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Time to empty-chair debate-dodging Dave?

empty-chairThe weak man of British politics is at it again. Having moved heaven and earth to try and avoid the television debates, Dave has now condescended to appear in a single contest with six other party leaders. In what can only be described as some of the barest face lies I’ve ever seen the witless Grant Shapps utter, on today’s Daily Politics he charged the broadcasters with the muddle. Never mind that Dave’s been body swerving this with the deft of a Conservative donor expecting a tax bill. Never mind CCHQ has thrown a Kalahari’s worth of sand into the face of the broadcasters to prevent this from happening.

As far as I’m concerned, I am of the school that the debates can suck life from an election campaign. A chance for an audience to interrogate leaders as per special Question Time episodes in 2001 and 2005 are preferable, in my opinion. However, the genie’s out the bottle and it is undeniable that in 2010 the debates reached a much wider audience than the 65% who did turn out. Anything that encourages political participation, even if it’s only voting, has to be take seriously and encouraged even if it runs counter to one’s own (slightly geeky) preferences.

With Dave though, we know accountability is his Achilles heel. The one discernible political talent he has is looking the part. There is no “Daveism”, no political creed that is uniquely his. This appalling and vicious government are a Thatcher tribute act, minus her zealotry and pretense to be acting in the best interests of everyone. Beneath the polish and faux decisiveness lies a man with no discernible talent. Completely absent is a burning passion to use his premiership to do things. Dave’s there because, in his own words, “I thought I’d be rather good at it“. Well Dave, you have proven “rather good at it” if you’re a tax-dodging parasite with tens of millions, give or take, in the bank. Take it from me, you’ve been pretty lousy for nearly everyone else. The problem for Dave is that being held to account will see his act dissolve into quivering jelly. Going up as an insurgent against Gordon Brown last time is different to having an appalling, indefensible record to stand on.

Here’s the strategic thinking behind conceding a single debate. Firstly, TeamDave have got to be hoping this will allow him to hide in plain sight. With seven participants the broadcasters will be under pressure to ensure each party has equal air time. If it’s an hour long, that just eight-and-a-half minutes for the Prime Minister. Secondly, as no doubt there will be squabbles between the other parties as discussion moves on to tuition fees, or Trident, or Scottish independence, this allows Dave to a) show the Tories are the only party with a serious plan to tackle the issues they think ordinary voters care about, and b) present themselves as a stable alternative to the “chaos” of three or four party coalitions of Labour & friends. Lastly, if the worst comes to the worst and all the other parties tacitly cooperate to attack Dave, Crosby will be banking on it looking like a dog pile with the poor old PM at the bottom. However, as we know the British love an underdog – there’s a chance he might emerge with the sympathy of an extra layer of voters. Then again, if Bennett, Clegg, Farage, Miliband, Sturgeon, and Wood choose to berate him over his abject cowardice things could get a bit messy.

Does this really matter in the grand scheme of things though? CCHQ are banking on the row about the debates being seen as a bubble issue that doesn’t resonate out there. They’re wrong. If BBC News website is an accurate barometer of such things, it is right now the most read item on site and will also be leading all the evening’s news bulletins. This is one of those issues that crosses over into the public imagination, and what are they seeing? A Prime Minister trying his damnedest to avoid debating his opponents. What a pitiful spectacle.

This article first appeared at All that is Solid


  1. Dave Crowley says:

    I actually think that the incumbent prime minister has a major disadvantage over all the other party leaders, as he has done something to be answerable for. All the other leaders are just oneabies who can promise the earth and criticise as much as they wish, as most of them will never in any tangible way, participate in a new government.
    I think it would be quite interesting to have a debate with all the challenging party leaders, without David Cameron, so we can see them put their policies forward, without them concentrating on a Cameron which hunt. Maybe they will all be able to assess what each other has done for the country in the past, which in labour terms is to bring us down to our knees, almost to the point of bankruptcy.

  2. Robert says:

    yea yea and Miliband is so needing to get him to debate, but Blair refused and Brown did until his rating got so low it did not matter.

    Cameron knows he may lose more debating then if he does not, so he will not and I do not blame him.

    The issues is today Miliband comes out to talk about pensioners for the first time in years, he left it so late now he needs to get people to vote. He speaks about pensioners now because on Monday the Tories did it, so here we have TIT for TAT politics you offer us a shilling we will offer 2/6 nobody is really taking this seriously any more.

  3. Dave says:

    I would totally agree Robert, but to look at it another way. Would you vote for such a mamby pamby crying faced person like Mr Miliband. This person dumped on his own brother so why should we trust him or a word he says.
    The last two prime ministers have been labour and totally useless, as I have said before “left us nearly bankrupt” so why would any sane thinking person vote for labour and particularly Miliband.

    1. Robert says:

      Miliband both of them Cameron or Clegg god you’d have to be desperate to vote for any of them.

  4. David Pavett says:

    This appalling and vicious government are a Thatcher tribute act, minus her zealotry and pretense to be acting in the best interests of everyone. Beneath the polish and faux decisiveness lies a man with no discernible talent. Completely absent is a burning passion to use his premiership to do things.

    Can it be seriously maintained that this government doesn’t pretend to be acting in the best interests of everyone?

    Burning passion or not, can it be argued that the Coalition has not managed to “do things”? From where I am standing the continued privatisation of public services, the transformation of the secondary sector, the further casualisation of Labour all look like doing things.

    P.S. Are grand-slam political debate between leaders, followed by acres of coverage about performance and who got it right on the night, not a form of anti-politics?

    1. Robert says:

      But you said it the continued sale of the services.

      sadly these days politics is still in the gutter and until it gets out and I see labour moving for the benefits of the working class I’m not voting for these tin pots rulers.

  5. James Martin says:

    I never watched any of them last time, couldn’t imagine anything more depressing and frustrating (particularly when there is no socialism on show), but then I never watch the likes of Question Time either, and hate the smug middle -classness of it all.

    But what I don’t understand with the arrangements this time round is why are the likes of the SNP and PC involved in the national debates when most people in the UK can’t vote for them anyway? Shouldn’t the nats just be on a regional debate with the leaders of the Welsh/Scottish sections of Labour, Tories, UKIP Greens etc.? Same with the NI only parties, given they all have suitable regional TV broadcasting stations for both the BBC and commercial stations to do this. Utter madness to have non-national politicians on nationals debates…

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