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22 December 2009updated 27 Sep 2015 2:28am

Tory bloggers split over TV debate

Will it be a lifeline for Gordon Brown or a chance for David Cameron to shine?

By Brenda Goh

Yesterday, Gordon Brown became Britain’s first* Prime Minister to agree to go head-to-head with other party leaders in three televised election debates. The announcement has prompted a flurry of reactions from Tory bloggers, among others.

They’ve pretty much placed themselves in two camps, with one side calling the debates a bad idea for David Cameron.

Over at ConservativeHome, Tim Montgomerie writes:

I am disappointed . . . Heading for a massive defeat, these debates are a lifeline for Gordon Brown.

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Elswhere, PoliticalBetting’s Mike Smithson and Gary Gibbon of Channel 4 News agree with Montgomerie’s assessment, suggesting that David Cameron has the most to lose. Framing the decision to enter the debates as a strategic move by the Labour camp, Gibbon says:

It gives the Liberal Democrats one hell of a leg-up, and that’s high in Labour’s calculations (they want the Lib Dems to do well against the Tories to limit Tory gains) but not as high as the fundamental point: Labour strategists think Gordon Brown might just make David Cameron look naive, not versed in the ways of the world and not a man to hold the tiller in dangerous times.

And Smithson says:

The big loser could possibly be David Cameron who, in my view, has made a seriously bad decision.

In the other camp, Iain Dale has expressed delight at the news and writes that the Conservatives should have more faith in their leader.

Of course these debates are risky for David Cameron. He will remember that in the head to heads with David Davis during the leadership contest he never really came out on top. But I have little fear of that happening again. Conservatives ought to have confidence in David Cameron’s ability to approach these debates in the right way.

Yet most, if not all, agreed that Clegg would emerge as the debates’ biggest winner, just from being seen on the same platform as the two larger parties.

Put simply by Charlie Beckett of the London School of Economics:

As for Nick Clegg, well, he’ll just be delighted to get some attention.

* Technically, of course, John Major was the first prime minister to agree to a debate, but plans for a 1997 head-to-head ultimately failed due to disagreements over the format.

 

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