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Brown agrees to debate

Nick Robinson | 11:58 UK time, Saturday, 3 October 2009

brown226.jpgIt's on - or, at least, it should be.

The prime minister has, finally, confirmed that he is willing to take part in a prime ministerial debate on TV ahead of the election. Now all that remains is to agree the details. This could be easier said that done.

In a message to his party on Labour's website, Gordon Brown makes clear that he wants a series of debates on specific subjects - the economy, public services, foreign affairs - to take place around the country starting as soon as possible, ie before the election campaign. He signals his desire for public involvement and argues that there should be a parallel series of debates involving senior ministers as well.

Mr Brown does not mention the involvement of Nick Clegg but, as I wrote last week, he's said to be keen to go head to head with Mr Cameron and to be prepared to agree to debate with Mr Clegg on his own in order to allow that to happen.

cameron226.jpgUp till now Team Cameron have favoured a single debate during the election campaign, although I reported last week that they would agree to an earlier one providing the details could be negotiated. The Tory leader has always argued for the involvement of Nick Clegg in a three-way debate.

The two parties' positions stem from their analysis of their own positions. The self-proclaimed "underdog" wants as many chances as possible to reveal the weakness in his opponent's policies. He prefers to be asked questions by the public than the media as he regards them as less hostile. He wants to travel away from London to places where he believes Labour is stronger. What's more he wants a series of debates between the chancellor, home secretary, foreign secretary, etc and their shadows to expose what he sees as the shallowness of the Tory team.

David Cameron is sure to be cautious about this since, as the front-runner, debates represent a risk. He's likely to argue that the more debates there are, the less public interest there will be. He'll welcome the presence of Nick Clegg in a debate with Gordon Brown hoping that in the search for Labour seats Mr Clegg would join him in attacking the prime minister. He's likely to argue that a three-way debate is fairer and less likely to be challenged legally.

clegg226.jpgThus, we come to the broadcasters. Yesterday the BBC, Sky and ITV agreed that they favoured three debates - one for each broadcaster - to involve the three UK-wide party leaders. In their minds are their obligation to balance and fairness - not just to the Lib Dems but to the nationalists in Wales and Scotland as well. If mishandled this could be tested in court. The broadcasters are also concerned about levels of audience interest if the debates are to be broadcast on mass market channels - BBC One and ITV 1 - not just on news channels.

All this will have to be settled in tricky negotiations. I wonder if Senator George Mitchell's free?

However, TV debates now look more likely than ever to happen since all sides have declared their willingness early enough for the details to be hammered out before the campaign makes compromise impossible.


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  • Comment number 1.

    I am very pleased to hear that there will be debate or debates as it is good to see leaders under pressure as that indicates how they may react in the event of, for example, real international tension.

    However, it is essential that each and every question is directly answered, no waffle, no attempt to speak around, and certainly no "That's not the issue" or similar excuse.

    And I mean that for all participants.

  • Comment number 2.

    Debate or no debate, I think it is pretty clear that most people have already decided how they are going to vote. Those that haven't made their mind up seem to be in the 'Anyone but Labour' camp.

  • Comment number 3.

    Amazing Brown wants the TV debates to beheld in Labour fiefdoms and wants the public not the media to ask the questions in case he would be caught out lying as usual.

    Known as rigging to make sure Labour wins the augument.

    One contest even Brown can't duck or rig is the one at long with the voters at the ballot box!

    So it will be one useless Labour leader out in the UK and his acomplice just getting started to destroy the EU like he did Britain!

  • Comment number 4.

    It won't happen for precisely all the reasons listed in your blog Nick. How do you ensure fairness? Surely the SNP need to be included in a debate broadcast in Scotland? But they are of no relevance in England. Brown will want an audience of former miners on benefits from the North, Cameron will want rural middle-class people worried about the top rate of income. The problem with these debates is that no one will do it unless they get an advantage which can't be the case for everyone. It works in the US because it is a 2 party system, the UK now has too many parties of regional importance in NI, Wales, and Scotland.

  • Comment number 5.

    Well i think its obvious why GB wants it on specific subjects...he's got the experience, knowledge and DETAILS that the torys miss and are purposely ambiguous on... (why would they give details when it may split their support on the EU for example, problem is people who actually judge on policy may catch him out)
    ...course the only problem then comes down to how GB comes across (charisma!).

    one things for sure, Labour would never agree to this if they weren't behind in the polls!

  • Comment number 6.


    "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."

  • Comment number 7.

    He thinks the public will be less hostile, oh please Mr Brown go anywhere which isn't a Labour stronghold and you will be in for a rude awakening.

  • Comment number 8.

    The TV debates are a good idea, but outside of England in the interest of fairness it is important that all parties are heard in the debates, not just the 3 main London parties.
    In Scotland I would suggest BBC Scotland and STV showing 2 live debates involving Jim Murphy, Angus Robertson, Alistair Carmichael and David Mundell (the Scottish Secretary, SNP Commons Leader, Lib Dems Scotland Spokesman and the only Scottish Conservative MP respectively). These debates must be shown during prime time hours, ideally at the same time the day before or the day after the main debate between the UK Leaders.
    In Wales, BBC Wales and either ITV in Wales or S4C should hold similar debates with Peter Hain, David Jones (Cheryl Gillan not representing a Welsh contituency would be excluded), Roger Williams and Elfyn Llwyd (Lab, Con, Lib-Dem and Plaid Cymru). In Northern Ireland, live debates with the main representatives of the Ulster Unionists, DUP, SDLP, Sinn Fein and Alliance Parties should be held.
    In each case, the person representing the party would have to be a Westminster candidate in the relevant nation, and would normally be the party's Westminster Leader or their spokesperson for that part of the UK.

  • Comment number 9.

    I would have hoped others (maybe the public) would have been able to select subjects - things that are important to them rather than things Brown ants to talk about. He (Brown) maybe needs to understand that he represents the people. He was not appointed as a dictator. He is answerable to the people and should be more than happy to debate issues the public want to know more about.

    Maybe that is his main problem. He seems to act as a dictator and has long ago forgotten about "representing the people". The fact that he just "took over" from Blair and was never elected as PM strengthens this view.

    If the debates are to be meaningful, then he needs to stand-up and debate issues selected by others - not his favourite subjects.

