the whicker basket beneath the blade.

  • Comment number 41.

    I expect Brown to go for sympathy.
    As the going gets tough, lookout for the tiny tear trickling down the dour presbyterian cheek.

  • Comment number 42.

    "If you landed from outer space today what might you make of the news that the three men who have a chance of becoming our next prime minister are to debate live on national television?

    Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg.You might ponder why it's taken more than 50 years since the widespread use of television for this to happen."


    It would have to be a very dull alien that would ponder something that! Unless its from planet Blogsphere, the home planet of the Blogons.

    Are we voting for a president now?

  • Comment number 43.

    These debates will not happen.

    Any attempt by the BBBC to broadcast a 90 minute PPB in Scotland without including the largest party in Scotland is illegal.

    A party which was at 32% in the opinion poll published on Sunday, although the BBBC managed to ignore such a significant swing away from labour.

    There is no Scottish labour party and never has been. The leader of the labour party in Scotland is James G Brown. Is the BBBC intention to stage a debate between Salmond, Brown, Cameron and poor wee Tavish Scott bless him?

    It will be the most obvious open and shut case in legal history. You exclude the SNP because they are not fielding enough candidates to form a government but you also exclude UKIP, the Greens and the BNP who are fielding enough candidates to form the next government. And the BBBC seriously thinks it can defend this position when all 4 parties arrive in front of the judge?

    As somone once said "bring it on". And wave goodbye to the license fee from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as you have just broken your charter and have no legal or moral right to a penny of my money.



  • Comment number 44.

    37.

    'Thoroughly looking forward to it. Perhaps the subject of Lord Ashcroft will crop up. Or mortgages. Wouldn't surprise me'

    I too am thoroughly looking forward to it. Perhaps the subject of Lord Paul will crop up. Or cleaning expenses. Wouldn't surprise me'

  • Comment number 45.

    It'll be good TV, won't it?

    Cameron is more telegenic, quicker on his feet and should have more opportunities to go on the attack. But the favourites on paper haven't always done well in the US debates. Reagan acquitted himself well in 1984, Bush did too in 2000. The public aren't necessarily looking for the slickest performer - they probably know beforehand who that would be. The danger for Cameron might be coming across as too slick. That can turn voters off.

  • Comment number 46.

    This is a waste of time for most people. In the American Presidential debates the majority of voters can vote for those taking part. In this debate very few voters can vote for any of the candidates. They may be the leaders of the largest parties in the UK but there is little chance of the LibDems forming any government.
    In Scotland the Conservatives lie in a dismal 4th place and the LibDems struggle in third place. Why should these minor parties in Scotland have preferential treatment over the 2 main parties? This is an abuse of the system and a secondary debate of "minor" parties is not acceptable.
    I object to this whole sorry episode. I would expect that there are voters in Wales and Northern Ireland who have similar misgivings about this.
    Thankfully, I don't have to watch.

  • Comment number 47.

    Should be good. Labour have to lower expectations on Brown's performance. If Brown performs even reasonably against the Snake Oil salesman it will look like a triumph. The interesting dynamic will be Clegg. He has the potential to hurt Brown and Cameron. Look forward to seeing which one he tries to land a knockout blow on.

  • Comment number 48.

    Working towards a brighter future is rather like having a sick car with the garage telling you how great the car will be when it's fixed. The trouble is the garage has no idea how to fix the car. But still we say OK then - have a go at fixing it.

    All very clever as people overlay their own hopes and aspirations onto the "change" thing. So politicians can go from the general to the particular. It seems to con everyone everytime.

  • Comment number 49.

    I think it's worth a go. I would ask all those pouring cold water on the idea whether it would honestly be better not to have the debates. Fair enough, 'debates' may end up being a misnomer, but I for one think that it's a sound idea. An opportunity to question the candidates, albeit in rigid format and with no interaction, is better than none at all. Further, it'll be a chance to see how confident the leaders are and how well they cope under pressure: both important attributes in a Prime Minister (both, incidentally, woefully lacking in the incumbent, but I digress...)

