Dave, debates, and depth

Tonight, the UK has its first ever televised Prime Ministerial debates. It’s history in the making. No general election in the future will fail to feature live debates. That, of course, doesn’t make them a good thing.

The Presidential debates are a huge thing in the United States. But this is the United Kingdom. It’s a monarchy. We don’t pick a president. Unless you live in Witney, Sheffield Hallam or Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, you don’t vote for Cameron, Clegg or Brown. Each constituency is sovereign. There’s no national vote. So you’d be better served by going to local hustings and seeing the candidates where you live.

That said, the debates are going to happen. We are going to get to listen to the three party leaders and listen to what they have to say. Cameron has already been complaining about the process today. He’s not happy about the rules. The same rules that his party negotiated. It seems like mind-games. Not very good mind-games, but still an attempt. Dave said

“I hope the public won’t feel short-changed. It looks like we might only get through eight questions. I do public meetings around the country and I try and get through about 25 questions in an hour. I do worry that we may have ended up with a format that’s going to be a bit slow and sluggish.”

Which, first, isn’t the best complaint. But secondly, tells you an awful lot about his normal meetings and his normal answers. At ‘Cameron Direct’ meeting, he answers 25 questions an hour. That’s a question and answer every 2.4 minutes. Think about that. How much of an answer can he give to a serious question on the economy or healthcare or policing in 2.4 minutes? Could it be that Cameron delivers nothing but soundbites with no depth at all? Could it be that Cameron is nervous at having to offer longer, more detailed answers?

Only time will tell. I’m going to the off-license to get some supplies so I can decide for myself whether or not debates are a good thing.

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