Why Live Television Debating is Good For UK Politics

By admin ~ May 4th, 2011 @ 10:31 pm

The next general election in the UK will feature a live television debate on key manifesto questions from a selected studio audience with all three of the major party leaders on stage at the same time debating the issues. This type of event has been part of American Politics for many years but this will be the first time this sort of live debate has been a part of the UK election process. A good or bad performance in this live TV debate could make or break an election campaign for the party in the same way a keynote speech at their party conference can make or break an individual politicians career.

It is surprising that the Labour Party agreed to this type of debate when they refused to allow such live TV debating when they had the charismatic leader Tony Blair in charge. Gordon Brown, by admission of many political colleagues, is far less confident than Blair in front of the camera and appears slightly awkward in tough interviews. David Cameron and Nick Clegg will hope to expose this when the debate takes place. Both opposition party leaders are expected to be more at ease dealing with this type of environment than the Prime Minister.

Many political commentators have wondered why such a debate has been avoided by the party leaders. When local candidates stand to win their party members approval for the chance to stand for their constituency seat they must make speeches to the party members before a vote takes place. All Politicians go through these hustings and the format will be similar to the live debates the only difference being that television will be used to broadcast to the nation. For successful and proven politicians to continue to avoid this type of event would be strange as their careers depend largely on personality and connecting with colleagues and the public to win the support to obtain their roles.

For many voters who do not engage regularly in following politics this may be the only event they watch before deciding who to vote for. It is therefore going to be a very important moment in the campaigns of all three parties. It is almost certain that a live debate would be watched by a large TV audience across the UK and many of these viewers would be looking for a helping hand in choosing who to vote for. The debate would set out very clearly the different political parties opinion on specific matters of public interest. Anyone unsure on what each party planned to do if elected would have a better idea on who to vote for once hearing each leader describe their plans one after the other.

Local candidates may be a little worried that the performances by their leaders could have a knock on effect to their own hopes of election. For example, a terrible performance by Gordon Brown could see not only a surge in support for the Conservatives, but undo some of the good campaigning work done by a lower profile Labour party candidate working hard for election in their constituency.

However anything that captures the public interest and increases voter turnout is a good thing. The live debate programme may be the difference for many voters choosing to vote rather than allowing apathy towards politics and recent scandals like MP expenses to lead them not to vote at all. The TV channel that airs the debate will advertise the program as a key pre-election moment and use emotive newspaper coverage and video vignettes to encourage viewers to tune in.

This will force the debates to be a telling moment in the lead up to the election either solidifying a winning campaign or causing a swing in the polls that could be decisive for the underdog.
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