    However, someone will need to put a muzzle on Dimbleby. Watching Question Time, it is apparent that he is incapable of simple chairmanship, as shown by his constant interruptions and needless embellishments. It seems that he feels the need to be centre stage. I would have preferred Humphreys or Paxman, but there you go.

  • Comment number 50.

    OK,

    So none of these three politicians, even as prime minister will have control in Scotland or Wales of ;

    The NHS (or health)

    Education

    Transport

    In Scotland;

    Law and order,

    the police

    the courts

    planning

    housing

    Local authorities

    Rail/Bus

    Social care for the elderly

    Schools

    tourism

    So, please can anybody tell me WHY are the Scots and the Welsh being ignored. In Scotland, the SNP run the Government, they have won the last two elections, they are the single largest Scottish political party.

    In Scotland, the SNP are neck and neck with Labour for Westminster votes.

    So, why is Scotland being ignored. The BBC can expect the mother of ALL court battles over this. Make no mistake.

  • Comment number 51.

    Dear BBC;

    You intend holding separate debates in Scotland. Are you aware there is no such thing as the Scottish Labour Party?? Will we therefore see Gordon Brown and David Cameron coming to do these Scottish debates??

    This is a breach of the BBC charter, and will end up costing the BBC thousands in legal fees. Is this the intention of license payers money??

  • Comment number 52.

    I dont care about their personal feelings there NOT paid to wear hearts on sleave they are there to do a Job run the country!.
    I want to know what they intend to do about the Alcohol, heroin the cocaine the canabis the E's the pills powders and all the other JUNK that OUR CHILDRENWILL be taking in the oncoming years. I want to know why they continue to claim to be tough on crime and continue to let the most lucrative Drug industrys remain in the hands of the criminal world an indusrtry that contributes to the major part of crime both in the UK and world wide, why policy is designed to fund criminals and terrorists and not governments.

    What will they do to fix this problem? why they fail to come to a sutable supply system to counter the international drug supply. Why most of the heroin in the UK is billed to the taliban or whatever organisation takes over the heroin production in Afghanistan. How do they intend to combat the rise in synthetic and prescription drugs that are yet to be made illegal, organised crimes new weapons in this war on drugs? A war that will not end ever that can not be won ever.

    How many more people do they intend to harm with drug policys that give all the power and the wealth to ?

    UK gov makes sure You can be refused alcohol and cigerettes and you'l never be refused drugs.

  • Comment number 53.

    45. At 9:55pm on 02 Mar 2010, pdavies65 wrote:
    It'll be good TV, won't it?


    ===========
    I'm with the Scotsmen on this, it will never get past the Courts, no SNP in Scotland! - surely Brown and his 'Future Fair for All', isn't going to put up with being unfair to the SNP is he?

  • Comment number 54.

    This is not really the question. The question you should have asked is ....

  • Comment number 55.

    39. At 8:53pm on 02 Mar 2010, Perry Neeham wrote:
    God knows whats going behind the scenes. Either the mods are all watching Holby or they're on strike...

    ===========
    Their jobs are at risk, I supect they were at a Union meeting. Keep the Red Flag Flying Comrades! Cut the wages of the BBC bosses and save jobs.

  • Comment number 56.

    It's a good start... But how will the debate on Sky be made available to the general public? i.e. those without SkyTV.

  • Comment number 57.

    Yup, it makes history - wowie!.

    And it should be entertainment. But as I have no intention of wasting my vote on any of this trio I doubt it'll inform me more than I'm informed already. The sort of questions I'd ask won't be debated.

    What perplexes me is that this election is one that no one surely wants to win - no one in their right mind - and I'm wondering if recent Tory tactics were designed to make sure they don't win. That's fine by me.

    Since the issue is SO important I'd be happier seeing the three prospective Chancellors in debate. That would sort out the adults from the children.

  • Comment number 58.

    daniel,

    "But how will the debate on Sky be made available to the general public? i.e. those without SkyTV"

    I understand there will be big screens in pubs and clubs, also in parks and city squares and other public spaces.

  • Comment number 59.

    I'd be surprised if the SNP go to court over this. Wouldn't look good, for one thing, and I don't think they'll be hurt too much by it, if at all. So yes, I'd be surprised. But I've been surprised before ... not very often, but from time to time.

