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Prime ministerial debates

Ric Bailey | 17:00 UK time, Tuesday, 2 March 2010

So finally we can say - they are going to happen. After decades of arguing and a whole host of reasons why they should not happen - there will now be debates during the general election campaign between those who aspire to be prime minister.

Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick CleggAfter months of negotiation - constructive and good-humoured but often tough and mind-numbingly detailed - an agreement has been worked out between the three broadcasters - ITV, Sky and BBC - and the three largest UK political parties - Labour, Conservatives and Liberal Democrats - over the three debates which will take place, one on each network during each week of the campaign.

Here are the key principles for the debates. [40KB PDF]
Here is the programme format agreed by all parties. [44KB PDF]

The fact that debates have never happened before is an indication of how difficult it is - especially in the pre-election atmosphere - for the broadcasters and the parties involved to find sufficient common ground.

But all involved were very clear that these were events which should and could add to the understanding of voters as they make up their minds.

Each broadcaster will also be looking carefully at how to ensure the obligations of impartiality are properly fulfilled. The BBC will hold subsequent leaders' debates in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, part of a range of measures to ensure that the SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Northern Ireland parties have appropriate opportunities to be heard. There will also be special arrangements in the programming around the BBC debate itself - a week before polling day - to ensure that other parties which have demonstrated that they have some electoral support - UKIP, the Green Party and the BNP - will have their say.

The broadcasters' negotiating panel had a number of ambitions: to involve the public in the debates; to establish a format in which the leaders would actually debate with each other; to make the debates interesting and engaging and not, perhaps, as formulaic and structured as the American presidential debates can be.

For some it's making history - for others it's a constitutional anomaly... whichever, the debates will now happen - and election campaigns may never be the same again in this country.

Ric Bailey is the BBC's chief political adviser.


  • Comment number 1.

    Prime Ministerial Debates????

    Surely Leaders Debates..

    We only have one PM,and he even he can't debate with himself..can he?

  • Comment number 2.

    Ridiculous - the time slots are absurdly short - talk about sound bites - this format more like dipping croutons in bread-crumbs that allow for no real content just impressionism in the worst (TV) media sense... What on earth do the producers and stage-managers think they are doing to democracy? This is the worst possible start to this attempt at "open" debate, it will be like hurling conkers at each other!

  • Comment number 3.

    Hopefully this will also gain the attention of the X-Factor/Strictly Come Dancing brigade, and will be the wake-up call to us all that we don't need to put up with this damaging two-party system.

  • Comment number 4.

    Should be interesting, at least we should find out about the people who want to run this country. Who will be the first to "Gaff" or slipup?
    The people of this country sure need as much info as possible, considering the dire straights we could eventually be in. Personally I feel like emigrating right now!

  • Comment number 5.

    I think I am washing my hair the night it is broadcast. At least then I know I will be achieving something. If the party leaders participating are under the misapprehension that the public are going to be fooled, or will get any satisfaction, by anything they say then they are more deluded than can be imagined.
    Politics has moved on chaps, and those dinosaurs left will soon be just fossils.
    Save your money BBC, show a re-run of only fools and horses. The irony will be perfect.

  • Comment number 6.

    I am glad such attention has been paid to the details of this event and hope that it can meet in practice what it pleasantly aspires to do in principle. Nothing immediately jumps out as an obvious fatal flaw in the details, which is a good thing.

  • Comment number 7.

    Is it the BBC's belief that there willonly be three parties invilved in the General Elections and why are the real contenders being ignored?

  • Comment number 8.

    Let me know when they will be on so I can arrange to be doing something else.

  • Comment number 9.

    I understand that the general public will be allowed to submit questions for consideration by the 3 Party Leaders. To who, where, when can these questions be submitted?

  • Comment number 10.

    I welcome a television debate between all three parties leaders. It is also good news that all broadcasters are in accordance with each other.
    However, there is one thing that needs clarification. On the day the debate is chaired by Adam Bolton of Sky News, will it be shown live on the BBC or only on Sky?
    I mention this as not everybody has Sky or Freeview. The general election is the people's chance to either vote in one of the opposition leaders or keep the current party. It is not about whether a non -terrestrial television company can have access to the debate. Sky's considerations should have been last, in fact they are an irrelevance.
    This as far as I know is a democratic country or it purports to be, and as such everybody in the Country should have the opportunity to see the debate if they choose to. If they do not have physical access to the debates in their entirety then that is not right.

  • Comment number 11.

    "So finally we can say - they are going to happen."

    Don't be so sure once the other parties start going to the law courts for injunctions to stop the broadcasts, 'cos they have not been invited to attend on equal terms (or at all), even more reason to do so when a possibility of a hung Parliament is on the cards.

  • Comment number 12.

    Once again the UK political parties (which are being invited in this debate)in collusion with the BBC, ITV and BSkyB are denying the existence of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland by holding the broadcasts in England.

  • Comment number 13.

    This is an unmitigated and undemocratic disgrace.

