TV debates: could Cameron really be ‘empty-chaired’?

Broadcasters have stated that the three planned TV debates will go ahead, meaning that the Prime Minister could be 'empty-chaired'.

There are to be three debates in April, with two being between Labour’s Ed Miliband, the Lib Dem’s Nick Clegg, UKIP’s Nigel Farage, the SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon, Plaid Cymru’s Leanne Wood, the Greens’ Natalie Bennet - and David Cameron, if he turns up.

Furthermore, a third debate - the final one just days before the election - is to take place between Mr Cameron and Mr Miliband.

According to the BBC, Mr Cameron is only prepared to have a debate with the other six leaders. Furthermore, it is reported that he wants it in March not the currently proposed April.

The BBC has reported that the Labour leader has said this about the debates and Mr Cameron’s refusal to agree:

"I think the broadcasters are absolutely right to reserve the right to empty chair the prime minister.”

Could Cameron really be ‘empty chaired’?

Overall, the situation looks difficult to predict. The Prime Minister could potentially spin not turning up in a way to make him look more Prime Ministerial, by tending to important issues, however, with broadcasters willing to ‘empty chair’ him then that could just emphasise his lack of participation and make him appear as if he is running scared.

If the broadcasters fail to back down and Cameron plays his cards right then might be able to wrangle some sort of compromise, perhaps by moving the dates away from the general election or by cutting out one of the seven-way debates, but right now the Prime Minister does not look as if he is in a powerful position.

With just two months until the election, the debates could make a difference and if the Prime Minister does not show up then he may be looking back on them on May 8th with either a smile on his face or with regret in his eyes.

Of course the debates might have very little impact, but either way commentators will always wonder: ‘what if?’


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