As an incumbent Prime Minister facing an opposition leader with as poor personal ratings as Ed Miliband’s, it has been apparent for a long time that the best outcome for David Cameron would be for no debates to take place. This is the case all the more so now that Ofcom has deemed Ukip to be a major party and the threat Nigel Farage poses to the Tories has become greater.
The Prime Minister and his advisers should have made it clear at an early stage that he would not be taking part, giving as a reason the way that the TV debates can totally disrupt the campaign. He would have taken a hit then, but it would have been mostly forgotten by the time election year opened.
As it is, the broadcasters have put forward formal proposals, and it appears that Cameron is trying to find any excuse to avoid them. Far better now to agree to go forward, rather than be tagged a “chicken” for the next four months.
Alex Singleton, associate director of The Whitehouse Consultancy and author of The PR Masterclass, says No
David Cameron’s position on the TV debates won’t have any noticeable effect on how people vote. The ostensible upset is mostly limited to the Westminster bubble, where politicos drool at the opportunity to see politicians on TV.
Yet they aren’t floating voters: they have already made up their minds. Cameron knows full well just how damaging the debates were to his party in the 2010 general election, by creating “Cleggmania” and ensuring a hung parliament. Why should he repeat the blunder? Doing so could give Ed Miliband a boost, by helping him to seem like a statesman. And it would allow Nigel Farage to amplify his message to the Tory grassroots.
By avoiding presidential-style debates, the election will be able to focus a little less on personalities, and more on those issues that matter to the electorate, such as economic growth, and the burden of taxation.