  • Comment number 10.

    Nick says that in their {broadcasters} minds are their obligation to balance and fairness - not just to the Lib Dems but to the nationalists in Wales and Scotland as well.

    There are political nationalists in England too, believe it or not, of which the highest profile are probably the English Democrats.

    These proposed debates are superficially attractive but in reality, are likely to be huge disappointment because most of the elephants-in-the-room will be ignored.

    The most gigantic of which is the impending break-up of the so-called United Kingdom if the Scottish Nationalists win the independence referendum in November 2010.

    But you won't hear a peep about that from Brown, Cameron or Clegg.

  • Comment number 11.

    I do not believe for one moment that GB will actually turn up. Having "agreed in principle", whatever that means to an unprincipled man,
    it should be made clear that no substitute will be allowed and that an empty chair will be available. The same conditions should apply to the other participants.

  • Comment number 12.

    Personally I see fairer voting as the way to energize public interest and faith in the political system.

    However the debate could be a stimulus and it will be interesting to see if the presumed polls show that there is a significant impact on opinion.

    I assume that Brown knows that there are are no existing ways he can win a general election short of a hung Parliament - or some highly unexpected event.

    Therefore I assume he will stonewall and hope Cameron and Clegg make mistakes - a destructive strategy.

    If he comes out punching big it would seem to me that he is wide open as there are now so many issues where the Labour record is far from impeccable. The economy - can he argue he is the "saviour of the world" and not one of the chief architects of the folly. If somebody had helped create the South Sea Bubble would they deserve credit for mitigating its consequences?

    Iraq won't have the inquiry to rely on but its not going to be a popular voting factor.

    Defence and equipment - Afghanistan?

    The 10p aberration? 42 days? PFI schools and hospitals that are on the never never?

    AM after Labour reneged on a PR referendum?

    Education, education, education?

    Attitudes on GM and nuclear energy and the failure to live up to the words on climate change?

    There are no significant positives and where there are things they have done well, say on child poverty, they have lost many of those earned votes by alienating those sectors of voters and the indirect impacts of their friends the bankers on the economy.

  • Comment number 13.

    Very good. This will allow Gordon Brown to explain once more the real achievements of the Labour party over the past 12 years and the real causes of the current economic crisis (wrong strategic planning of senior bankers, wild speculation in the financial sector, the greed and herd mentality of UK consumers). In my opinion Gordon Brown should admit some of the responsibility for the lack of strict oversight by the regulatory bodies. The Tory friendly papers (Daily Telegraph, the Sun, the Daily Mail) will try to shout Gordon down, so he will need all the time he can get on national television to present his arguments.

  • Comment number 14.

    So it's agreement "in principle" now is it? There's still wriggle room though isn't there?

    The smart money is still on this not taking place.

    You may call me cynical but in my defence it's the current government that's made me this way...

  • Comment number 15.

    The fact that yet another media campaign has formed policy disgusts me. The media should stick to reporting facts, not trying to invent situations to help make stories.

    Anyone who's watched PMQ's knows that Smooth talking, media savy cameron wants this because he knows he will look better than Brown, the media are on his side (despite years of moaning about an image conciouse PM in Blair) and seem willing to do anything he wants to give him the best shot at winning. The media fawning over cameron is, quite frankly, disgusting.

    Looking at American politics (where this stupid idea came from) these debates rarely settle anything, or swing any voters, they are simply media set peices to drum up ratings, and we should stop nicking political ideas from america now, their system is hardley fool proof, yet the media have this idea that they must replicate everything, good or bad, that happens their, it won't be long till you have to have a few hundred million in the bank to have to be PM here, of course Cameron and his mates are probably looking forward to such a time!

  • Comment number 16.

    Also in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland a lot of the debate between Brown, Cameron and Clegg will be irrelevant because it will be over devolved issues such as health, education, local government and environment.
    The debates that take place in the devolved nations would be able to concentrate on Westminster reserved matters and enable the voters to make their decisions based on those.

  • Comment number 17.

    I suspect that after 12 years of lies, spin and absolutely appalling performance, most people will only be interested in the debates as a spectator sport.

    How badly Gordon Brown get beaten up in the debates? And will he crack up?


  • Comment number 18.

    So GB has 'agreed in principle'? As the man has none, I'll be highly surprised it takes place at all. Not unless he can be guaranteed of picking the questions in advance & picking the audience in advance.

  • Comment number 19.

    English only issues should be restricted to an English audience. Education, health etc are not UK issues.

  • Comment number 20.

    I fail to see how these debates could achieve fairness. not only working against the nationalist parties, but also against the Greens, UKIP and BNP. Should the Tories be given equal airtime in Scotland with only one MP?

    Too presidential by half. Individual candidates could hold debates in their own constituencies, and surely we have the digital technology to broadcast them all, using spare bandwiths (?BBC Parliament)

    I hope the proposed anti-democratic debates can be stopped in court.

  • Comment number 21.

    Oh dear on with the tin hats watch out for flying telephones should the debate and questions not be on his terms... and please Beeb hide the radio mics. so there is no feedback to Lord Elpus for advice and please remind him it's not PMQs and he must answer questions.

    To be honest, I ain't gonna put a cross along the program schedule in Radio Times, not saying I will or won't watch it because non of this will convince me any for one very simple reason...

    ... what they can't or haven't done in eleven years they can't certainly do in the next four 4 so no they are not getting my vote no matter the rhetoric, name calling or promises. They can not govern they do know how to govern, dictate yes but not govern, look at all the U turns on policies.

    The debate must be fair with each answering the same questions and Brown, Cameron and Cleggy must me present... and that won't please Gordon.

    And it would be a good idea to get some questions from the General public and not just the Beeb.

  • Comment number 22.

    Hmmm. So Gordon would prefer to be questioned by the public. I take it that he actually means a carefully selected and primed 'public'
    I don't think it's going to happen. Direct questions such as 'why do you avoid answering questions?' or 'why are you scared to accept responsibility?' won't be put to him by journalists for fear of losing their access.
    Gordon certainly won't put himself in a position where such questions could come from the public.

  • Comment number 23.