  • Comment number 60.

    This will a set of debates that for a very large number of Scots, Welsh and Ulstermen will be utterly meaningless because they don't support the Labour, Tory or LibDem parties.

    Disenfranchising people on this scale is completely unacceptable.

  • Comment number 61.

    The trouble with these debates is that once they have been aired, then all the pundits and the journalists will come on screen and tell us:

    "Now, when he said this, he really meant that..." and "A senior source tells me that what this ACTUALLY means ..."

    And any other sort of thing that they can invent to twist the politicians meaning to their own agenda. We watched NR do it live on the daily politics when he took what the Cabinet Secretary said, and then added "He obviously felt the need to talk to the PM, and that's a fact" when the man had said nothing like that at all.

    This is part of the election process and the media should keep their dishonest pens out of it.

    Do the broadcasts, repeat them in full, release transcripts, put them on the web so that as many people of the country can see or hear or read them.

    Then button it! No comments, no "interpretations" that meet some editor's brief or a newspaper owner's needs. You will all have loads to talk about - these broadcasts are meant for us, not for you. You just do the technical stuff then go find another trough to stick your noses in.

  • Comment number 62.

    They won't happen in the end: Jacob Zuma - or somebody - will "unexpectedly" visit and they'll have to cancel.

    Anyway, I will not watch this nonsense. It will tell me nothing. I'd rather be left to read the detailed manifestoes.

  • Comment number 63.

    This non debating debate should be interesting !!!I believe the voters will see through this farce.... Hopefully there will be an interesting documentary on CLIMATE CHANGE on the other side.... STOP WASTING OUR TIME!!!!!

  • Comment number 64.

    First. The minority parties in the minority bits of this country appear to have effectively denied the electorate there an opportunity to take part in and/or watch TV "debates" between those who will have the final say on everything that happens in their part of the country be it N.Ireland , Scotland or Wales. Their attituude is almost parochial. I wonder if the voters in these parts of the country will be pleased at being excluded from the Westminster "debates" ?

    Secondly. If the format as published is carried through, they wont miss much. Hand picked questions and controlled audiences who cannot do anything other than breathe quietly . Not quite sure how the spontaneity of an audiences reaction can be controlled but no doubt I will see.

    OK its a step in the right direction to get the three in an election question programme but the format ruins the aim. One wonders if they will have prior notice of the questions they are to be asked. If this is so then dont bother with the programme.

    Mind you if Sterling keeps going down then Brown is going to have to worry about a lot more than some awkward questions from a hand picked audience. Petrol where I am is 114p a litre. What will it be when the pound/dollar devaluation kicks in? Fuel cost increases push the cost of everything including food up. Many are now struggling to cope with "now" prices any increase could bring down Gordon without an election. No need for these farcical "debates" then.

  • Comment number 65.

    It may be an historic agreement to hold these debates but the verdict on the quality of that history will be made in the future.
    Much will depend on the questions and the skills of the compere and her/his ability to remain unbiased. There is a danger that the 3 leaders will be judged on their appearance and body langauage more than their policies. The quality of the debate will be in the challenges each person makes to the others. All the broadcasters ought to find ways of compensating the national parties in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland because their leaders are not getting the same exposure.
    And they would also do well to repeat the debates on each other's channels; for example not everyone has Sky.
    I would like to see the electorate really get involved in this election, finding out and questioning the policies and not just go by the look or personality of the local candidates or their leaders.
    It would be good for politics if a lot of decent local independents stood for election and challenged all our views that we only have a choice between three parties.

  • Comment number 66.

    Morning Nick,
    well the Government only have FOUR more dates to call a General Election viz:-
    8th March
    11th March
    12th April
    10th May 2010

    Bring it on I say!

  • Comment number 67.

    I can just see the signs up at local pubs (the ones still in business that is)...

    LIVE DEBATE HERE TONIGHT!

    CAMERON V BROWN - THE FINAL SHOWDOWN!

    WATCH VINCE MINCE 'EM!

    On second thought, the pubs will be empty if they air the debates!

    Too Americanised for me-much rather a Question Time format, with Jeremy Paxman presiding - now that would be worth a Sky subscription!