    Shame on all those involved in setting up this farce.

    Exclusion of the main party in Scotland cannot possibly 'ensure the obligations of impartiality' by any stretch of the imagination.
    A debate of English registered political parties, in 3 debates solely in England with an English audience. Impartiality UK style.

    A total disgrace.

  • Comment number 14.

    How can there be a debate on Sky? Sky News is on a commercial Mux on Freeview. In this part of the country [ Dumfries and Galloway ] half the homes can only receive the three PSB Muxes.

  • Comment number 15.

    do we need to see three leading politicians debating policies that once in power neither would honour their manifestos, we were promised action onmps expenses and really what weve had is fudged information, we know that our politicians are dishonest in handling money and dishonest in integrity, even now david cameron wont come clean on non-doms, and labour and liberals are ducking the issue as well, watching three policians all telling lies at once is`just a sickening version of a big brother reality tv show.

  • Comment number 16.

    I'm not at all enthusiastic about this but I suppose I will watch it anyway.

    At least Gordon Brown will not have the last word as he always does in PM's questions.

    It's frustrating when he can say what he likes knowing the other leaders can't defend themselves. I feel their frustration.

    The presidential debate is not really a British thing for we do not have a strong senate to keep our leaders in check.

    Perhaps I would feel happier if the reform of parliament went ahead first then we would know that the House of Commons was able to hold the executive to account.

    As it stands at the moment it appears we are looking at an individual who would have total power. More a totalitarian state than a democracy.

  • Comment number 17.

    #12. At 7:25pm on 02 Mar 2010, Cawcanny wrote:

    "Once again the UK political parties (which are being invited in this debate)in collusion with the BBC, ITV and BSkyB are denying the existence of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland by holding the broadcasts in England."

    No, they are doing no such thing, they are holding the debate in a internationally recognised country called Britain, or as you obviously would prefer, the Dis-United Kingdom.

    Anyway, what would you suggest, that the three leaders are quartered (as in hung, drawn and quartered) just so one quarter can be in each of the Home Nations principle Cities at the same time (the respective deputy leaders would have to answer the questions though I think)?... Actually that sounds quite tempting at times! :-o

  • Comment number 18.

    With an audience selection restricetd to within 30 mile of tghe debate site, it means that Welsh, Northern Irish and Scottish voters are denied the opportunity to ask questions relating to their particular areas, which are now very different from England now that devolution is in place.

    Will the separate BBC debates for these countries be screened UK wide or is this just an English election?

  • Comment number 19.

    I may watch the show for entertainment but I doubt it'll inform me. The questions I'd like to ask probably won't be "debated" let alone sensibly in the time allowed. I'd love to see a no-holds-barred show with these people facing the public though.

    Frankly anyone who watches "Prime Minister's Questions" will probably think it a waste of time. The BBC wants to make cuts and this would be one good cut were it not for its entertainment value. Three people - two children who have never had proper jobs and a tired old autocrat vying to win an election that no right-minded person should want to win.

  • Comment number 20.

    Better to have them all take part in a special episode of Total Wipeout - now that I'd watch!

  • Comment number 21.

    I can't understand what the Scottish and Welsh parties are so upset about! Why should they be on these debates? Have the SNP got anything to say which could be of any interest to the Welsh whatsoever? And Plaid Cymru vice-versa? And have either of them got any policies which concern the English or the Northern Irish?

    They've been given their own local debates because they are local parties of no national interest to Britain - say what you like about the London based parties and whether it's right (and I come from north of Watford so am therefore just as neglected by Westminster as anyone else) that so much power is centred down there, but these debates are to be broadcast across the UK, and the three main parties are concerned with the whole of the UK, not just one constituent part of it.

    Doesn't stop me thinking that they're all as useless as eachother, and that Alastair Campbell will probably be there in the background stage-managing the whole thing anyway. And the one on the beeb will be so ridiculously biased towards labour that it won't be worth watching.

  • Comment number 22.

    "Have the SNP got anything to say which could be of any interest to the Welsh whatsoever? And Plaid Cymru vice-versa?"

    Members of parliament (currently 42) from outside the top three parties have voices and votes on matters affecting every part and person of the UK.

    These debates don't appear to reflect that as it would mean acknowledging and including every political party and, perhaps, independent candidates.

  • Comment number 23.

    Good idea in principle, and I like the fact that they're using various locations and channels. I'd kind of assumed it would be BBC and London only.

    But though I'd have welcomed this a few years ago, I'm not so sure now.

    1 - will the Sky debate be broadcast on other channels? Not everyone has Sky.

    2 - there is widespread disillusion with the LibLabCon coalition, yet they're the only parties on the debate. What about the Greens, UKIP, the BNP, Respect?

    3 - the idea is disporportionately advantageous to the LibDems, who get a very easy ride from the media anyway.

  • Comment number 24.