    Knowing how Brown operates, there must be a significant chance that his demands for prescribed (and proscribed!) topics and specific timings and formats will result in the debates not happening and him being able to shift the blame for that to others.

    My own view is that the debates should be related to the election and should not happen until after each party has published its manifesto.

  • Comment number 24.

    As Gordon cannot talk 'off script' what is the point of these debates?

  • Comment number 25.

    He *hasn't* confirmed he will do it, has he Nick? *Again* he hasn't confirmed it,yet *again* you say he has. Shall we put it simply? he says he will do it, if his conditions are met - but he won't tell us what those conditions are!

    Additionally, before we evens tart he's demanding control of the agenda! How is that a "debate"?

    He's a joke - and anyone who takes these constantly revised policies seriously is a joke too.

  • Comment number 26.

    I sorry this a long rant, but having read these blogs for long time now, I just to join in.

    It comes as no surprise that it is only in principle because off having to suffer hearing the bent language that NuLabour are resorting to now! Inaccurate humour to press a point; smears against the Tory Message and individuals of the party; a demeanour of utter-hate and vapid-suggestions of untruths; misrepresentation of facts; policy statements that cannot be paid for or which, for that matter, do not provide support for the people they purport to; announcement of achievements that simply do not hold up to scrutiny; Un-countable U-turns on Manifesto promises! We've become accustomed to this warping of rational opinions and logical arguments and of what used to be combative but decent politics where issues were discussed with opposing views being respected but remaining acceptable within the boundaries of what was acceptably political, but Labour, not only having created a new language of deceit which warps the truth that they've practiced over the last decade and imposed upon the nation, have now become irrational and observably fearful of being ousted from office - for what - an election? No, I don't think so. Personally, it's my belief that the true reason for it lays in what comes after! The exposure of the true damage they have caused! When the books are legitimately scrutinised for the first time in a decade and presented for national and international consumption, the world but more importantly is this case the country, is finally - once and for all, going to witness, without counter-argument or undermining opposition, the colossal danger that they have put this country in! Their demonstrable fear does not lay in an election loss based simply upon the issues of national neglect that we can clearly see and experience, but fear of that this exposure will be the last nail in the socialist coffin! When we do find out, when they are no longer able to hide their crimes against this nation, their entire Raison d’être is destroyed for good. The party line about hard work for the majority and the language of everything bar truth that they have employed will be swept aside resulting in a national
    Contempt lasting decades for what we were subjected to!

    We have only to cast our minds back a short calendar distance to witness the expenses scandal (ongoing) to get some idea of how Labour thought they could get away with it - spending profligate sums in purchasing vote-assurance and creating a state apparatus commonly known to us as unaccountable quangos to perpetuate their governance-of-catastrophe, of which I may add, has spectacularly backfired on them. As a person who lives with the curse of principle - a personal attribute that causes me more trouble than it's worth, I'll also include the Tory's who are just as guilty, but greed is a devilish thing to counter and reject and I'd be as tempted as the next person - contradicting my principled claim somewhat I know. It must be remembered however that Labour gave birth to the notion of unaccountable-arm-chair-government and perpetual-secrecy of their mismanagement as surely as they have given birth to British politics being inextricably married to the word dirt with an international football crowd laughing and sniggering at our troubles! The politics of democracy has been critically damaged by Labour but not yet killed off. A political idea in which decisions of national importance were legitimised by majority acceptance; built up over hundreds of years and of which enabled this country to survive many hostile internal and external events in its history has been damaged - yes, damaged without doubt, but Socialism only ever did and none more so than now, ever pay a split-lip service to the meaning of democracy and its fundamental rationale; throwing peanuts to the electorate and claiming they are gold-doubloons whilst only allowing those decisions that do not and WILL NOT be allowed to hamper or disrupt its warped and destructive advance! An ideology that keeps secret and close to its chest a party belief that YOU and I, will not allowed it to stop, by the mere inconvenience of the democratic system that you can see was paid for by the crosses of the dead in places like the Somme and Normandy! What was it all about if a criminal concept like Labour or Socialism can arrive on the political scene and not only engineer a more subversive system on the back of that hard fought democracy, like some stinking parasite burying into the skin of its host country and of one that allows them to whilst abusing the innate meaning of freedom to choose built into its constitutional structure, but also to surrender without voice or action, against the wishes and desires of its own population, another evil empire growing like some festering, bulbous, insatiable, power-hungry, money-slug in Europe. The end of my rant is only to make a prediction that will be familiar to those with an historical awareness - The lights of are going out over Europe! And of those who are familiar with that statement will know what followed! As for today however, I'm out the door to go and fight amongst the disenfranchised masses to kick and scratch amongst the baying crowd for my Socialist rationed peanut, thrown off the back of their band-wagon and be sneeringly and snot wipingly grateful for it! If you're not already - after a decade of Labour - you'll soon be - queuing up behind the disaster relief truck, kicking and scratching for yours to! The Irish are about to find out what the marriage of English Socialism and European Federalism actually means for everyone - and there's no going back!

  • Comment number 27.

    Is there any point, Brown is mentally incapible of giving a straight answer.

  • Comment number 28.

    This is just typical our media obsessed culture. Lets not discuss how policies will effect peoples lives. Lets just have a kind of debating entertainment debating gameshow for the middle classes. Who looks Dynamic, energetic and pro active etc. No wonder David 'Zoolander' Cameron and Murdoch & Son's evil media empire want them.

  • Comment number 29.

    So Brown wants debates with the other parties, "in principle " providing they are held in Labour strongholds with a Labour selected audience and he gets to set the questions. Perhaps if he's so keen on debates and answering questions he could answer a few at PMQs once the freeloaders come back from holiday and parliament gets back to non business. The only question most of the population want to ask is ;" When is the election ?" The debates will never happen ; he is too cowardly to risk crossing swords with Cameron and Clegg, who are more articulate, better educated and look youthful and fresh compared to his " past it's sell by date " careworn scowling overweight presence. If the format of the debates is however not going to be advantageous to him , they will never happen and no doubt he and his acolytes will blame the opposition for being obstructive.

  • Comment number 30.

    Brown can't have this debate in a safe lab-our ward it would be complete one sided affair .
    If any debate is to be held at all, It should be a debate on the state of the country now not as brown might have it under a Tory administration, The latter of which has been out of office for quite a number of years And there for, forced into a position of revealing his hand as to what he might do ,putting himself to an unfair disadvantage.
    I can't see this style of Americanization going down with the British public anyrate.

