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Can we now cross this one off?

October 18th, 2009

Will the debate NO backers win their bets?

A fair bit of political news in the Sundays but the one most affecting the betting markets is the report by Melissa Kite in the Sunday Telegraph about the inter-leader talks over the formats for the proposed general election TV debates.

There’s been a fair bit of betting not only on whether these will take place but who will be the chair and even which of the leaders, according to post-debate polling, would be “deemed the winner”.

    I’ve been in the “there will be NO Debate” camp and took as much as Ladbrokes would allow me at 7/4 a couple of weeks ago that “NO live televised debate between the three main UK party leaders to happen before the next General Election”

The problem is that each of Clegg/Cameron/Brown wants different things and as long as the Tories have double digit poll leads there’s absolutely no point in putting anything at risk by allowing the debates.

Kite reports: “…Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats are accusing the Tory leader of “backing down” after months of calling for a television debate..Mr Cameron has proposed the most slimline option, involving one debate with all three leaders. But Mr Brown has told broadcasters he wants at least six. He and Mr Cameron would go head to head in one, Mr Brown would face Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, in another while Mr Cameron would face Mr Clegg in a third. Then there would be three more debates between Mr Brown and Mr Cameron focused on a different issue each time, such as the economy…In addition, both Labour and the Lib Dems are pressing for a separate debate between the Chancellor Alistair Darling, the shadow chancellor George Osborne and the Lib Dem treasury spokesman Vince Cable, as well as a foreign policy debate between the Foreign Secretary and opposition foreign affairs spokesman.”

Cameron would appear to be following the Tony Blair plan from 1997. Agree the principle but let the notion get bogged down by the detail. Who can blame him?

Certainly he’s helped by the Downing Street proposal to have six separate sessions – this appears loopy and suggests that Brown’s advisers might not want it either.

The real issue here is who’ll win the “No debate” spin war? On current form you’d put your money on the Tories.

Mike Smithson