    #21. At 00:00am on 03 Mar 2010, milan_has_a_plan wrote:

    "I can't understand what the Scottish and Welsh parties are so upset about! Why should they be on these debates? Have the SNP got anything to say which could be of any interest to the Welsh whatsoever? And Plaid Cymru vice-versa? And have either of them got any policies which concern the English or the Northern Irish?"

    Yes they do, should either or both hold the balance of power in a hung parliament, and what about the Greens, the UKIP, BNP, or even Scargill's SLP, all could have MPs after the election, any or all could decide who of the three major parties actually gets to be have one of their MPs act as PM.

    We are not electing a President, these debates are ill thought out populist clap-trap, scrap them.

  • Comment number 25.

    I hope for once, the audience will reflect the true percentage makeup of the British isles, not the makeup of the London burgh it takes place in. One also asks why if the Lib/Dem leader is taking part, why not other fringe party leaders like UKIP, BNP Scot Nats etc. ? All of them may be in a position to influence the next government in the event of a hung parliament, even though like the Lib / Dems they have no realistic hope of ever forming a government.

  • Comment number 26.

    I do love how people seem to be offended that the debates take place only in England. In fact, it seems it is the Scots that are offended that they are left out. Well, there's more people in London than there are in Scotland and we don't get a debate. Am I offended to be left out? Of course. Does that make us more worthy of a debate?

  • Comment number 27.

    The reason the minor parties don't get a look in is because they're not standing enough candidates. These are Prime Ministerial debates, not party leaders' debates, and even if (say) every SNP candidate standing wins their seat, the SNP leader will not be PM. Only the leaders of the big three parties have any possibility of becoming PM, sp only they are in the PM debates.

  • Comment number 28.

    The link to the "key principles" document has been amended; the correct version contains more detailed information about the staging of the debates.

  • Comment number 29.

    #27. At 10:24am on 03 Mar 2010, _Ewan_ wrote:

    "The reason the minor parties don't get a look in is because they're not standing enough candidates."

    At the moment no party is standing any candidates, so if (for example) UKIP or the Greens stood a candidate in say half the constituencies, would that qualify them?

    "These are Prime Ministerial debates, not party leaders' debates"

    Then there should be but one person on stage, Brown, as he is the only person who is the PM...

    Who knows who will be PM after the election, any one of the leaders could loose his seat yet their party be returned as the majority party in the next parliament, in a hung parliament there might be a compromise leader who becomes "PM".

    This is a clever stitch up, from the three parties most likely to loose seats to 'other parties', as they are so often labelled as.

  • Comment number 30.

    Under OFCOM the SNP is classed as a major party in Scotland along with the Conservatives, Labour and the Lib-Dems. PC has major party status in Wales and the NI parties have major party status in Northern Ireland.

    Party political election broadcasting is not worked out on the basis of a party's UK standing but its standing in each of the constituent home nations of the UK. The debates, call them what you will, are multi-party election broadcasts and unless they are impartial in all four home nations then they will fall foul of OFCOM, the BBC guidelines and the law. The only way they can be impartial in Scotland is for all four major parties to be on the platform at the same time. Similarly for Wales and Northern Ireland. UKIP, the Greens and the BNP don't count as none are given major party status in any of the four home nations of the UK.

    What the broadcasters are trying to do is to apply the rules of impartiality in England which has three major parties to the four party setups in Scotland and Wales and the four party set up in Northern Ireland. It's a classic case of the broadcasters thinking that England is Britain is England.

    What a lot of bloggers and commenters don't get is that the SNP is not trying to get onto the UK broadcasts it is demanding its right to be treated with impartiality in any program broadcast in Scotland. Unless the SNP get onto a multi-party debate broadcast in Scotland then they will stop it via the Scottish Courts before it starts. Plaid Cymru and the Northern Ireland parties will do the same. The problem for Sky is that they can't do regional broadcasting and the problem for the BBC and ITV is that they don't want English, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish debates they want a UK one even though many of the topics such as law and order, education and the NHS are already devolved and the debate will be on English issues only in these areas.

    Apart from this line in the Principles document, "Each broadcaster will seek to make suitable arrangements for ensuring due impartiality across the UK.", there is no acknowledgement of the SNP, PC or any Northern Irish Party all of whom are defined by OFCOM as major parties in Scotland, Wales and NI.

    There is also no acknowledgement at all of devolution in either the principles or the format. No hint that many issues which these debates will cover are not issues in the General Election in Scotland, Wales and NI as they are devolved issues. These debates are English debates which will be broadcast across the UK. It's metropolitan arrogance writ large. England is Britain is England.

    The idea that in Scotland an additonal three, "regional", debates with party leaders can somehow make the whole thing impartial is ludicrous especially as I suspect that the, "party leaders", they have in mind to go on the platfom with Alex Salmond are Goldie, Scott and Gray, none of whom is a party leader and it will result in the Lib-Dems, Labour and the Conservatives having six debates in Scotland while the SNP only get coverage on three.

