Thursday 15 April 2010

Cameron's super-soundbite strategy

David Cameron's attempt at pre-debate mind games may come off as a little more, shall we say, Rafa Benitez than Fergie or Mourinho.

One referee, Adam Boulton has given him a verbal warning for challenging the rules, saying that Cameron's team pushed for tight restrictions in the negotiations.

And David Cameron's alter ego Alastair Campbell has also blogged that breaking the don't debate the debates rule suggests the Tory leader is confusing the role of the principals and the spinners.

But isn't there something else rather odd about Cameron's specific challenge.

He said:

"I hope the public won't feel short changed.

It looks like we might only get through eight questions.

I do public meetings around the country and I try and get through about 25 questions in an hour.

I do worry that we may have ended up with a format that's going to be a bit slow and sluggish.

We've got to make sure the public feel they are getting their questions answered.

Do the maths: Cameron is saying that he tries to answer a question every two and a half minutes on his own.

So what he can't understand is why the debate might allocate up to ten minutes on an issue, when there are three party leaders answering rather than one.

It's not all about you, Dave!

If you were to take seriously this flimsy point about the democratic value of answering as many questions as possible, however quickly, Cameron would appear to be advocating that the debate would do more for democratic engagement and scrutiny if nobody ever got more than 45 seconds to say anything about anything.

David Cameron's decision yesterday to turn down a prime-time BBC 1 Panorama interview with Jeremy Paxman, which adds to doubts as to whether Gordon Brown will accept a similar invitation, adds credence to Daniel Finkelstein's warning that the debates, widely welcomed as a democratic breakthrough, could yet end up meaning less detailed democratic scrutiny overall.

1 comment:

Alex C-D said...

Easy to understand why Dave doesn't want to do this - much like the debates, he has little to gain and everything to lose. Surely Brown should accept the invitation, and then spin it (not unjustifiably) as 'PR man Cameron runs scared from tough grilling, doesn't want his ill-judged policies on tax and public services put under sustained scrutiny' etc etc?