Who will benefit most from TV leader debates?
Political Tweeters lit up the Twitterverse with jubilation following the news that the next General Election will make history as there will be three television debates between the three main party leaders hosted on the BBC, ITV and Sky.
I have some reservations which mainly consist with sympathy for the position of minority parties. I also worry that in the future they will become a way for broadcasters to curry favour or increase the importance of money in politics a la America. Also, there is a danger of the further permutation of politics with the soundbite culture especially as the media agenda for the next few days will be endless debate and counterargument over who ‘won’. However, those aside I think who will benefit is an interesting question.
Conventional wisdom has it that the big winners will be David Cameron and Nick Clegg. At least in Clegg’s case it might raise awareness of who he actually is one would think. However, Cameron’s case is less clear and not all Conservatives see this as an automatic win for their party. Tim Montgomerie is certainly skeptical. He tweeted;
Very disappointed that the Conservatives have agreed to election debates http://bit.ly/6MVxye – we can only lose from them 4 minutes ago from web
Presumably, he is worried that Cameron will look as out of touch with ‘ordinary people’ as he is currently perceived to be. Meanwhile, what will worry Labour is the lack of charisma of their leader however, Brown has become noticeably more confident in the recent rounds of PMQ’s and this might lead to his sourness becoming an asset against the flashy Cameron.
Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats are not guaranteed a win because their very participation marks us out as part of the establishment and Clegg could easily be dwarfed by the other two. Participation will also force us to solidify our narrative and the somewhat schematic approach we have to policy-formulated-to-grab-headlines (which vanishes soon after its served its purpose) may well be exposed.
All sides are presuming an automatic win in the case of TV debates but I guess we will just have to wait and see.