NEW POLL: should we have a televised leaders’ debate in the UK?

by Stephen Tall on October 17, 2008

It’s not just the US electorate which has closely followed the three Presidential (and one vice-presidential) debates – much of the British political class has also been transfixed by the sheer theatre and high stakes involved in these face-offs.

In reality, all four debates have perhaps disappointed those expecting, or hoping for, ‘game-changing’ fireworks or gaffes from any of the candidates. Though as Martin Kettle put it in today’s Guardian:

Too many observers wait for someone to say something either utterly brilliant or staggeringly stupid. But that’s not what the debates are about. The real point of the debates is that they are opportunities to test the presidential timber of the candidate the viewers are probably going to vote for anyway.

I think this underestimates the role of the debates as soap boxes for the candidates; I’ve learned a fair amount about the policies of both Obama-Biden and McCain-Palin simply by listening to what they have to say, and that must surely be true of voters in the US, also, who will make up their minds in the process.

But enough of the US, here’s LDV’s new poll question: is it now time for the UK to introduce televised debates between the major party leaders prior to a general election? Your options are:

Yes, it is
No, it is not
Don’t know

The perennial argument agin doing so is that the British do not operate a presidential system. Which is, de facto, true, but strikes me as rather beside the point: the leaders are elected spokespersons for their parties, so it doesn’t seem too radical to suggest they might actually have a role in presenting and defending their policies in a debate with their rivals.

Well, that’s my view, what’s yours?