The debate about the debates

Leader debate 2010, are we in for more of the same?

The big British broadcasters have made their pitch for party leader debates as we head to the 2015 General Election.

Leader debates are a new thing in this country. We had our first ones in 2010, 22 million people watched and judging by the polls they did change people’s views on how they would vote.

This year the hosts include Jeremy Paxman and David Dimbleby. Throw in an all-white, all-male list of political participants and the debates aren’t a sparkling reflection of 21st century UK.

What could the broadcasters be doing to modernise them? Some suggestions:

Different hosts: I’m not suggesting Davina McCall and Tess Daly here. Hosts like Faisal Islam, Laura Kuennsberg and Kirshnan Guru-Murthy would start to make the debates more relevant to the country today. They might just offer something new too.

Not just leaders: We don’t have presidential elections in the UK. Let us get a chance to see the depth that each party has at the top (or lack of it). Debates about health, the exchequer and the home office would also enable voters to see, in more detail, the choices on offer for the country.

Audiences: Get rid of those windbag audience members that want to score political points. An audience of undecided or floating voters would ask questions that are more likely to shine light on subjects rather than generate heat.

Social Media: Don’t embrace it! Bin it off! Don’t have that inevitable segment where the host says “and now let’s see what people are saying on Twitter…”. The Scottish referendum showed us that Twitter is horribly unrepresentative. If I want to know what people are saying on Twitter I have the capacity to look at Twitter myself.

Answer the Question: We all know politicians don’t want to actually answer questions. They like to pompously ignore them and say what they wanted to say anyway. Why not run an in vision poll where people can vote to say whether they think each participant is answering the question.

There’s going to be long debate about the debate already. The media love talking about the media. Right now all the discussion is about who should take part, it would be great if we could talk about what actually happens during the debates too.

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