    It's a classic view of the UK as Greater England with Scotland, Wales and NI as provincial overlays not as a jigsaw of four constituent nations. It's based on the idea that the three, "proper", parties will debate British policies in England and the, "regional", parties will debate the regional variations of those policies after the fact.

    "After months of negotiation - constructive and good-humoured but often tough and mind-numbingly detailed..."

    But I take it you forgot the phone numbers of the SNP, PC, the DUP, SDLP, the UUP and Sinn Féinn?

  • Comment number 31.

    30. At 11:44am on 03 Mar 2010, DougtheDug wrote:

    "UKIP, the Greens and the BNP don't count as none are given major party status in any of the four home nations of the UK."

    Not correct. All three have the entitlement to party election broadcasts.

    "What a lot of bloggers and commenters don't get is that the SNP is not trying to get onto the UK broadcasts it is demanding its right to be treated with impartiality in any program broadcast in Scotland."

    Incorrect. They will be talking part in a United Kingdom general election, if they have no intention of influencing the governmental process of the United Kingdom they would not be contesting seats in the United Kingdom Parliament. Both the SNP and PC could hold the balance of power, just as the parties in NI and many of the "Other parties" across the UK could.

    "There is also no acknowledgement at all of devolution in either the principles or the format."

    Irrelevant as it's an election for the UK Parliament, not elections for any devolved Parliament.

  • Comment number 32.

    As has previously been said, what about those who do not have SKY! Also who decided what parties could and could not be involved with the debate on TV.

    Before FreeView is mentioned, not every one gets all the channels and, for example I only sometimes get Sky 3 & Sky news.

  • Comment number 33.

    I love democracy, but a party system using whips with manifestos.....that is NOT democracy. It's like I give you a choice between drowning, burning or suffocation, and you turn round and say .....errr well none of them please. I like a bit of all the parties but not one of them ticks all the boxes. Not democracy, never was and probably never will be.

  • Comment number 34.

    Undemocratic...oh I must be in 'Britain'. We don't vote for a President we vote for a party. The broadcasters are ignoring the voices of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland which is why people see them as English media, the EBC, ETV and ESkyB! Plaid Cymru, the SNP, Sinn Fein and the DUP are all in government in their respective nations. We are not asking to get rid of the debate, but to give the parties mentioned an equal voice. Any party can be in power in a hung parliament and let's face it, we all don't expect a win for the Lib Dems.

  • Comment number 35.

    Are these debates likely to serve any useful purpose. Computer says "Nah".

  • Comment number 36.

    #31 Boilerplated:

    UKIP, the Greens and the BNP do have a right to election broadcasts but they are not defined as major parties in any of the home nations. OFCOM defines them as, "other parties".

    From The Ofcom Broadcasting Code 2009, Section 6: Elections and Referendums
    6.2 Due weight must be given to the coverage of major parties during the election period. Broadcasters must also consider giving appropriate coverage to other parties and independent candidates with significant views and perspectives.

    Meaning of "major party":
    At present in the UK major parties are the Conservative Party, the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats. In addition, major parties in Scotland and Wales respectively are the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru. The major parties in Northern Ireland are the Democratic Unionist Party, Sinn Fein, Social Democratic and Labour Party, and the Ulster Unionist Party.

    The allocation of broadcast time for election broadcasts has always been worked out on the basis of the individual home nations. I quote, "The four nations of the UK will be considered separately." This is from the House of Commons Library, Party Election Broadcasts, Standard Note:SN/PC/03354, Last updated:13 January 2010, Author:Oonagh Gay, Section: Parliament and Constitution Centre. This is a pdf so the BBC won't put the link in but if you google for SN/PC/03354 it's the first link.

    In Scotland the SNP is classed as a major party and has the right to the same airtime and prominence on broadcast media as the other three whether or not it is a UK election or a Scottish election.

    Without any acknowlegement that devolution has occurred then discussions in the debate on domestic matters such as the NHS, education, the law, council tax and so on will not only have no relevance to viewers in Scotland they will actually be misleading as all these areas are under the control of the Scottish Parliament and the SNP Government and whatever Brown or Cameron decided to do with them if they become PM will not happen in Scotland. It's a similar story for Wales and NI.

    These are English debates which for some reason they want to broadcast across the UK.

  • Comment number 37.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 38.


    "Any vote other than the BNP is a vote for the destruction of Britain"

    Well, that's a view and you're entitled to it, though I think you're in a minority.

    That being said, it's clear that the so-called 'major' parties are in step with each other, but out of step with public opinion. The LibLabCon is utterly discredited, and new parties need to be allowed in.

    Far from being a David-like figure battling against the Goliaths of the Tories and Labour, the LibDems are just part of a widely loathed Grand Coalition.

    They all need to move aside, and let the likes of the BNP and UKIP, but also the Greens and Respect, as well as the Sconats etc.

  • Comment number 39.

    36. At 2:55pm on 03 Mar 2010, DougtheDug wrote:

    "Meaning of "major party": [as of Dec. 2009]
    At present in the UK major parties are...//..."

