Sky bids for public service kudos with party leaders’ election debate

Now here’s a interesting idea. The Times reports that David Frost may return to host a election debate with the main UK party leaders. This would break new ground. A leader’s debate, I mean, not David Frost. The Prime Minister of the day has always resisted mixing it with the other leaders on the grounds that s/he would be throwing away a natural advantage of incumbency. All we had in the past was Election Call phone ins ( I used to run them), set piece single interviews, and one Election Question Time in 2005, when each of the party leaders answered questions in turn. Blair took a mauling over Iraq and appeared not to know that GPs then didn’t allow patients to make appointments more than 48 hours in advance of the desired time in order to meet NHS targets. A few weeks ago, Peter Mandelson appeared to blow the gafff that Gordon Brown been toying with the idea of a leaders’ debate in a strategy for revival. The Times implies that the main runner for the debate is its stable mate Sky. However, I can’t see the parties settling for exposure on a mere digital channel, with its small audience.

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London