Leaders debates: the old politics runs away from the new
The old guard, in the media and the public too, will raise a cynical smile about the shambolic row over the leadership debates: "Well, this is politics. It's dirty. Get over it." But why should we get over it? We're sick of the old politics, let's have something new
Isn't it amazing how our political classes, who claim they are moving with the times, suddenly revert to old form the moment a general election is called and crunch time comes to determine who will ultimately wield power in Britain.
In the row about leaders debates, there doesn't appear to be a principled man or woman amongst them. Pure self-interest governs every thought, every word, every piece of brinkmanship.
The old guard, in the media and the public too, will raise a cynical smile: "Well, this is politics. It's dirty. Get over it."
But why should we get over it? The specifics of how we handle the accountability of our politicians obviously aren't written in stone. But the general principle that the politicians should be held to the maximum level of accountabilty should be.
What are they playing at? There is no excuse at all for not having all manner of leadership debates both before and during the campaign. Among thousands of hours of campaigning, why are they all so afraid of four or five hours max of head to head debates?
In a sense, the way the current debate is being phrased is very old politics in itself. Of course the leaders should debate amongst themselves, but what about a whole series of live televised debates between each individual leader and the public directly?
The technology is there, and we all know it. During every week in the campaign the leader of every party represented in parliament should be subject to a live-streamed, live on TV, moderated discussion, not through the Question Time style invited audience, but via phone, email, twitter, facebook etc with the voters themselves.
Make it once a week during the campaign for each leader; make it twice a week. Make it one hour long; make it two hours long. These are just details. But the general principle is that we have moved into a new era in which the public can and should be invited to the party.
In fits and starts, it's there already of course. We'll get a bit of the above during this campaign, but not nearly enough.
The wider point is that our entire political system needs revamping. From the corrupt and unaccountable House of Lords through to the broken first-past-the-post electoral system, it's no longer fit for purpose.
We're not going to get that changed in the next few weeks. But we could still move the needle in the right direction.
We do that by insisting that the leaders not only debate each other, but debate the public too. How precisely do we do it?
Welcome to the new politics. Those details are up to you.
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