    Enough said... In other words Ofcom accepts that their definition can change, and I suspect that if challenged they would change, for no other reason than in the last nation-wide elections to be held both Labour and the LibDems gained fewer seats than at least two of the so called minor parties, if the same voting system was in place for the national parliament as were for the EU elections then one or both those parties would be in danger of loosing their so called major party status.

    "These are English debates which for some reason they want to broadcast across the UK."

    No, they are UK debates, being broadcast across the UK, in advance of the UK parliamentary elections...

  • Comment number 40.

    I bet the whole 90 mins will end up on U tube - but would you really want to waste your download allowance on such a restricted debate?

    Far better if the BBC had an extended Question Time with Jeremy Paxman to sort them out!

    We might even get proper answers to the questions instead of all the spin and woffle!!!

    But then, I doubt any of the participants would agree - Jeremy P has a habit of going for the jugular and I have watched several shows where I even felt sorry for the person he was grilling!

    It would certainly be worth watching far more than 90 minutes of carefully controlled sound bytes. I'll get the highlights on Match of The Day. All the best bits and none of the boring stuff!

  • Comment number 41.

    38. At 4:52pm on 03 Mar 2010, Apple-Eater wrote:

    "They [the 'LibLabCon' pact] all need to move aside, and let the likes of the BNP and UKIP, but also the Greens and Respect, as well as the Sconats etc."

    No party needs to "move aside", they just need to allow all parties of all flavours and intent to at least campaign on equal terms. I do accept that there needs to be a definition of what constitutes a 'political party', I'm not suggesting that a husband and wife standing in two separate constituencies should be able to call themselves a 'political party' and thus have the same media access etc. as a party contesting all or even half the parliamentary seats!

  • Comment number 42.

    40. At 5:04pm on 03 Mar 2010, Tigerjayj wrote:

    "Far better if the BBC had an extended Question Time with Jeremy Paxman to sort them out!

    We might even get proper answers to the questions instead of all the spin and woffle!!!"

    Or just the same question asked 1,000 times and still no answer...

  • Comment number 43.

    This sounds as though it will be a stage managed farce in the best traditions of Brian Rix, and only involving the 3 main parties. The problem for me and many others is this
    - all three are signed up to the Global Warming Scam
    - Labour denied us a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty
    - the Liberal leader conspired to support their stance
    - the Tories have now chickened out of a referendum.

    All 3 parties have proved to be wet when it comes to the immigration question and the EU membership prevents the UK from having any effective control on a significant level of migration that comes from EU countries.
    There is no clear blue water between the main parties on these questions and the EU now dictates so much of our policy that they have little room for manoevre.
    So why are the parties that offer choice on these questions not being allowed similar high profile airtime e.g. UKIP, the BNP, The Greens (heaven forbid that they should form a government) and for that matter the Monster Raving Loony Party if they still exist.
    Let us have a truly democratic debate involving all sides and equal airtime for all withjout artificial barriers.

  • Comment number 44.

    42 Boilerplated

    1000 x 1 question?

    Are you really saying that no politician will ever answer a question?

    Aw shucks!

    I'll play a little Beethoven instead!

  • Comment number 45.

    I am extremely dismayed by the BBC and other broadcasters decision to exclude the political parties of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland from participating in the Election Debate. It is an undemocratic decision worthy of the state broadcasters of Banana Republics or Totalitarian Regimes. Under UK election law it is also illegal. I hope that the aggrieved parties will seek a court injunction preventing the broadcast of these debates unless a more inclusive plan is developed.

  • Comment number 46.

    I wonder if anyone will ask Gordon (he called ma a 'flat earther' for not believeing in AGW theory), about the 50 days to save the planet?

    Nothing new under the sun, with respect to man's sense of self-imprtance, and capability for delusion.

    repeat after me: "the sky is falling. The sky is falling"

    “In ten years all important animal life in the sea will be extinct. Large areas of coastline will have to be evacuated because of the stench of dead fish.” – Paul Ehrlich, Earth Day, 1970

    "Civilization will end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken against problems facing mankind. We are in an environmental crisis which threatens the survival of this nation, and of the world as a suitable place of human habitation." – Barry Commoner (Washington University), Earth Day, 1970

    Because of increased dust, cloud cover and water vapor, "the planet will cool, the water vapor will fall and freeze, and a new Ice Age will be born.” – Newsweek magazine, Jan. 26, 1970

    “The United States and the Soviet Union are mounting large-scale investigations to determine why the Arctic climate is becoming more frigid, why parts of the Arctic sea ice have recently become ominously thicker and whether the extent of that ice cover contributes to the onset of ice ages.” – New York Times, July 18, 1970

    "The climate of New-York and the contiguous Atlantic seaboard has long been a study of great interest. We have just experienced a remarkable instance of its peculiarity. The Hudson River, by a singular freak of temperature, has thrown off its icy mantle and opened its waters to navigation.” – New York Times, Jan. 2, 1870