  • Comment number 31.

    Dear Nick,

    The smart money is still on GB not making it past October, so whatever he decides now ain't gunna 'appen.

    How I would like to ask GB what happened to prudence and boom and bust!


  • Comment number 32.

    Dear Lord, have we really thought through Brown's pronouncement? He wants debates involving Minsiters as well. There are 23 cabinet ministers! Brown wants 'head to head' debates so if 3 channels are involved, that means each minister will be involved in 2 x 3 = 6 debates. 23 ministers and their opponents totals 138 televised debates!

  • Comment number 33.

    So what happened to "we don't need a leader's debate, we have PMQs every week" etc etc which has been GBs stance on this every time it's been raised in the past.

    What has changed to make him appear to change his mind?

    Could it possibly be the polls? Surely not!

  • Comment number 34.

    As with all gordon brown's announcements the devil is in the detail..and there are so many ifs and buts that you can be sure it will not happen.. he is only trying to make it look like he is not avoiding making a decision...

  • Comment number 35.

    #26 I hate. A very noble and well scriped piece very finely put and a pleasure to read its a pity a few other comments are sometime monitored two harshly in my opinion,

  • Comment number 36.

    Gordon Brown wants to give the appearance that he will take part in leaders debates.

    However, he will not take part but try and spin his way out and blame Cameron. Brown will do this by imposing conditions that the broadcasters are unlikely and unwilling to meet.

  • Comment number 37.

    Of course Labour wants a debate, "in principle". The longer they can keep debating the terms and conditions for a debate, the less time the media wll have to trash their government's track record.
    If they can get to a position where it is everybody else's fault that Flash Gordon never got the chance to actually take part in a debate, that would be an even better scenario for his spin-doctors.

  • Comment number 38.

    Ps I forgot to mention the lab-our party conference .
    Well well well i got through three boxes of tissues ,After watching miliberns speech The part when he said about the first day at school holding his little sons hand ,Taking him to He playground into a nulabour built school well that really brought a lump in my throat ,You know the same you get watching a great drama on the wide screen,Where did the rest of the money go? Perhaps it went with the pensions aye.?

  • Comment number 39.

    Can we have a Question Time, perhaps extended to 2 hours, with the 3 leaders and a the forth guest. I would suggest Jemary Clarkson, for his outspoken views and given how may people called for him to be PM on the downing street site.

    Question should NOT be pre anounced and each 'guest' should be given 2 minutes only to answer each question.

  • Comment number 40.

    #39 No bring on paxman no nonsence from him.

  • Comment number 41.

    #26. Thank you for taking the time to write down your thoughts. I agree with every word, although I would be unable to put them down in such a coherent manner.

    An additional thought: Brown will step down when the dust settles over the Irish vote, knowing that the Treaty will be ratified before the election. And Blair will be 'elected' EU president.
    I did not think that Brown was surprised at Andrew Marr's question regarding his health last Sunday. A carefully planted piece ? Everyone now knows there may be a problem with Brown's health and it would be no surprise if he left office, he now has a reason .I really do not see Brown allowing himself to lose an election.
    New Labour play the long game, events that happen now have beeen crafted many months/years ago.

  • Comment number 42.

    Actually, Nick, George Mitchell isn't a bad suggestion!

    What's usually key in the US debates is the format and the personnel involved. Personally, I'd like to see a completely independent moderator to host the debates - i.e. someone not normally involved in the UK political process but who is intelligent enough to ask difficult questions. This leads me to think of the like of Dan Rather or Tom Brokaw from the US - basically a truly independent chair. I'm afraid too many UK political commentators - and I include Nick in this, given his background at university - have baggage which leads some to infer a bias for or against one of the parties.

    I also think that the BBC debate should simply follow the format of "Question Time" - it's tried and tested and understood, and allows difficult questions from the audience. Brown wants the debates focused on subjects because he can prepare, whilst for a QT debate it would be more difficult.

  • Comment number 43.

    Wonder if M15 have a file on Gordon like the one they had on Wilson, maybe they could debate this on television. Would it be possible for Brown to take part in a rational debate after his performance with interviewers at the Labour conference who didn't ask the right questions (various networking sites ). Some of the images of Brown's disapproval are quite scary and make the question about his state of mind a bit more relevant.If he's still around at the end of the year, I shall be amazed.

  • Comment number 44.

    Just so long as the Prime Minister gets his wife to do a ra-ra act beforehand to welcome him onto the stage, gushing mentions of my hero etc. But the audience better watch out for low flying telephones and printers if it does not go well.

    Just waiting for Andrew Marr to ask David Cameron about drugs would balance up the questions to the PM.

    The sooner we hvae an election the better, the economy is not going to suddenly turn around and unemployment is going to get worse before it gets better...what the hell is the man waiting for?

  • Comment number 45.

    Its all nonsense - There won't be a debate, because Gordon knows he can't win if he can't spin.

  • Comment number 46.

    So now we're to have the next general election reduced to the level of a one on one politcal bunfight, debates of this nature might send shivers of anticipation down the spines of political hacks but at what cost?

    We're moving from an inherently flawed model of party politics that's been rightly complained about for years, to an even worse one of personality politics. Might make for good television doesnt make for good government.

  • Comment number 47.

    The BNP could do us all a favour by demanding that they be represented on these debates. That will ensure they never take place and save us having to watch them. Caledonian Comment

  • Comment number 48.

    #44 island He's not waiting for nothing he knows that if he goes to the country he will be out of a job with his p45 in hand.
    Plus the fact he will have egg on his face when he returns to Scotland as he won't be any more use in London ,Except in chasing Blair for his job.

  • Comment number 49.

    I really don't see the point in these debates when one party in particular won't commit any detail to their 'policies' or should or say 'think tank conjured-up ideas'? Yep, I'm sure the Conservatives know I'm talking about them.

    I also don't see why the smaller parties and independents have to be left out, surely they'll have grounds for a legal challenge - we are not a three party dictatorship in this country.

    On a different note, congratulations to Ireland on voting 'yes', I think they've made the right choice.

