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Henry G Manson on the argument over the TV debates

January 21st, 2013

Does Cameron fear Farage?

David Cameron has argued that UKIP should effectively be excluded from televised leaders’ debates at the next election. His defence is “the TV debates should be about, you know, the parties that are going to form the government, in my view.”

He really will have to do better than this. The Prime Minister gives the impression of defending a cosy cartel of parties (aided by first past the post) that is conspiring against the public. Worst of all, it suggests David Cameron he is unwilling and even scared to debate Nigel Farage. He has good reason.

Thinking back to 2010, Cameron underperformed in the first two leadership debates allowing Nick Clegg to boost his standing (temporarily) and cut into the then Opposition leader’s appeal. Some have argued this helped deprived the Conservatives of a majority. Meanwhile Thursday’s BBC Question Time is to go by, Farage has a good chance of landing some serious blows on Cameron. Whereas the Conservative leader will have to defend his government and also the coalition, Farage will be able to indulge in his brand of freewheeling populism.

    The New Statesman highlight 54% of voters say UKIP should be included in the debates. Next year’s European elections will probably result in UKIP finishing ahead of the Conservatives in either 2nd or 1st if the betting is to be believed. Inclusion in debates is clearly a case to be seriously considered in this scenario. What is possible is that come the next election UKIP could be polling more than the Liberal Democrats, who almost certainly will expect to be part the televised proceedings. Can that be right?

Tory Chairman Grant Shapps and David Cameron have previously argued that the leaders’ debates are a distraction from the democratic job in hand and “sucked the life” out of the campaigns.

Now their tune has changed and UKIP don’t have a right to be there. The Prime Minister is not at all worried about the distraction from the campaign. He is not concerned about Ed Miliband or the ghost of Nick Clegg’s past performance. David Cameron lies is in fear of Nigel Farage.

Henry G Manson