  • Comment number 68.

    Nick, you say

    "To misquote Star Trek's Dr McCoy, you might note that these are debates, Jim, but not as we know them."

    To continue your Star Trek analogy, I wonder how the three main leaders would fit into that alternate reality?

    I would place Clegg as a Cardassian - not very trustworthy, particularly after he instructed his MPs and Lords to back Brown in pushing through Lisbon without the promised referendum. Then again, maybe he is Odo, the shape-shifter, who lives on DS9.

    Cameron perhaps sees himself as the Emissary (Deep Space Nine), who is in touch with the mystical Prophets who live in the Bajoran worm-hole.

    Brown - well, he'd probably be a Borg - "resistance is futile". But given his desire to cling-on to office (geddit?), perhaps he would rather be seen as Worf. However, to be a Klingon Warrior, you must have Honour - so that's a 'no'.

  • Comment number 69.

    I think it is a bit of a disgrace that the Channel 4 news team (Jon Snow in particular) is not allowed to host one of the debates. Compared to the regular ITV, the BBC and Sky News, I would say they have easily provided the least biased and highest quality political news reporting over the past decade. How come the spoils were split between the mainstream broadcasters?

  • Comment number 70.

    So the 3 main parties get their FREE Election time, if this is a timed Dumblebee run thing instead of a Robin Day cut and thrust it will be more of a voter turn off then turn on.

    From the sound of things it will be all visions and little in the way of facts.

    1 question that will not be asked 'How will you narrow the increasing gap between the Rich and the Poor"?

  • Comment number 71.

    Ask him if he still believes:

    A weak currency is the sign of a weak economy, which is the sign of a weak government.

  • Comment number 72.

    50#

    Then you obviously have public money to burn then, on lawyers fees to give succour to the vanity of Alex Salmond.

    The elections are for the Westminster parliament.

    The SNP are not contesting any seats in England or Wales are they?

    Neither the English or the Welsh electorate are in the remotest interested in what Salmond has to say and he sure as hell couldnt give a stuff about them.

    Thats what comes with devolved government, chaps. Get used to it.

  • Comment number 73.

    #69 markinnyc

    I tend to agree with you. Perhaps if the SNP & PC get the BBC thrown off the list for breach of charter, Channel 4 could step in. I doubt if the courts could ban the other channels, since as far as I am away they do not have the same legal restrictions on impartiality.

  • Comment number 74.

    42. At 9:28pm on 02 Mar 2010, DHWilko wrote:

    "If you landed from outer space today what might you make of the news that the three men who have a chance of becoming our next prime minister are to debate live on national television?

    It would have to be a very dull alien that would ponder something that! Unless its from planet Blogsphere, the home planet of the Blogons.

    Are we voting for a president now?
    ---------------------------------------------------------------

    I think if any intelligent life form from outer space landed here, the first thing he would do after about 5 minutes of observing whats going on would be to refuel, have a quick comfort break and get the hell out again pronto, away from this planet of nutters!

  • Comment number 75.

    37. At 8:31pm on 02 Mar 2010, sagamix wrote:
    'Thoroughly looking forward to it. Perhaps the subject of Lord Ashcroft will crop up. Or mortgages. Wouldn't surprise me.'

    Is this the same Lord Ashcroft who was the subject of:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/696476.stm

    which quotes:
    'But Mr Ashcroft has only received the peerage after giving what Downing Street said was a "clear and unequivocal assurance" that he would will take up permanent residence in the UK - a condition described as "unprecedented" by former Tory leader in the upper house, Lord Cranborne. '


    Now THAT would be an interesting topic for debate....

  • Comment number 76.

    pn @ 72

    "Neither the English or the Welsh electorate are in the remotest bit interested in what Salmond has to say"

    I won't speak for the Welsh - although I reckon I'm up to it - but as regards the English electorate, I don't agree with you. EYE certainly like to hear from Salmond, he's quite an interesting and entertaining politician. And the devolution vs independence issue has resonance in England since the impact would be felt down here in a number of ways. Having said that, I agree with you that the three way debates are justifiable on the grounds that this is a UK election and these are the three major UK political parties - the only three.

  • Comment number 77.