    “Is our climate changing? The succession of temperate summers and open winters through several years, culminating last winter in the almost total failure of the ice crop throughout the valley of the Hudson, makes the question pertinent. The older inhabitants tell us that the winters are not as cold now as when they were young, and we have all observed a marked diminution of the average cold even in this last decade.” – New York Times, June 23, 1890

    “The question is again being discussed whether recent and long-continued observations do not point to the advent of a second glacial period, when the countries now basking in the fostering warmth of a tropical sun will ultimately give way to the perennial frost and snow of the polar regions.” – New York Times, Feb. 24, 1895

    Professor Gregory of Yale University stated that “another world ice-epoch is due.” He was the American representative to the Pan-Pacific Science Congress and warned that North America would disappear as far south as the Great Lakes, and huge parts of Asia and Europe would be “wiped out.” – Chicago Tribune, Aug. 9, 1923

    “The discoveries of changes in the sun's heat and southward advance of glaciers in recent years have given rise to the conjectures of the possible advent of a new ice age – Time Magazine, Sept. 10, 1923

    Headline: “America in Longest Warm Spell Since 1776; Temperature Line Records a 25-year Rise” – New York Times, March 27, 1933

    “America is believed by Weather Bureau scientists to be on the verge of a change of climate, with a return to increasing rains and deeper snows and the colder winters of grandfather's day.” – Associated Press, Dec. 15, 1934

  • Comment number 47.

    41 Boiler

    ""They [the 'LibLabCon' pact] all need to move aside, and let the likes of the BNP and UKIP, but also the Greens and Respect, as well as the Sconats etc."

    No party needs to "move aside", they just need to allow all parties of all flavours and intent to at least campaign on equal terms."

    Good point regarding definitions. But in effect, levelling the playing field, having a system in which other parties could be on an equal footing with the LibLabCon would mean them 'moving aside'.

    It's hard to imagine any of them retaining their current dominance if others were allowed, by a fair political system, to have more of a say.

    Large numbers of Tories, for example, would defect to UKIP and the BNP. Many Labourites would go to Respect and other far left parties. As for the LibDems - who cares?

  • Comment number 48.

    This comment has been referred for further consideration. Explain.

  • Comment number 49.

    The sheer necessity of drawing up 'terms of debate' for an electoral debate between the leaders of the mainstream parties underlines how personalised and stage-managed British politics has becomes.

    In an alleged democracy there should be regular debates between all politicians of all persuasions, ideally where they cross-examine each other especially when so many economic, social and military problems exist! This would enable the electorate to decipher whether there are any genuine policy differences betwen any of them.

    They shouldn't necessarily involve the leaders where the emphasis will obviously be on personalities rather than policies and they shouldn't take place just before a general election but regularly bteween elections.

    Drawing up all these terms and specific criteria for a debate between these three careerist leaders is to conceal that there's no fundamental ideological or policy differences between any of them and all the questions posed, the contibutions made by the selected audience, and viewers input by email/texts will all be moderated to ensure that this reality is obscured.

  • Comment number 50.

    Without a rule allowing the moderator to gently suggest that the question is not being answered or the debater has strayed from the question, it will be a nonsense. Dimbleby does this on QT reasonably well and it is not a political intervention/bias by him, usually.
    Viewers making their own minds up whether a question is properly answered will just reflect that person' political persuasion.
    Analysts after the Debate has taken place will just reflect their paper's or own point of view.
    If the answer does not fit the question it will be too late for the audience/viewer to find out what the debater's point of view is, since it is unlikely an audience member will be able to cross examine the debater during the time for questions.
    Obviously, the view I express here is from watching PMQs and we all know who does not answer any questions except planted ones on those occasions.

  • Comment number 51.

    The three major parties will debate devolved issues such as the NHS, education, etc., which in their case, will only be relevant to England. So, it is only fair that the national parties of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales are included in at least the debate on Domestic Affairs.

  • Comment number 52.

    I think they should all dress up in costumes and adopt a Panto format.

    That way at least the audience will get a chance to shout "Oh no you won't" and if Campbell's there they can all shout "behind you!"

    Oh and I'd happily swap one of the English 'debates' for free prescriptions - anyone up for it?

  • Comment number 53.

    Ric Bailey:

    Finally, this something that is good news regarding the "starting" of Prime Minister debates...But, as always, I am not a political operative in the United Kingdom.


  • Comment number 54.

    Shame there is no mention of a chancellor economic debate. It lets the Tories of the hook. Their shadow chancellor is a political
    nobody with all the charisma of a slowly decaying haddock.

  • Comment number 55.

    By all means have this debate, very few voters will be swayed one way or the other by what they have to say, in fact it should be marginally more exciting than watching paint dry (up for debate!). The part of all this which is getting up my nose at the moment is Alex (I want to play with the big boys) Salmond. Throwing his rattle out of the pram because he's not been invited to join in. Why should he? This is the westminster government up for grabs, AS is of the mind the whole union should separate and Scotland should be "free" so that being the case why does he want to join in with something he's against?

