Would it be appropriate for Miliband to circle Cameron, making chicken noises as excuse after excuse emanates against the TV debate schedule? Probably not given he is running to lead the country, but the broadcasters still face a continuous struggle to get Mr Cameron on board with the current debate regime as last week the Conservative leader stated that he would only take part in one, and when his schedule allowed.
The Labour leader has been attacking Cameron over the matter ever since the Prime Minister first showed disingenuous ambitions to provide the public with these debates. Miliband points to the fact that before the 2010 General Election, Cameron ferociously fought to have the studio time, claiming that they were essential to democracy.
So, is Mr Cameron really running scared? It could be argued as more of a tactical ploy; but the façade of his arguments against the proposition are so weak, there is no subtlety left in the approach anymore.
Throughout several weeks of discussion in the Commons, Cameron stated that he would not be prepared to take part in a debate with Labour, the Lib Dems and UKIP, without the presence of the Green Party. However, now the Green Party have been added to the plans of a seven-party debate, alongside SNP and Plaid Cymru – why is he now leaping to new excuses?
Cameron called for the inclusion of more parties in order to promote democracy and equal opportunity, arguing that the other national parties should have the platform to advocate -how kind. Unfortunately, the sceptical side within me cannot be contained in saying that more parties on the stand, means less focus on Cameron. He’d happily do things the traditional British way; putting his feet up with a cuppa and watching the rest go at it. Unfortunately he is forgetting that he is the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. He does not want to debate in the month of April leading up to the Elections, which happens to be when the party manifesto will have been revealed. Therefore, not only is Cameron essentially refusing an opportunity to defend the Conservatives’ record, but also unwilling to expose his party’s plan for the future to scrutiny by the British public.
Astonishingly, Cameron seems to be ruling out a head-to-head debate with Miliband completely. This is extraordinary given that, whether it be independently or part of a coalition, one of Labour or the Conservatives are going to be in power come May. Many politicians argue that the proposition is not worthwhile, with the country’s issues needing detailed discussion not ‘TV posturing’. These debates need to happen, if anything, to shorten the dispiritedness between a large majority of the public and the political system. Many people are unaware of ongoing affairs and policies. TV debates provide the opportunity of reaching a different and wider set of people; who potentially don’t follow political reading.
Of course, debates are tough – the spontaneity places the leaders under great pressure. But this is the nature of the job when the leadership of the county is at stake. One might be partially confused, given Cameron’s strength of public speaking and ability to advocate under stress. He certainly looks more composed and forceful than his opponents for a majority of the time. However, he may be worried that he might have to answer a question directly, rather than diverting to tangents to highlight areas where the Tories have done well, as seen constantly on Prime Minister’s Questions.
Ed Miliband, on the other hand, wants to be taken seriously. There have been a couple of incidences whereby people have questioned his leadership and have asserted that he is not fit to be leader of the country. Many of his policies have been disregarded due to a lack of evidence behind proposals – accordingly, the debates provide the perfect platform for him to thoroughly explain himself. That said, this could make or break the Labour leader – given that if he doesn’t have every angle covered, the other politicians on the stand could rip him apart. Miliband needs to establish that connection with the people and highlight that he does have a charismatic nature; so far we have mainly seen him looking as if he is unduly constipated as he addresses the camera.
The broadcasters need to stay strong against Cameron’s stubbornness. The BBC have a duty to remain impartial by not ‘empty chairing’ the Tory leader, but his absence from the debates will only damage his reputation in the eyes of the public, rather than cater to his campaigning efforts.
By Dre Efthymiou