After years of pressure, it seems that the UK is to have leaders debates for the next general election - and, one would expect, each election after that, for obvious reasons. (My £5 is on 25 March 2010 for the GE, but my political betting record has been poor this year, so I wouldn't take that as a tip
Personally, I'm against the idea, for a number of reasons:
- unlike the US (the obvious comparison), the UK does not directly elect the Prime Minister. Rather, each party chooses its leader as it sees fit, the electorate elect constituency MPs and the party with the most MPs forms the government - with their leader as PM. It's not even as if the three party leaders will face one another in any way at the ballot box: all three are in (absurdly) safe seats and are guaranteed to be returned to parliament.
- this cements in public consciousness the gradual centralisation of power in the executive and the office of PM in UK politics. Even accepting that the three leaders are suitable figureheads for their parties continues this trend.
- such a debate does nothing much towards accountability for the leaders, let alone the constituency MPs they are supposed to represent.
- the end result is that, inevitably, the trend towards choosing party leaders based at least as much on their televisual appeal and charm as on their abilities as competent administrators, radical reformers or whatever other attributes we might value.
All that said, I'll bet they will be heaps of fun to watch...