Just in case you have been living under a rock or have spontaneously lost all television and Internet connection, the General Election is now less than 100 days away, and it seems politicians are straining in any way, shape or form to get their faces on TV and slogans in our heads.
It is believed that May will see one of the closest fought elections in British history; the Telegraph reports that there is less than one percentage point between Labour (33%) and the Conservatives (32%), the slow growth of Ukip and The Green Party has shaken up previous stronghold seats and Westminster Parties are still facing the repercussions of September’s Scottish Referendum. It would be foolish for anybody to try and predict what the House of Commons will look like come 8th May.
Therefore, when David Cameron spontaneously announced that he wouldn’t be taking part in televised election debates, it came as a surprise not only to everybody in the House of Commons, but the rest of the country. Had Cameron given up on a win? Given the uncertainty surrounding polling day, surely it would make sense for the PM to grab any airtime with both hands? Cameron’s objection was the exclusion of the Green Party, whilst an invite was extended to Nigel Farage and Ukip. However, proposals released in the last week have won over the PM, not only with the inclusion of Natalie Bennett, but with offers also given to the SNP and Plaid Cymru; Seven politicians in total.
It’s easy to see why the debates could now be considered pointless: Should the 2015 debates follow the same structure as the popular 2010 debates then in the name of equality all participants will be allowed one minute to introduce themselves at the beginning of the broadcast, and one and a half uninterrupted minutes to conclude their arguments at the end of the programme. With almost 20 minutes of a 90-minute broadcast consumed with formality how much policy discussion will we get to hear? Even if there is discussion on important issues such as the economy, welfare and the NHS, its potential merit is doubtful; with seven ego-filled podiums, grown up tantrums and a political shouting match seems inevitable.
Despite the fact that 80% of constituencies are safe seats, the debates will be of great importance in uncertain seats such as UEA’s own Norwich South. Norwich South has never been secure, regularly swinging from Labour to the Conservatives and then back again, before the student vote secured a Liberal Democrat MP in 2010. In May it’s predicted that the seat will either be retained by Labour, or, thanks to their growing popularity amongst students, provide the Green Party with their second MP. Undecided voters in uncertain areas such as this could find that one good speech from a candidate wins their vote and the party a place in Parliament.
Will these debates have any influence whatsoever on the final outcome of the election? Only time will tell.