Primus inter pares

The leaders of the three biggest parties in England have agreed to a series of three debates in the next election. Alex Massie astutely raises some concerns, all of which are entirely applicable to our particular situation.

A Brown vs Cameron contest is all very well and good but it turns the election into a contest between competing personality cults. That being so, far from strengthening parliament (a good idea!) it weakens it by giving the Prime Minister an even greater “mandate”.

All this is perhaps inevitable and the debates are, in this sense, simply a recognition of the way the wind is blowing. Only a handful of voters will have the chance to vote for either Cameron or Brown but the debates will encourage all voters to ignore the competing claims of their local candidates and endorse instead the party, not the man (or woman). This is not the way to improve the quality of MPs.

In other words, whatever is useful (and entertaining) about the debates is countered by their drawbacks as we move towards the curious situation of electing a quasi-President via a parliamentary election. Britain will, of course and as is traditional, muddle through but the more Presidential politics becomes, so the case for rather more wide-ranging reforms becomes stronger.

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