The news that there are to be three live televised debates between the Party Leaders during the General Election campaign is both welcome and exciting (in that it will undoubtedly be a pivotal feature of the campaign). It is also ground-breaking – similar debates will now be a key feature in all future General Elections.
But why has it been agreed that Nick Clegg has to be part of the line-up?
The public will want to see a debate between the two individuals who may emerge as Prime Minister. They will want to hear exchanges between the two and get a clear understanding of what they would be like leading the nation. What possible relevance will there be to have a man there who stands absolutely no chance of being Prime Minister once the votes are counted?
If the Liberal Democrat wet dream of a hung Parliament is achieved, even then, the most likely result will be a minority government led by one of the other two Party Leaders.
And if there was to be a coalition after the election (and we really are into teenage fantasy-land here), then the most he can hope for – given that the only viable choice for a Liberal Democrat in a Great Office of State would be Vince Cable at the Treasury – is an honorific title like Lord Privy Seal (cue picture of an ermine-clad toilet with an acquatic animal sitting on it).
So we are being offered a debate between the two people who may become Prime Minister and a third person who might just under very limited circumstances hold a minor cabinet office (albeit with a pompous title).
What’s it going to do to the debate? Well, it can be guaranteed to hold up the flow, while he pretends to be Cameron-lite one moment and then a more radical voice than Labour the next.
The danger is that instead of a moment when across the country millions of people will be glued to their TV sets, informing themselves prior to exercising their democratic choice, instead they’ll get this guy they’ve never heard of, posturing widely, desperately trying to differentiate himself from the two main Prime Ministerial contenders, …. and they’ll turn off.
So, if there’s a low turnout, I’ll know who to blame.