The 2015 general election will be remembered for its quantity of TV debates, rather than the quality of its TV debates.
The seven-way election debate on ITV was novel, and not entirely a bad idea for one of the debates. However, what is the point of the follow-up debate on the BBC? This debate for the 2015 UK general election has been dubbed the “opposition leaders’ debate”. Yes, OK, it does fulfil that remit, but that doesn't provide a reason to watch it.
Firstly, for the English voter, two of the five leaders don't even attempt to represent us. The SNP are only fielding candidates in Scotland, and Plaid Cymru are only fielding candidates in Wales. So, for the English voter, there is only a reason to watch 3 of the leaders. However, at the moment, the combined number of MPs for the parties of two of those leaders is 3 MPs. Given that, between them Nigel Fage’s UKIP and Natalie Bennett’s Green Party only have 3 MPs, and Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP and Leanne Woods’ Plaid Cymru do not represent the English voter, it seems that the only reason for an English voter to switch on is to watch Ed Miliband. Now, if the only reason to switch on is Ed Miliband, then it is time to “turn on, tune, and drop out”.
However, pity the BBC, it had to have a TV debate for the 2015 election. The BBC needed to do something to create 2015 election news. Providing a TV debate is how a media outlet can actually create election news. Without a TV debate, the media have to wait for something exciting to happen in the election campaign for there to be election news.
Before TV debates, election news was unpredictable, and news outlets had to wait for something exciting or unpredictable to happen, such as a politician punching a voter. Yes, that really did happen back in 2001: John Prescott punched one of the electorate, because the voter hurled an egg at him.
However, with TV debates, the media can shape election news by creating the news.
Sadly, though, TV debates do not always create gripping election news. One of the most interesting things about the TV election debate on the BBC will be finding out what the viewing figures were for it, and what % of the TV audience it got on the night it was broadcast. #Election 2015