  • Comment number 50.

    How dare they not include UKIP in a debate.
    One of the top issues facing this country is it's relationship with the EU.
    Labour, Conservative and Lib-Dems will not address this issue.
    We must have an alternative view presented.

  • Comment number 51.

    #45 sircomespect

    Are you suggesting the Cameron and chums don't spin? If so, oh well, you've obviously fallen for it hook, line and sinker!


  • Comment number 52.

    #49 yes well done on Ireland voting yes.

    Had they voted no, they'd have had to have had another referendum.

  • Comment number 53.

    Rather than a debate between the 'Big Three' which none of us think will happen, how about a list of 10 written questions that all parties, leaders and candidates can supply written answers to and then publish the whole lot on the web.

  • Comment number 54.

    We have to remember that Westminster and the media are more interested in these debates than the public. Nevertheless there should be three national TV debates with all three party leaders. This will give the voters a fair chance to compare. We should also remember that it is the voters' interests, not those of the leaders, which are paramount.

  • Comment number 55.

    The whole idea is hogwash. There is a debate in the Commons every Wednesday when Parliament is sitting which comprises of the Opposition parties trying to 'down' Brown and Brown's answers alternating between the Tories have no policies and the Tory policies would worsen the situation - from 'do nothing' to 'do wrongly' and back etc.

    The Libdem policies are irrelevant, Labour has run out of ideas, and The Tories will not detail any policies because Brown etc will just concentrate on attacking those ideas which they have decided not to steal, and the media will constantly demand to know how many, how much and who will pay for it.

    All politicians are fully trained not to answer questions properly, to answer one (not asked) of their own making, and are under orders to follow the party LTT - Line to Take.

    These debates are for the media to gorge themselves on

    It is hogwash!

  • Comment number 56.

    #49 extreme Baring in mind what you have said about Ireland the UK better start looking for a few new friends as well To start borrowing some more money to help repay that which has been wasted or even i might add giving it away to Brussels.

  • Comment number 57.

    "The public will be less hostile than the media"???????
    Certainly true if the media is all like you, Nick. Just come out of your bunker Mr. Brown and see what "hostile" really is.

  • Comment number 58.

    54. sonbinor39
    "Nevertheless there should be three national TV debates with all three party leaders."

    UK Political Parties

  • Comment number 59.

    I can't see it happening.

    I can't see Brown being prepared to go into an environment when he hasn't got complete control over what happens. Even at PMQ's he knows he can ignore any questions and drone on about statistics and tractor production.

    Look at his performances on those TV interviews following the conference.

    As soon as he's taken out of his comfort zone, he starts behaving like Raymond Babbitt.

  • Comment number 60.

    The debates are limited as Labour, Conservative and Unionist and Liberal Democrats do not represent British society.

    The Scottish National Party, British National Party, UK Independence Party amougst others also represent the people on some level, all parties also have UK-wide policies. Therefore, in order to be fair and to increase representation all groups should be included.

    The difference between the United States of America and Great Britain is that, Great Britain does not elect her Prime Minister. The Prime Minister is elected by Parliament, so usually the group which forms the largest party chooses their leader as Prime Minister.

    That's why I also support fairer representation to allow all parties participate as the people choose their MP's and do not vote for the leaders of the parties.

  • Comment number 61.

    It is good news that GB has finally agreed to take part.
    If there is to be a series then at least one should be devoted to our relationship with the European Union. This affects so many issues, not least how we are governed.
    And, having come a clear 2nd in the recent European elections, the UK Independence Party must be represented.

  • Comment number 62.

    As with all matters of this nature, the devil is in the detail. The detail is:-Who will participate: and What are the subject matters?

    However, in my view one of two things will put a spanner in the works. If the B.N.P. or say U.K.I.P. are excluded, that will be the end of it, there will be so much litigation that insufficient time will be allowed before the Election. If these parties are included, as the current administration has proscribed the B.N.P., Brown will pull out and possibly so will some other opposition parties. Either way it is doomed before start.

  • Comment number 63.

    I_hate_NuLabour wrote:

    I sorry this a long rant, but having read these blogs for long time now, I just to join in.

    You are right its a long rant.

  • Comment number 64.

    I think we need to engage the electorate not further turn them off.

    For me 1 maybe 2 debates would be best.
    If they have more the people will just switch off

    One would create a spectacle that everyone would switch on for.
    We need to leave them excited and interested by such a debate not with fading interest because there are too many windbag events.

  • Comment number 65.

    Why worry about details? The only detail surely is how long the debate should last. Otherwise, just throw a contentious question in and leave them to it. Like "What are you going to do to promote British-owned industry in Britain?" or "What will you do about the teen- and pre-teen anarchy on our streets?"

  • Comment number 66.

    #57 I expect you would like to give him some stick then?
    Better get the tin hat on, as i can see some fireworks.
    A woman of substance ?

  • Comment number 67.

    It won't happen, GB and mandy know GB would come out badly, but they had to agree to it "in principle". But with so many provisos that it can't possibly happen. A meeting in Rotherham would be wildly different to one held in Windsor. GB will demand the meeting in the north, taking it to the country...pack it out with labour supporters and dictate the questions. So skewed that the Consercatives and Lib Demd kick up a fuss and it gets called off and GB can then blame the others. He will be able to keep his nice blinkers on and believe he is an honourable man. He will find out what we think next year.

  • Comment number 68.

    I dont want any debates, I want AN Election NOW so that we can have the promised vote on the EU treaty.

    If we wait till next summer it will be too late and the EU constitution that ALL 3 parties said we would have a vote on will be set in stone with T Liar as the new leader.

  • Comment number 69.

    Unless the debate is between Brown, Cameron AND Clegg at the same time, I don't see how you will get a clear inference as to the position of each

    If there are debates with only two at a time taking part that does allow for mixed messages to creep in

    I'm surprised that Brown would appear to wish to debate separately with each, on tv when the tv reporters and journalists will have access to video tape of the previous debate

    With the debate I'd simply like them to answer the questions

  • Comment number 70.

    Look, I don't trust politicians anyway. It would take a great deal more that a prepared debate to even bring me within reach of trust. So why bother with it at all? If the subject matter is to be fixed; if they have a chance to prepare; and if they're trying to work out where each would have an advantage location-wise, you might as well forget it as far as I'm concerned.

