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  1. Politics
5 May 2010

Were the TV debates good or bad for UK politics?

Brown says they “clouded” policy discussion in the campaign.

By James Macintyre

Gordon Brown has criticised the overall effect of the leaders’ debates. Speaking to Radio 5 Live, he said:

The novelty of television debates clouded the need for policy to be debated . . . We’re making big choices about the NHS, schools and about jobs, industry and the economy. I feel we have not yet discussed sufficiently the risks to the economy in the future and the need for jobs to be secure.

Ironically, he is doing what other Labour figures have (rightly) accused Tory spin doctors of doing, and talking down the debates after — in the Tory case — they didn’t go their way. The Tories attacked the debates even though it was David Cameron who allowed them to happen, which is much to his credit.

Brown does have a point. Another long-term worry is that political party leaders will now be picked on the basis of how good they would be at performing in such debates in the future, and that is bad.

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But overall, surely they have breathed life into democracy and gone some way to limit the public’s alienation from an election that threatened to be overshadowed by cynicism. Perhaps, as with his original discussion with Mrs Duffy (remember her?), Brown is worrying too much. My impression is that, overall, he came across rather well in the debates, style issues aside.

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