Are the TV Debates really the way forward for our democracy?

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The Leaders’ TV Debate has been grabbing headlines and television ratings for the last few weeks and has been watched by millions. However, is it a good idea? The ninety-minute show gives us a snapshot of the views of our potential leaders and their parties but it may not necessary give a truly fair representation.

The recent so-called ‘Clegg-mania’ has gripped the country but are these new Nick Clegg fans sure of what he and, more importantly, the Liberal Democrats really stand for? In some respects the debate is one-dimensional in that it only touches on policies and doesn’t really get down to the nitty-gritty, the smaller details that those who are knowledgeable of politics would know. These people may vote for Nick Clegg just because he has a pretty face and is a great orator, but not because of what he stands for and what he will do. The TV debate is encouraging what the press are calling a competition of characters; we are voting for which leader we simply like the most on the night and avoiding more local issues of who will be your local MP. I am sure most viewers are not even aware of  their names.

The TV debate is a fantastic means of getting people interested in politics and the elections, as many will not even consider voting due to their ignorance. However the information given is not enough to make an informed vote; some will only see one of the three debates and base their choice entirely upon it without seeing the whole picture. This is best seen with the raising popularity of Nick Clegg (note that I say Nick Clegg and not the Liberal Democrats) who amongst the majority of the population was previously an unknown. Now due to the debates he is making front page news and topping opinion polls: perhaps the TV debate is making too much of an influence.

The TV debate may not even be encouraging people to vote who know what they are voting for. One first time voter even commented that politics are “not exactly in OK magazine and that’s the only thing I read”; I do not think this voter and many like her really understand what they are voting for and its importance. The debates should be viewed as a means of introducing first time voters to politics or of developing our pre-standing views but it is only with extra research in the history and manifestos of the leading parties much be taken before one can vote knowingly.

For the next five years, when the candidate we choose will be in government, will possibly be the most important five years of our lives. As students we will be making our first steps into the working world in the coming years. We will be attempting to get on the property ladders. Many will also be settling down and starting a family. All issues that will be affected by the decision we as a country make on May 6th. So those five years cannot be dictated by just ninety minutes of television, just being influenced by the leader of a party there may result in five terrible years for this country and us.

In a positive light the televised debate is a way in which those who are interested and informed in politics can receive the views of the leading parties to come to an educated conclusion when voting. At least first time voters basing their views on the debate will be much more knowledgeable than those watching the wholly patronising pseudo-political shows chaired by Dermot O’Leary – a man who the BBC must see as trendy enough to entice young voters to blindly vote on May 6th. Unfortunately this is not the case with many of the viewers who will use the debate as their sole influence, and could possibly lead to bad decisions being made in the election.

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