    The devil might be in the detail for us but these politicians are trying to balance things to favour their angels.

  • Comment number 71.

    #60 Thomas_Porter

    I agree, they shouldn't staged as they're not representative of the UK parties - the Greens, in terms of total numbers across the country, get quite a large number of votes.

    However, I hope at some point there'll be a continuation of 'the Tories marginalised with extremists in Europe' debate on camera. William Hague sounded ever so cross yesterday, although very very sadly, he was factually incorrect.

    Just to set the record straight regarding the Latvian Fatherland & Freedom Party, although the Lettish Legion (Latvian SS) was partly formed of conscripts, it was also made up of willing volunteers.

    For anyone who's interested in the history of World War II, the volunteers swore allegiance to the Fuhrer and they did commit appalling crimes against Jews, gypsies, Russian civilians, etc and that's why the annual march celebrating these particular 'war heros' for their part fighting against us (the allies) is banned in Latvia. For info on just how 'innocent' the Lettish Legion were, check out the Simon Wiesenthal Centre.

    Perhaps the types of schools the Tories went to overlooked these sorts of minor details.

  • Comment number 72.

    Well, Cherie Blair admitted on the Alan Titchmarsh show yesterday that Brown kept on at Blair to give him the Top Job.

    Now it's coming back at him by two men who want the job but only one of them will be elected to the Top Job next year. Won't be Brown.

  • Comment number 73.

    #68 icewombat

    Pulling out of Europe would cost British industry billions. Why do you think the Irish voted a resounding 'yes' this time?

    Oh, ok, I'll tell you.... the Gaelic Tiger that was once Ireland is now more of a doormouse - they can't afford to go it alone. A bit like us.

    Why, anyway, are you so bothered about Europe telling us what to do? No one seems to mind being dictated to by foreign and non-tax paying billionaires (newspaper owners, bankers, etc, etc, etc) who blatantly maniplulate our so called democracy - what's the problem with Europe where at least we get to vote?

  • Comment number 74.

    Icewombat , I'm with you!
    This "debate" is going to be a " look how clever we are and what we've done and the nasty Torys will steal the bread from your childrens mouths etc etc etc"
    The Sun may have come out in favour of the Torys but if anyone read the Guardian articles today ( in fact any day!) you would have been assailed by the promotion of the politics of envy from those of whom the rest of us could well be envious, houses in Tuscony etc etc.
    It'll be the usual never answer a direct question, prepared questions only and only one per person so that there can be no follow up of
    " but you said ....." ( Fraser Nelson can vouch for that modus operandi )
    Utter balderdash and piffle! Particularly if it involves the sycophantic BBBC.
    And don't tell me their not and cite Andrew Marr and his phoney question about painkillers, that was there to shoot the fox and no other reason.

  • Comment number 75.

    ... Just surfed on over to GB's statement following the link in Nick's blog. Nowhere in it does Brown state that he is going to be on the same platform, in the same place, at the same time as the other party leaders and do the sort of debate asked for by Sky and the other broadcasters. The wording that is used does not commit Brown to this at all. Don't be surprised if what the media thinks is going to happen doesn't happen.

  • Comment number 76.

    Hopefully, either or both of DC and NC are to ask GB if and when he is to stop his and his cabinet's and his government's discrimination against English pensioners, workers, students, school children, health workers and serving soldiers and their families (and many other sectors and categories) as these are feeling the brunt of his government's failure to treat English people fairly.
    Several million people on benefits and several million immigrants - Why does Brown assume that mainly unemployed English people cannot be re-trained and fill what vacancies are available without importing more and more immigrants? This attitude of writing off whole swathes of the mainly English working population is direct discrimination and is actionable in the law courts.
    Labour government discrimination includes anomolies, inconsistencies and unfairness in applying government expenditure fairly between different countries in the union:-
    1) free NHS prescriptions for Scotland/Wales
    2) free tuition fees - Scotland - when English students have a lower representation per capita in English universities
    3) free elderly care in Scotland when English pensioners are having heart attacks due to being kicked out of their homes to pay for basic care
    4) massive long term susbsidies to Scotland, Wales and NI
    "Be careful,DC" - Brown is out to steal your policies because he has no real policies of his own!
    When is a 'policy' not a 'policy' - When there is no mechanism or process to cost and implement the so called 'policies' - All Labour policies are wish lists because they have no idea how to implement their 'policies'!
    Hypocrite Harman now calling Page 3 of the Sun after Labour's Blair and Brown 'lapped up' Sun newspaper support for more than 12 years - Total hypocrisy!

  • Comment number 77.

    28. At 1:38pm on 03 Oct 2009, dhwilkinson wrote:
    This is just typical our media obsessed culture. Lets not discuss how policies will effect peoples lives. Lets just have a kind of debating entertainment debating gameshow for the middle classes. Who looks Dynamic, energetic and pro active etc. No wonder David 'Zoolander' Cameron and Murdoch & Son's evil media empire want them.

    Is this the same Murdoch and his evil empire that Blair and Nulabour lavished affection on.

  • Comment number 78.

    Contributing to Andrew Neil`s blog I wondered where the rough trade had migrated to and I found it here.It is becoming clear why Mr.Robinson closes of discussion early.It is because the rant and prejudice contaminates the balance and fairness he is trying to communicate.

    When like-minded people congregate their views become more extreme.This blog is an example of a cumulative tide of right-wing prejudice.

    Take the following post from Z/2

    "Debate or no debate,I think it is pretty clear that most people have decided how they are going to vote.Those that haven`t made up their minds seem to be in the anyone but Labour camp."

    What gives you the right to determine my voting intentions in advance? or anyone else`s for that matter.It is an example of the herd mentality which assumes everyone thinks the way they do if they shout loud enough.

    The election is open,the majority are volatile and uncertain with a weak commitment to all the main parties.The psephology favours the conservatives and I don`t object to that.What I do mind are inclusive remarks about mine or anyone else`s voting intentions next year.

  • Comment number 79.

    Like the blog Nick, but the standard of the comments has really plummeted unfortunately.

