TV Debates: Where We Are Now


That faint sound you can hear in the distance is the laughing from 4 Matthew Parker Street, home of the Conservative Party, and Downing Street, home of the Prime Minister.

Within a week David Cameron has gone from the chicken who was bottling the TV debates with the other party leaders, to being in a position where he can legitimately call all of his opponents chickens.

The new proposals from the broadcasters is thus: two debates (one on the BBC, one on ITV), with seven parties taking part, and then one head-to-head between Cameron and Ed Miliband. Along with the Conservatives, Labour, the Liberal Democrats and UKIP, now the Green Party, the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru from Wales have been invited to join.

Why will Cameron and the Tories be laughing? Well, if the debates had gone ahead as originally planned, with the PM facing a showdown with Nigel Farage in a battle of the four main national parties, he would almost certainly have lost to the UKIP leader. The Tory result in this election will largely be dependent on voters wavering between them and UKIP. The original debate plan would have exposed Cameron’s weaknesses with these voters. It was the one thing the Tories wanted to avoid. Just look what Farage did to Nick Clegg in the debate before the Euros.

Instead, now there are only two Right-wing parties in the debates, and five Left-wing ones. Instead of the Right-wing vote being split, it is now the Left. Miliband could end up losing to the SNP with Scottish voters, to Plaid with the Welsh, to the Greens with English lefties and even to UKIP with English righties. David Cameron won’t be believing his luck.