In the run up to one of the most anticipated GeneralElections in recent memory, a furore is brewing over a televised debate betweenthe leaders. Admittedly, we live in an age where technology dominates themedia. Surely then a televised debate is the more modern way of voters beingfully involved with the election. But does it really serve a political purpose?

Prior to the 2010 General Election there seemed to bewidespread approval of the introduction of televised debates. After years ofcampaigning, the electorate could finally scrutinise party policies. Equallybroadcasters could generate interest in mainstream politics that had perhapswavered in recent years.

Among several polls such as YouGov, David Cameron never wona debate outright. Rather it was Nick Clegg who benefitted from the increasedprofile. A poll in the Times even had him 22 points ahead of Cameron. From suchresults, one would think that the Liberal Democrat leader had converted voters.According to the most immediate poll prior to the election though, votingintentions for the Lib Dems stood at just 22% behind Labour with 31% and theConservatives with 37%.

So on the back of a mediocre performance in the TV debates,David Cameron formed a Conservative led coalition. So clearly viewers of thedebate had found Nick Clegg impressive enough on TV but not so impressive thathe took a majority vote. From these results it seemed that voters had madetheir minds up before the debate and were not going to be swayed.

What was the point of the debates then? Was it sheercuriosity or was it the electorate wishing to see a political slanging match?Either way, it held little political justification and was perhaps not aconstructive use of resources.

The Conservatives seem to be all too aware of their leader’sfailings in the debates as they seem desperate to avoid a repeat. His previousline that the Green Party should be included in such a debate is too much of asmokescreen to hold any truth. If it was, why is he not championing the cause ofevery other fringe party in the land? It seems that voters know the real reasonCameron is keen to avoid a debate. His name is Nigel Farage.

Like him or loathe him, the cigar smoking, pint drinkingUKIP leader would surely thrive under the spotlight. Recent appearances onQuestion Time and even ‘Have I got News for You’ has shown that he can turnheads. Other mainstream leaders must worry that the publicity concerning Farageand UKIP would skyrocket if he took part in the debates. As the results of thelast debates and the fortunes of Nick Clegg show, a performance in thesedebates can lead to an influence in Government.

If Farage were to be involved however, it would only showthat these debates are not about politics. It is simply a sideshow. This wouldwork to Farage’s favour but would not increase the political legitimacy of theelection as a whole.

Personally speaking, I for one worry that the Britishelection system is regressing to that of our transatlantic cousins. USPresidential election debates have been longstanding for over fifty years.Elections are won and lost by them. As Richard Nixon can tell you, sweat on aman’s face can cost the Presidency and as Ronald Reagen can tell you a simplequip of “I am paying for this microphone” can hand you it.

As much as this clearly works for America, it does not workhere. For Britain to maintain political credibility, the General Electioncannot descend into a televised circus.