    I agree with #15 LaughingDevil - has anyone really considered why we need American-style TV debates? The US presidential elections require them because the candidates don't face each other in congress; Gordy is maybe right to insist that, whatever the importance of the media in holding politicians to account, first and foremost for that purpose we have, y'know, that building in London, got a big clock on it, what's-its-name - oh right, yeah - Parliament.

    At a time when respect for Parliament is at such a low ebb, I reckon there's a fair argument that transferring crucial political debate from the Commons to a TV studio will do little to stop the rot.

    Still, I agree that once challenged Gordy couldn't back out from the debate. To those of you who suspect the leaders will only agree to an audience stuffed with their supporters - what sort of banana republic do you think we live in? For 'Question Time' the BBC selects its audience members to ensure a political balance (see link at the bottom). There would be no question of the leaders having any say in the make-up of the audience.

    As far as I can see, US presidential debates are slick, anodyne, and cosmetic, with too much leeway for showboating and not enough poking and prodding. We have rough-and-tumble politics in this country and we should stick to it. The already existing alternatives to the televised debate are all far preferable: 1. the leaders leading their parties in parliament and facing down their opposition; 2. the leaders getting rammed by Paxman; 3. the leaders facing the public directly on a Question Time special.

    I still agree direct, face-to-face debate has its merits - in which case, how's about a Question Time special with the three leaders, the public, and Dimbleby? No need to come up with anything fancy.

    P.S. To those asking for UKIP and BNP inclusion - neither of these parties have yet achieved parliamentary representation. If at some point they do, then there will be a debate to be had - though all the sensible people may well have fled the country by that point.

    P.P.S. Gordy should look forward to a debate - let the country see Cameron for the lightweight estate agent he really is.

  • Comment number 80.

    Thank you for the kind comments from

    #35 quietoldinthetooth and
    #41 Littleholt

    I have been writing that piece for 1 week to post, but it seems that the blogs on here get closed very quickly.

    As for comment #63 my use of the word rant was wrong, I just needed to get what I wrote off my chest. I am just sick of every of everything NuLabour is and does.

    I was also very surprised the mods allowed it, thank you mods

    extremesense #49
    "I really don't see the point in these debates when one party in particular won't commit any detail to their 'policies' or should or say 'think tank conjured-up ideas'? Yep, I'm sure the Conservatives know I'm talking about them."

    Look extremesense, this has been tried a million times by NuLabour and their supporters, that the Conservatives don't have policies or details. But you can't have it always as your beloved leader GB says they won't work. So they must exist in his mind!!!.

    There are lots of reasons why the conservatives will not give out their policies or details yet. The major reason been if they do, NuLabour will steal it. The most recent been the council tax one, or at least now NuLabour trying to buy the London vote.

    When the election campaign starts we will see them, at that point you are supposed to make your choice of who to vote for.

    As for the Lisbon Treaty

    1) Have you read it or do you blindly follow what GB has to say, because he always tells the truth, “not”.
    2) I sure also you support it because the instigator of the mess this country is in now “Tony Blair”, will be the first president of Europe, god help us all
    3) And before you ask yes I have read large parts of it, and as I have just said “god help us all”, and it’s a very difficult read.

  • Comment number 81.

    Jave to say that, with devolution a fact of UK life, it's hard to see how major "national" parties within the devolved countries could be kept out of any debate.

    I'm still not sure whether head-to-heads make a lot of sense. We don't elect a PM - we elect individual members of parliament. It's always feasible that even a sitting PM could be turfed out by his/her local constituents - then what benefit would you have from a debate between party leaders?

    Bit of a nonsense to try and inflict a whole bunch of other Ministers on a defenceless public... Can you imagine 23 of 'em popping up on a regular basis? Can't see how that's going to encourage more people to go and vote.

    I see no point in commencing debates anyway at this point. There are plenty of debates to happen in Parliament over the next six months or more. Definitely no point till after the budget - and revellation of how the conomy is doing (assuming an honest account) - and presumption that an election is unlikely till May.

  • Comment number 82.

    We need a debate that includes all issues - not those just chosen by Gordon as "one issue" debates, because we know what Gordon's like - he will insist on "The Economy" debate first, attack the Tories for what they 'would' have done, tell everybody over and over again how he has saved the world, and then that's it... he will be too busy to have any more debates.

  • Comment number 83.

    @ 26

    I'm sorry this a long rant

    it's not the length you should be apologising for

  • Comment number 84.

    Ten Maya@77

    is this the same Murdoch and his evil empire that Blair and Nulabour lavished affection on.

    Yes. well spotted! Nothing to do with me though. I've never said that I liked the idea that Murdoch was supporting Labour for his own narrow self interest. full marks for observation anyway.

  • Comment number 85.

    #76 Nautonier

    Back again I see, peddling more untruths and grievances. How is the discrimination campaign going?

    Quite apart from your lack of understanding how devolution works with regards to how each administration chooses to spend it's money i.e. fund health care etc. you persist in portraying the Labour party as having some deliberate motive for to disadvantage the English people. I'd hardly think that was sensible political strategy in a UK context, do you?

    Care to back up your subsidy claim with facts and figures?

    I can't tell, are you anti-NuLab, anti-Brown or anti-the rest of the UK?

    Perhaps it's a mixture of all three.

  • Comment number 86.

    80, I_hate_NuLabour:

    I struggled to read as much of the Lisbon Treaty as possible.

    We know it was deliberately made more complicated, because the "Plebs" found the original Constitutional Treaty too easy to absorb and comprehend. (That was publicly said by European politicians and the original overseer of the Constitution - Giscard d'Estaing.)

    Odd that the then Minister for Europe (Ms Flint) admitted that she hadn't actually read the document. Normal I supposed. I mean we can't actually expect Ministers to understand the stuff they witter on about, can we?

    Remember Alan Johnson getting up in the House as Home Secretary and saying he was "just a hack politician" who obviously couldn't be expected to challenge the views of the clever lawyers and others in his department...? If he can't who on earth can?

  • Comment number 87.

    81. fairlyopenmind
    "it's hard to see how major "national" parties within the devolved countries could be kept out of any debate."

    I think you should change your monicker to veryopenmind! Of course, the reality is that the debate discussion is nothing to do with anything other than party advantage for the dominant British parties.

