What impact will the TV debates have?
Apologies for the lack of blogging but, along with the rest of us, have been busy campaigning. However, I am back to ask what will be the $64,000 question over the next 24 hours. Of course, the media will insist that the impact of the debates will be huge but they would say that wouldn’t they because they have a huge vested interest in puffing-up their own self-importance and promoting themselves. However, there are good grounds for suggesting that their impact could be significant.
Firstly, this is obviously a tight race and because it lacks, at the moment, the prospect of a decisive victor it is a contest begging for a killer blow or a fatal stumble. Obviously, the TV debates are potentially the forum for such a occurence. Secondly, the novelty factor will doubtless, at least for the first one, virtually guarantee a high viewer turnout. So, obviously the exposure will be high and the above indicates that alot of people are still to decisively make up their mind one way or the other.
It is commonly assumed that Nick Clegg will be the automatic winner of the debates because he is the leader most in need of media exposure. Also, it’s likely that Brown and Cameron will concentrate on knocking lumps out of each other and both have one eye on the prospect of a hung parliament so simply do not want to offend the Liberal Democrats too much. Both would be mistaken to take this approach because Brown needs to be weary of losing protest votes to the Lib Dems and Cameron needs to win back Lib Dem seats to win a secure parliamentary majority. However, the expectation of automatic victory often, is itself, the heaviest burden and paradoxically makes Clegg in many ways the person with the most to lose. Both the BBC and the IFS have picked holes in the Liberal Democrat manifesto today and, especially Brown’s advisers, should be priming him with these arguments. Sadly, that will have to wait until the economy debate which, in a rather wrongheaded way is the second, not the first in the series.
This election is up for grabs; the TV debates could be a turning point but they could just as easily turn-out to be a damp squip….