  • Comment number 56.

    The debates will be an interesting slant, but will the BBC in particular have failed in their attempt to achieve balance. They have excluded a huge number of political parties from the process and their record of showing even three opinions up to now has been less than good.

  • Comment number 57.

    I`m amazed at how little TV coverage there has been of unelected Prime Minister Brown admitting to the house of commons that Defence spending hadn`t he has often stated as a fact..been rising year on year ...He has mislead the House of Commons in his statements, he has mislead the Chilcot inquiry in his statements and more importantly he has mislead the Public and the Soldiers , and he then trys to make out the defence chiefs as liars there no end to this mans deceit and what he and his chums will do and say to hang on to power at any cost
    What is the point in these `debates` if the leaders dont tell the truth ?

  • Comment number 58.

    I would like honesty when asked a question on policy, not the "read from the same hymn book" comment. I don't want to know what has been done, I've lived through it. For example:-
    What are you going to do about immigration? Why can't we adopt a system similar to Australia and other countries were only people with a skill we are short of are allowed entry and they should have a job to go to.
    They should contribute taxes and NHi contributions for 2 years before being allowed to benefit from our services.

    Allow foreigners or ex-pats into this country for medical purposes but only if they pay the full cost.

    Crime should not benefit the criminal. They should serve their full sentence and not get reduced sentences for good behaviour. After all the victims usually get a life sentence.

    Get rid of the House of Lords.

    Take back control of our own country and not pander to Europe.

    Neither David Cameron or Nick Clegg have any experience of government. Gordon Brown does but he needs a strong new team behind him not those who are easily bought or are ready to stab him in the back.

    I voted conservative for the only time in my life when Maggie Thatcher got in. I thought a woman would manage the purse strings far better than a man. HOw wrong was I! She was the one who gave these MP's the right to swindle us with their expenses because she had a wage freeze on everybody and couldn't give one to MP's so they fiddled their expenses. I should have remembered her name from a few years before "Maggie Thatcher the milk snatcher" because she stopped the free school milk for children. We should also remember the milk wastage and the butter and beef mountains in Europe because they wanted to keep the prices up.

    I think the next government should remember "Charity begins at Home" and "Put your own house in order before you attempt to help someone else" Government needs to help and support business and manufacturing in this country first and foremost. If they don't where will jobs come from?

    Education and skills training should be a priority.Where have all the apprenticeships gone?

  • Comment number 59.

    I wish the debate would be unscripted and live and that the leaders are made to answer every question out of respect to the electorate!
    My issue with the election on the whole is that, although this is a democracy, i am being forced to vote for a party but i do not wish to vote for any of the parties.
    I want to vote but to vote for a change to politics. If i either do not vote or vote for a small party then the main parties will make up reasons why people did not vote and blame lack of interest on the other parties but i want it clearly stated that i do not trust any of the main parties and am voting for politics to be changed dramatically.
    I want to hear from my local politician at some stage during the 5 years - all that happens now is they get voted in then at no time do i get any contact / info about what he is doing on my behalf. Actually that is incorrect, i did get a flier last year when he was trying to justify his expenses!!
    I also want politicians on all sides to agree on the way forward. Naive maybe but rather than spending all time having a pop at each other, why not agree that good ideas come from all sides and, after all, they are there for us, the people, not to keep themselves in a job regardless of the effect on the country!
    I am in a quandry as to what to do, if i spoil my paper the reason for it not being counted can be misconstrued but i want it made perfectly clear of my distrust and dislike of politics and the 'game'!This is not a game, this is important for the people if not the politicians.
    At least i feel a bit better now i have vented my spleen but i would like answers as to what can i, and anyone else who agrees with my sentiments, do!

  • Comment number 60.

    At 08:45am on 07 Mar 2010, SotonBlogger wrote:

    Shame there is no mention of a chancellor economic debate. It lets the Tories of the hook. Their shadow chancellor is a political
    nobody with all the charisma of a slowly decaying haddock.
    There's already been a chancellors' debate - Vince Cable won it by a country mile.

  • Comment number 61.

    60. At 08:49am on 12 Apr 2010, Jeremy Wright wrote:

    "There's already been a chancellors' debate - Vince Cable won it by a country mile."

    You forgot to add, ' my opinion.'

  • Comment number 62.

    What if we could deport all the sheep from the surburbs of wales to the outskirts of Brussels, what ever would Nick Griffin do with all his time in their absence?

  • Comment number 63.

    Ask yourselves:

    Would it be best to re-elect a silver back mountain gorilla like Gordon Brown in to Office? Would posh snob David Cameron really look after the needs of the working class in Britain? Would a snot nosed beaurocrat like Nick Clegg fare any better? or Should we waste our vote on Nick Griffin who looks like he was concieved in an accidental shuffle between a clueless Retard and a Hunchbacked Wilderbeast?

    Take my advice . . .

