I agree. There is a growing appetite and many more voters today use leaders’ appearances on television, whether in head-to-head debates or in other formats, to get the information they need to make an informed decision.
I feel that the current situation, with horse-trading between the parties and a sense that no one really knows whether debates will happen or not—people set out their criteria, and we cannot be sure how serious anyone is about wanting the debates to take place—is not helpful and does not reflect well on our democratic process. I therefore believe that it is time to embrace debates and formalise the process so everyone is clear about the expectations. They should be taken out of the political sphere and put into the hands of an independent body that can hopefully manage the process much better.
Sky News laid out some proposals for the independent commission that is proposed to manage this process. It said that the commission should be established by parliamentary statute and funded solely by agreed contributions by UK broadcasters—I am sure we would all agree that the taxpayer should not fund the commission or the debates; they must be paid for by the broadcasters. It said that the commission should be made up of former judges, civil servants, broadcasters and other public figures who have experience in the media and politics, and overseen by a Cross-Bench peer with relevant experience, and that it should ensure that the general public have the opportunity to see the leaders of the political parties that could form a Government debate each other by including at least one televised debate between electorally realistic candidates for Prime Minister before every general election. I believe that those sensible proposals would put in place a framework that would ensure that the process is managed well and happens in an orderly and fair manner.