If ever anything showed the Tory and Lib Dem fear of having a serious debate on substance it is the outcome of three-party discussions about a joint plea to broadcasters to do more policy and less process. As of last night, senior people in the three parties agreed there was considerable merit in the idea of approaching the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 to make the point that whilst the TV debates had energised the campaign, the public service broadcasters were not doing the traditional reporting of the different arguments of the parties in all areas of policy. The Lib Dems were keen. Senior shadow cabinet members said they had been having exactly the same discussions at Central Office and were keen to change the terms of the debate so that the TV debates did not absorb such vast quantities of the election oxygen.
This morning, it was all change. First the Lib Dems, then the Tories, decided to leave things as they are.
And I wonder why. The Tories were the first to suffer from scrutiny of policy which led to Mr Cameron’s glide to power becoming a slow and rather directionless waltz. And now the Lib Dems are starting to stumble for precisely the same reason – Trident, DNA, immigration amnesties, cutting child tax credits. So just one party is left wanting a genuine debate focused on a serious policy debate. Ironically there are senior broadcasters arguing for the same thing. A united front from the parties might have helped them win the argument for more policy-based debate for the final stages of the campaign. It is a fascinating insight into the Tories and the Lib dems that they didn’t want it and prefer all the blah-de-blah to a proper and detailed examination of policy.
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