    Without wishing to offend any Scots, Welsh, Irish, UKIP supporters or BNP, monster raving looney, Green or any other party/country which belongs to the UK and therefore falls under the juristiction of the UK government, I have this comment to make. These debates are supposed to be about the goverment of the United Kindom('s of Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England) NOT about the devolved governments of said countries. Mr Salmond is NOT going to become prime minister, and neither is the SNP going to become the government of the UK, Plaid Cmry (??? I apologise but I don't know how to spell this) are not going to form the next government of the UK. So I agree with the BBC AND Sky and ITV that the leaders of the three main political parties of the UK AS A WHOLE should be involved in this debate which is supposed to be involving the parties that could form the next government of the UK as a WHOLE; very different from the devolved parliments/assemblies.

    This is the first time I've got annoyed enough reading this blog to register and write a comment :o)

  • Comment number 78.

    Dull man in suit: I believe in so-and-so.
    Duller man in suit: So do I!
    Dullest man in suit: Me too!
    Dull man in suit: I will bring in a programme of blah blah blah.
    Duller man in suit: So will I!
    Dullest man in suit: And me!
    Dull man in suit: Can...
    Duller man in suit: We...
    Dullest man in suit: Change???
    Altogether and in agreement: Yes we can!!!
    Audience: Zzz zzz zzz...
    ad infinitum...


  • Comment number 79.

    Interesting that sagamix is anticipating that the subject of mortgages is brought up on the TV debates...

    Is he hoping that Lord Mandleson steps forward to explain his falsified mortgage document and undeclared home loan form Geoffrey Robinson? I do hope so.

    I am personally looking forward to the 'butter wouldn't melt' expressions form newlabout who believe they have nothing to explain about woth respect to the perilous condition of the country's finances.

    I am also looking forward to the explanation as to why newlabour just can't stop spending; never mind the 173bn deficit, they only need to collect 1.5bn from Bankers bonuses and they are already planning how to spend it. Hopelessly out of control. Utterly lost the plot.

    Oh Lord, make me good, but not yet.

    Call an election.

  • Comment number 80.

    45. pdavies65:

    "The danger for Cameron might be coming across as too slick. That can turn voters off."

    It's important they show their true colours.

    For instance if Cameron goes for the 'Hain stain' look as he is prone to do sometimes, it might win over the Dancing on Ice crowd but lose him support on the right and left. Just a hint of blusher to avoid that Osborne 'cadaver' look.
    Brown is likely change colour several times during the debates depending on his emotional state. The last thing he needs is to be caked in a thick base, they've tried it before and it just looks too Rocky Horror.
    Clegg tends to look a bit jaundiced now and again, which is good for party branding but can be offputting. Nobody wants a yellow kingmaker.

  • Comment number 81.

    If the main party leaders want to reprise PMQ's so be it.

    My main concern for a 'fair fight' is that Dimbleby will be unable to resist hammering Cameron with his (well researched) spontaneous retorts.

    This bias against Tory speakers is what spoils Question Time for me.

    Pity because Dimbleby is quite good outside of the political arena.

  • Comment number 82.

    There's a surprising amount of negativity on this board. I am just happy to enjoy this as good news.

    A few months ago I was predicting that the debates would never happen and the parties would be unable to agree on terms (because they didn't really want to), but I am very glad to eat my words on this one.

    Importantly, this should pave the way for debates before every general election, as it will be harder for party leaders to back out of debates in future without looking completely gutless.

  • Comment number 83.

    Surely these debates reinforce the 'Presidential' system which has been one of the major reasons so many catastrophic decisions (international and domestic) have been made.

    Bring back Cabinet Government please and don't support this sideshow which should have no place in our politics.

  • Comment number 84.

    Saw a comment about are we voting for a president now?

    It is a good point. Our electoral system means that we don't vote for a prime minister, we vote for a party, who then decide who is going to lead them.

    The trouble with these debates is they pander to the personality politics that are simply at odds with out system.

    I don't want to know what Cameron thinks about "the pound," I want Osborne to debate with Cable and Darling about that. Likewise I want foreign policy debated by the right people, and so on and so forth down to my local candidates having public debates.

