Story is here.
Basically Corbyn wants more debates to take place outwith Parliament, PMQs etc and for them to take place in the media, suggesting that since engagement was up last time because of them, they should be held annually as a means to hold politicians to account.
I wonder if he’ll crowd source his debates as well. Now that I’d want to watch.
But in all seriousness this seems like another of those ideas that sounds better than it is. Be better if it had a chance of being implemented. No government left/right or centre would ever agree to this. Seems like the kind of thing that will gel with those who just want to roast Cameron more than it’d be a platform for sincere debate. PMQs with just these two for an hour?
What about other parties? Contrary to popular/trendy belief, Corbyn isn’t actually the voice of all (or even most) of “the people.” I can definitely see them having to get involved or engaging in some cheap posturing of their own.* Trouble is that a 7-way debate with different parties isn’t entirely coherent. More 7-way debates, or debates between various combinations of the leaders? No, thanks.
If the study could tell us why people found them engaging, the numbers would be more interesting. Maybe people were more engaged because the debates were a unique event. Having them more frequently could take that way.
This leads me think that it isn’t a real idea. It’s a good short-term political “move” that serves the grand purpose of posturing; fits with his whole “we need to have the debate” spiel, but it’d be more effective to raise this closer to 2020. Although Cameron isn’t even meant to be standing then so I don’t really see the practical point.
Matter of fact, if I could advise Corbyn I’d suggest he focus on resolving “the debate” he’s encouraged within his own party first. Then he can develop and actually communicate a coherent message before subjecting it to a challenge in a media/political “debate” (read, “spectacle”) more than is already the case. Corbyn: you need to win the debate. You’re still trying to even have it inside your own party.
And aside from repeating that it will “hold politicians to account,” how will it actually do so? As per usual, no reasoning is provided. It is merely claimed and asserted that this will be “more democratic” and “help hold politicians to account.” I don’t know about you, but the radio/phone in approach, e.g., doesn’t seem particularly powerful a means of holding politicians to account. It may be a great way for grievances to be aired from members of the public, but this isn’t the same thing as holding representatives to account. How will people passively watching a televised debate involving politicians making conflicting claims at each other help hold anyone to account?
Much as I hate to be the downer trying to cut through all the politico stuff here, I do like to bear in mind the economic adage that there are no solutions, only trade offs. So when people can only see the upsides of some proposed policy (I’m being generous by calling this a policy, and many comments where ecstatic about the idea), it’s usually a sign that they haven’t really thought it through. Besides — the problems are the most interesting part; “solutions” are a dime a dozen. Just ask anyone you know and they’ll give you one.
Overall I think this would be costly and unnecessary. Assuming it even awakens everyone from their political slumber, in the long run I don’t think people would watch it, find it interesting, or, most importantly, learn much. Some people just don’t like football, so giving them the chance to watch more football isn’t really going to do it for them — the stats on “engagement” would be more interesting, e.g., if they could tell us what people did with their new found interest, and why. Did they go off to learn about stuff, just have a chat with like-minded people, or just tick some boxes for some academic study?
Personally I’d rather our leaders spend more time in their constituencies listening to the people they do represent, rather than engaging in political theatre to trade rhetoric over the tele in some sort of pseudo-Presidential format. I think that would bring them closer to the public than a studio-staged debate.
I’d also rather they spend the resources on the education system — encouraging people to read all those unscientific and useless subjects like political philosophy, civics, economics etc instead of most of their political “awareness” (yes, it’s a buzzword now; just what we need more of) coming from an activist, politician or the media, all of which generally epitomise what it means to be biased, partisan, have an agenda and so on.
Personally, I’d rather these ideas were given more airtime instead.
And, though much as I myself may enjoy some of these debates from time to time, ultimately I think they mostly benefit the politicians involved. I don’t really watch them to learn about the issues, but rather just where the parties stand on them, and in particular, their communications strategy. They’re not a great source of information on the actual issues. More of a source on the stage personality of the leaders and the general platitudes they think will win their demographics over.
Plus, as I’ve mentioned, not everyone is keen on politics — part of this is might be ignorance regarding the substantive issues, part of it is the nature of these media spectacles, and part of it is simple disinterest or subjective value (i.e., where people prefer to spend their time).
In a sense I think we need to come to terms with the fact that levels of political awareness or knowledge will always be limited. We should try to improve them, but having more debates between politicians in the media isn’t the way to do this, even if people surveyed said they liked it last time around (let’s face it, you can make opinion surveys get you whatever answers you like).
We’ve had loads of these already over decades, across programming and across issues with little change. Question Time, The Daily Politics, or for the hardcore viewer there’s the Parliamentary Committee Debates. Hell, even Supreme Court judgements are video recorded nowadays — it’s already there and available.
This new politics continues to sound a lot like, quite literally, more of the same.
*Good ol’ Farage is already jumping on the bandwagon: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/nigel-farage-challenges-jeremy-corbyn-to-a-television-debate-on-eu-membership-a6789406.html
Update as at Aug 2016: It seems Corbyn is getting his debates — just not with Cameron. Instead he faces a leadership challenge following a vote of no confidence by the PLP passing with 80% of the PLP in favour.