Naked Politics Blogger
On 15th April 2010, three men in suits thrashed out the issues of the day, in the first ever televised leaders debates. Fast-forward to wednesday this week and it was rather a messier affair, with seven parties represented and whole lot more interruptions and finger-jabbing.
Here to stay
Love them or loathe them, It appears that TV debates ahead of national elections are here to stay. This is no thanks to the Conservatives who have done everything in their power to undermine them. Seven years ago, David Cameron confidently asserted he would debate the then Prime Minister Gordon Brown “Anytime, Anywhere”. This is in stark contrast to Theresa May, who refused to defend her record last night. Instead, May sent in the austere Home Secretary Amber Rudd to bat . Lib Dem Leader Tim Farron described Theresa May’s absence as a “shadow hanging over the election”. Its astonishing that any political party would want to duck out of the TV debates. in 2015 7.4 million people tuned into a similar seven-way Party Leaders’ debate. furthermore, 38% percent of people asked in a Panelbase survey, said that the TV event influenced their decision on how to vote.
“The Brexit Election”
When Theresa May called the snap election six weeks ago, she asked the British public to “strengthen her hand in negotiations” with a large majority. It is clear that the Conservatives expected discussions around brexit to dominate this campaign. This has not been the case. Only one question from the audience at the BBC Election Debate last night was directly related to Brexit. Indeed, last night, public services, economic inequality and security occupied far more airtime than Britain’s withdrawal from the EU. Some of the most heated exchanges were about climate change. Despite the best efforts of the Green Party, the environment has largely been missing from the conversation in this election. The delight on Caroline Lucas’ face (Green Party co-leader) was palpable, as a audience member of raised concerns about the US pulling out the the Paris Agreement on climate change. Even Amber Rudd distanced herself somewhat from the government’s record on climate change. Paul Nuttall was alone in cheering on President Trump for “putting America first”. It was a noisy debate with very little fresh material but important nonetheless.
And the Winner is….
A cursory glance at Twitter, shortly after 9pm last night would lead you believe that nearly everyone won. Liberal Democrats, Labour members and Greens were keen to tout their candidate as the “winner”. If social media accolades are the metric by which success is measured in a debate, then Caroline Lucas “won”. The Green Party Co-Leader, closely followed by Corbyn, gained the most twitter followers during the debate. The BBC Leaders debate seemed to leave a bad taste in the mouth of UKIP’s Paul Nuttall who suggested the audience was packed out by Momentum (the left-wing group that grew out of Corbyn’s leadership campaign). In truth, the real winner was democracy. The public deserve to see their would-be rulers held to account and have their policies scrutinised. The TV debates are fixture of UK General Elections for the the foreseeable future and that is no bad thing.