    Our politics has become over a long time the institution that the Media want it to be, not what the country NEEDS it to be.

    Unfortunately, the media believes that its opinion is more important than mine.

  • Comment number 85.

    Receive a planted question, add water to dilute, add some more water to dilute, add a pre-arranged sound-bite, add some more water to dilute, spit out the response with that smirky grin all over the face. Move on to the next planted question.

    A cynical view? Absolutely. If I am being led to believe that this 'forum' will give me any more information than I already do or do not have about the three 'leaders' then I will be surprised.

    Perhaps if they had the backbone to face the electorate openly and without 72(?) 'points of order' then I might believe that they have what it takes to be taken seriously.

    The only people that will really benefit from this will be the media companies, the advertisers on ITV and Sky (Murdoch must be clapping his hands) and the spin doctors who, whatever the outcome, will all pat themselves on their backs for a good job done.

    Although not of the same age bracket, today's news that 56% of 17 to 24-year-olds are not registered to vote (as well and many minorities) http://tinyurl.com/y8bqwno, should be a wake up call to politicians that there is still a lot to do before 'we' fall for yet another version of 'Take Your Pick'. I look forward to being proved wrong of course.

  • Comment number 86.

    I'm not any expert in law, but isn't it the case that anyone be prime minister if the parliament elects them? There's no requirement that they be MPs. It's highly unlikely but Alex Salmond, George Clooney or me or you could potenentially be PM later this year.

    I mean it could even be Clegg..! (though right enough I've no idea why MPs would choose him over Clooney)

  • Comment number 87.

    This is a disaster for anyone who believes in democracy. UK general elections are fought, won and lost at constituency level. In Scotland's constituencies the main contest is between Labour and the SNP but voters will be blasted with a massive TV message that says the SNP are not relevant - that only the "three main parties" are in the contest.

    It is an insult to my understanding of what democracy is, what the British constitution stands for and just what plain old fairness means.

    I hope the lawyers are already on the case. In fact, if someone asks I'll be more than happy to contribute towards the cost of any legal action.

    Angry? You bet!

    Anyone who goes on about Salmond not standing for Prime Minister or that the SNP can't form a UK government is being deliberately misleading or just thick. They are enemies of democracy.

  • Comment number 88.

    Brown will need a big podium to hide Mandy his puppet master.

    or even better can we make it more entertaining and do it in a boxing ring? 6 rounds or first knock out wins?

  • Comment number 89.

    OH instead of a swing ometer can we have a lie-ometer and Peter Snow giving running comentry

  • Comment number 90.

    Yay! Great idea. Of course, you know what will happen (as is happening on the wireless right now with people ringing in saying what THEY would ask)?

    Everybody will be asking Gordon Brown why he hasn't done this or that etc. and he will be getting the third degree. His lot have been in for thirteen years, have some very serious questions to answer.

    Cameron and Clegg being not in power cannot yet be judged.

    I tell you, the country is so well fed up with Brown they would vote for anybody in order to get him out. Not very flattering to David Cameron, I agree, but once he is in he can slowly start to rebuild and repair the damage done by the present disastrous incumbents.

  • Comment number 91.

    These debates are at best a circus and at worse a worrying aberration.
    They give credibility to a pseudo-dictatorial structure.
    Blairs Iraq decisions flew in the face of parliament and worse, the expressed will of the country, we are feeding this 'Only one man' presidential style which I personally find repugnant.
    But hey I'm Scots and I have no doubt that in my lifetime we'll be away from Londonshire in the end.
    So long and thanks for the fish;)

  • Comment number 92.

    Sagamix - and if the subject of Ashcroft's domicile DOES come up, would you know anything at all about the subject of domicile? Would you know enough about domicile of birth, domicile of choice and deemed domicile to understand the discussion?

    Would you be able to quote knowledgably from the various court cases and legislation on the subject to understand the difficulty, often nigh on impossibility, of changing domicile of birth?

    Or wouldn't it matter, as all you need to have in the topic of Ashcroft is a rich Tory and that's enough for you to start frothing at the mouth?

  • Comment number 93.

    75#

    "Now THAT would be an interesting topic for debate...."

    Yeah, for about 30 seconds.