    Don't vote for anyone, they're all as bad as each other

  • Comment number 64.

    @Tal...the bigot

    "Posh Snob"..."snot nosed"?!?

    The depressing thing is the exposure of the Left's 'half set of morals' again. I detest these bigots to the core....

    Is it not posible to have bigots like Brown and Mandelson arrested for wearing their discrimination on their sleeve?? If not, why not? Are we still only protecting communities with high crime rates?
    No one has a choice over their background and childhood. Why are these bigoted sc*m still spreading their disgraceful views to the public?

    Sheep-like bigots like Tal will just quote their discriminatory attitudes, as if it's acceptable.
    Well discrimination is not acceptable...particularly as we are always victimising the more law-abiding groups with our adoption of the Left's bigotries and the half set of morals.
    How can we call ourselves civilised when this still goes on?
    Isn't it time to instigate the FULL set of morals? Why do Lefties only need to adopt a few principles of fairness, rather than all of them?
    Utterly disillusioned with this country....the discrimination from Labour this week has a disgrace. And they're too dumb to know, it must be so ingrained.
    I hope we wipe you out in the election Bigot Brown.....even in the face of a corrupt voting system that leans in favour of your bigoted supporters.
    What an offensive bunch they are.

    And may as well say the 'N' word.....same mindset. I suggest voting for Labour like all the other bigots in the UK.

    "Education! Education!" Labour spout......But don't vote for the educated, eh? Victimise them instead, right? A typical hipocrisy of Labour.

  • Comment number 65.

    "Large numbers of Tories, for example, would defect to UKIP and the BNP. Many Labourites would go to Respect and other far left parties. As for the LibDems - who cares?"

    Strange comment considering all the BNP supporters are ex-Labour voters. Where've you been?
    This endless fantasising about Tory types is getting tedious.

  • Comment number 66.

    #63. At 4:42pm on 14 Apr 2010, tal wrote:

    ../cut gratuitous abuse/..

    "tal", your rant says far more about you than it ever does the party leaders...

  • Comment number 67.

    This debate is badly produced and the presenter Alistair Stewart is totally out of his depth,

    On airtime - by my calculations - Nick Clegg is way ahead in minutage compared with Brown and Cameron, In fact Cameron has had less time than anyone.

  • Comment number 68.

    I wonder why there is no party giving a detailed policy on how to deal with the MP expenses claim issue. I really want to know what 'new system' will be in place before the election. I have also been thinking why we need a new system as I find the existing system applying to all public sector employees works well. It seems to me that they are hurrying to get into the club and do not deal with this matter, is that a way reserving themselves the 'benefit' to take money from our pocket?

  • Comment number 69.

    For so long people have been ridiculing the Lib Dem's chances in elections saying that a vote for Lib dems is a wasted vote. That has now been exposed as tired, old thinking. If everyone who thinks it's a wasted vote actually votes for them they will be in power. They never thought the Berlin wall would come down. they never thought the Soviet Union would collapse. They never thought apartheid would end. They never thought man would walk on the moon. The list goes on. It's time to free your thinking and believe in change and believe that things can be better.

  • Comment number 70.

    Debate number two will be another exercise in bombastic soundbiting by these little men, and for this Bristol's police force are indulging in a major crowd-control binge, with the area round the Arnolfini fenced off two days in advance and a helicopter circling from one day off plus a warning of streets and a bridge closing on the day. Is this what we want?

  • Comment number 71.

    hi caller from Scotland here. That is one of the parts of the "uk" Deemed irrelevant by the BBC, In holding this debate without any involvement alternative political views other than the London based parties is a huge insult to the millions of people who do not have any interest in hearing the repeated drivel spouted by these idiots.

  • Comment number 72.

    I don't like the way the egomaniac David Dimbleby is doing the rounds and agreeing with leading questions from BBC presenters that he could make the debate more interesting if he ignored the "rules". Thank God for the rules, I say. The manner in which Question Time is now orchestrated and manipulated by Dimbleby has made it unwatchable. I dread to think what look-at-me interruptions and malicious asides he might have dreamt up for tonight. The first two debates were superbly, and discreetly, hosted by Alastair Stewart and Adam Boulton who allowed the politicians to dominate. David Dimbleby only knows how to make himself the centre of attention. He's a disastrous choice for The Debate.

  • Comment number 73.

    #72. At 4:44pm on 29 Apr 2010, MaggieL wrote:

    "I don't like the way the egomaniac David Dimbleby is doing the rounds and agreeing with leading questions from BBC presenters that he could make the debate more interesting if he ignored the "rules". Thank God for the rules, I say."

    As did David Dimbleby, it's one thing to acknowledge that the debates could be and another that they should be different, Dimbleby made it quite clear in all the interviews I heard that it was his job to follow the rules and as 'moderator', make sure that the leaders did too.

    There seems to be a lot of disguised criticism on these blogs towards David Dimbleby, not because of his action but because he is David Dimbleby, in sporting terms that would be classed as playing the man and not the ball...


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