    I remain puzzled why so many posters, who are totally cynical about politicians, seem to want these "leader" debates in US Presidential style, but in a system of Parliamentary sovereignty that lacks the checks and balances which exist in the US system.

  • Comment number 88.

    76. nautonier
    "4) massive long term susbsidies to Scotland,"

    Any links to back up this myth or is it the same old assertion being trotted out in the blind hope that someone will believe it.

  • Comment number 89.

    Sagamix comment 83

    Can you then explain why I should apologise for I said in 26. Nothing I said there was neither a misrepresentation of facts, down right lies or spin. Unlike what NuLabour reports to be the truth

    You see the remark you make, backs up one of my point's about NuLabour and their supporters.
    We've become accustomed to this warping of rational opinions and logical arguments and of what used to be combative but decent politics where issues were discussed with opposing views being respected but remaining acceptable within the boundaries of what was acceptably political, but Labour, not only having created a new language of deceit which warps the truth that they've practiced over the last decade and imposed upon the nation."

  • Comment number 90.

    I wonder if at long last this comment might be posted without being immoderately moderated by the weak-kneed Thompson Gestapo?
    I think the TV debate development is a massive step backwards for UK politics. As the orginal blog author raising questions about Gordon Brown's health, I find the politics of personality abhorrent. Ability or not to take rational decisions is one thing: soundbites, smiles, and slick but financially empty promises are another. The concept of Rikki Lake meets the X-Factor may satisfy the ratings obsessives, but it is not what serious discussion of national futures should be about.
    The task ahead of us is not to elect a cross between a public speaker and a stand-up. Rather, it is to decide which Party (if any) has the sort of creative ideas we need to get us out of our appalling cultural, fiscal and economic mess.
    For once, can we read some manifestos and look for substance?
    John Ward

  • Comment number 91.


    Right... Not excusing war crimes committed by anybody, but.... Soviet style socialism/communism - 50 million dead, conservatively (30 million+ if you lean more towards the Mao/China model) is OK, but Latvia and their complicity in events of WW2 (6m+ dead) is a heinous crime?

    And dont tell me there arent any either former members of the CPGB or unreconstituted communists with influence in the Labour movement, it will be quite easy to reel the names off if you want - and in the interests of balance, if you're going to stick the knife into Latvia, what about Vichy France, which played its own part in the holocaust?

    World War II should never be forgotten, but to use the events that happened in an occupied state during a global conflict for political point scoring is a tad disappointing in my book...

  • Comment number 92.

    Hey, least will have a good laugh as Gordon flaps his arma around whilst gasping for air thinking of an answer to a question that HE will not be able to answer.........Mr Brown have you lied to the public???????

  • Comment number 93.


    Sad that anything that doesnt meet with your nodding approval is somehow automatically "right-wing" ranting. People get steamed up, politics is an emotive business, it touches peoples everyday lives. You're darned right they're going to get cross. And if the politicians themselves of any flavour dont listen, wouldnt you rather that the safety valve be on here than out on the streets chucking traffic bollards through shop windows?

    You admonish Z/2 for his comment of "most have probably made their minds up which way they're going to vote" by saying how dare you assume which way I'm going to vote.

    I think you've made which way you're going to vote quite clear. So, his statement probably does hold some water, does it not?

  • Comment number 94.

    @26 I hate..well said, i am in agreement with what you wrote, i'd love to add to it but i'm afraid i am not as articulate as you, and wouldn't stand a chance of getting pass the mods.
    debate, debate, debate, hummph, gordon brown absolutely has no idea how to debate, i will leave it there, as the above will apply, and i really don't see a debate happening.
    as for the eu, the irish have made a big mistake, perhaps europe will get a taste of the troubles??? sadly voting ukip will not help Britain 'yet' so i hope that whatever Cameron has up his sleeve should all countries be rattified if elected at next GE, will be substantial. if not, ukip will be a must.

  • Comment number 95.

    #87, oldnat wrote:
    "81. fairlyopenmind
    "it's hard to see how major "national" parties within the devolved countries could be kept out of any debate."

    I think you should change your monicker to veryopenmind! Of course, the reality is that the debate discussion is nothing to do with anything other than party advantage for the dominant British parties."

    Oldnat, I just think it's daft that, since Labour pushed through Scottish devolution, they would not accept the realities of a separate parliamentary grouping who could still send MPs to Westminster.

    I still think it was a "back-of-a-fag-packet" bit of legislation, but I'm used to that from the Blair/Brown legacy... "Reform of the House of Lords" and the "Supreme Court" spring to mind. Laws that unleash Ofsted inspectors, so a couple of policewomen (who obviosuly have CRB clearance) being prevented from looking after each other's children.
    That sort of thing.

  • Comment number 96.

    95. fairlyopenmind
    "a couple of policewomen (who obviosuly have CRB clearance) being prevented from looking after each other's children."

    I've seen some references to that case, but not any detail. Have you a link? Seems to be a peculiarly English bit of insanity! We have our own separate bits of insanity of course :-)

  • Comment number 97.

    66 - Yes a woman of substance....more substance, I suspect, than the man to be found currently resinding in 10 downing Street - and yes, I would be happy to "give him some stick" - chance would be a fine thing, though......

  • Comment number 98.

    Yes Mr Robinson, an honest and open debate on policies and long-term strategies, with our thoroughly immoral, self centred and out of touch MuPpets as participants on TV would be most interesting don’t you think? Would it be live, perchance, unscripted and overseen by an impartial umpire who made all of the participants answer the questions posed to them by an audience of ordinary citizens?

    However, I suspect that there is about as much chance of any such live TV debate taking place as there is of Osama bin Laden entering a pork pie eating competition in America.

  • Comment number 99.

    93 Fubar.

    If you find politics too emotive you should go and lie down.Especially
    as you are foolish enough to reinforce my original criticism of Z2 which is prior knowledge of my voting intentions.

    You say it is obvious you know the way I am going to vote.What presumption! People like you try to appropriate and pre-empt other people`s choices. Either you have the worst kind of authoritarian instincts, or are just plain stupid. I leave you to choose.

  • Comment number 100.

    96. oldnat
    "I've seen some references to that case, but not any detail. Have you a link?"

    Ban on policewomen looking after each other's toddlers set to be scrapped as minister orders review


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