    What are you going to do with the remaining 1hr, 29 minutes and 30 seconds?

  • Comment number 94.

    75: An equally interesting topic for debate would be the story in last weekend's Sunday Times.

    That claimed No 10 put pressure on the Treasury to drop plans to end the low tax status of private equity firms. It also claimed further pressure from No 10 to exempt those firms from the tax on bonuses levied on the banks.

    Now by a strange coincidence, two of Labour's largest donors - Doughty and Cohen - run private tax equity firms.

    Surely, there is more to be concerned about that Labour donors can influence tax policy - particularly at a time when the country is in such a dire financial state - than the non-story about Ashcroft.

  • Comment number 95.

    RR7 @ 79

    "I am also looking forward to the explanation as to why newlabour just can't stop spending"

    Just think about those "entrepeneurs" you admire so much, Robin. Hold their nerve in a crisis, don't they? Risk bankruptcy again and again because that's what it takes to get to where they want to be. To achieve real success. Brown fits the template, does he not? Bet you've never looked at it this way before. Our PM has the thing which separates winners from losers. And what's that? Well it's balls, Robin, isn't it?

  • Comment number 96.

    Fredalo and Joss.

    I agree with you both. Too much power in the hands of one man. It was and still should be about the party not the individuals. The government of the UK is concensual not presidential. The debates go against this, if on the other hand we had those responsible for Finance, Home Affairs etc, that would make sense.

    As for the Scots, Welsh and Ulstermen being denied a voice would racist disenfanchment be too strong a term?

  • Comment number 97.

    Firstly I question why these debates are not being offered to all channels to air as they see fit. Is it not somewhat elitist to have it broadcast on Sky as not all have access to this service. I would suggest that there would be less appetite from the various stations if this was the case as there would not be enough interest / viewing figures to justify their investment.

    Secondly these should not be called a debate as a debate by definition is interactive dialog between a number of parties. As these are being choreographed with designated questions / topics and there is to be no direct contact between the participants, these fiasco's will just any number of well rehearsed soundbites. What will become apparent will be who has the best spin doctors behind them.

    So who is to benefit from these rehearsed sessions - the Public - I think not for we will learn very little. The Politics - possibly - however I feel that they are being forced down this route. Well that just leaves the great British press - who will spend hours if not days debating what will be said and then equally as much time on what was actually said.

    What is needed is a well chaired open debate between these candidates. However this will never happen. The power behind the throne would see this as a bet they could not afford to take.

    Lastly on a different subject - can anyone please tell me why we are having an increasing number of non elected people popping up in significant positions of power. Nu Labour have any number of senior positions taken up by non Elected Lords. This trend is very worrying not just for this government but for any future governments going forward. For one, I find it very destining that someone, who can, on a number of occasions be forced out of elected office only to come come back through the back door. Yes they can be advisers, but even this pretence has been dropped as Mandy is so obviously pulling the strings. There are questions being raised about the faceless non elected bureaucrats of Brussels but maybe we should be looking closer to home. I am not anti Europe but feel that those in power should be accountable. In the current system it matters little who we vote for as the policy and delivery is the responsibility of the EU bureaucrats. At least we get a change with a new government but for what more ministers without an elected mandate!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 98.

    #78

    I enjoyed this very much, sadly because it is not just funny, it is true.

    Perhaps you'll be getting a call from the script writers for this "debate". I hope Equity will ensure that all the audiences are duly signed up and receive their pound of flesh.

  • Comment number 99.

    We should have at least one debate without the main parties being involved, just the smaller parties. We hear quite enough rubbish from the big three as it is, and although we may still hear rubbish from the "others" it will at least show that there are other bins we can rummage through.

  • Comment number 100.

    Bertram Bird makes a good point.

    We have no date yet for the election. Wonder if Gordon Beown will call it early so there is no time to fit the debates in? Also, have the manifestos been published or the nations books been passed to Cameron, Osborne, Clegg and Cable so they can adequately prepare their manifestos AND answers to any debate questions on fiscal policy?

    So why is there no definite date? Why no accounts on the state of the nation's purse?

    The longer these delays go on, the more I sense skulduggery in the air!

 

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