THE outline of arrangements for the three televised election debates between party leaders announced yesterday was much as expected. Two points are worth comment. The first is the way in which the problem of Scottish and Welsh party participation has been dealt with. By calling them Prime Minister Debates the impression is given that only those with a chance of holding that office can participate. But Nick Clegg?
It might be argued that in a parliament totally deadlocked between the two main parties Mr Clegg as leader of two dozen Liberal Democrats MPs might be asked to form a government of national unity, but neither the Scottish nor the Welsh nationalists are likely to be impressed by such reasoning.
The second point is the agreement that there should be a studio audience with questions taken from them. This sounds like a version of the BBC's Question Time in which audience participation and reaction is not always conducive to serious debate. In the American model the chairman reads out the selected questions to the candidates and since the audience is never seen its members do not try to become part of the show. There are dangers in the Questin Time model as was shown on the occasion that the British National Party participated and even a chairman as experienced as David Dimbleby could not keep the balance of the discussion under control.