Let’s see Brown defend the Qaddafi decision in an election debate on TV…
As a general rule, I’m not so keen on the way Americans go about elections. My two biggest problems are that election campaigns go on for ever-longer periods and that our campaign finance rules are simply a way to dress up rampant corruption in volumes of complex code. I’m also not so keen on the ...
As a general rule, I’m not so keen on the way Americans go about elections. My two biggest problems are that election campaigns go on for ever-longer periods and that our campaign finance rules are simply a way to dress up rampant corruption in volumes of complex code. I’m also not so keen on the electoral college, which ought to show up on Antiques Roadshow any day now were it not for the fact that I suspect it wouldn’t fetch much of a valuation.
That said, one thing America does pretty well is debate. I say this despite the tenor of recent debates and the debating skills of recent candidates. Airing differences between candidates in a televised forum is an important innovation in democracy. And it is one that has yet to come to the United Kingdom.
That seems to be changing though with reports that Tory Leader David Cameron and the LDP’s Nick Clegg have now agreed to take part in a televised debate in the run up to the next election. Prime Minister Gordon Brown has thus far declined to join the fray and frankly, I don’t blame him. First of all, while television is good for those with “cool” personalities, it is not so good for people with none whatsoever. Secondly, as it becomes increasingly clear that Brown’s government gave a well-thought out wink and a nod to the Scottish Authorities release of Libyan bomber Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, it is clear his team has manufactured yet another issue that can’t work to their boss’s advantage no matter how he addresses it.
That said, yesterday’s statement that Brown “respected” the Scot decision to release the ailing terrorist certainly wasn’t the way to calm the uproar over a mishandled mess that combines elements of placing compassion for a murderer over justice for his victims, alienating the U.K.’s principal ally and, no matter how many denials are made, currying favor with Libya’s crackpot leader in exchange for better relations. On some level, for all the mouthwash about Megraghi’s family’s needs to see their dying relative (despite the unspeakable way he deprived hundreds of others of the same privilege), this is a situation in which it is clear that the Brown government has chosen to dance to the ka-ching of the cash register.
Given Brown’s other bumbles (screwing up the British economy comes to mind) and the fact that David Cameron is a twit who will be an international embarrassment to the U.K. should he win the premiership, if you had to be someone on that stage you’d definitely want to be Clegg. But whatever the outcome of the exchange, it is a necessary exercise that ought to be part of the British electoral process … and one which Brown should not be permitted to hide from.
Brown’s associates argue he goes through the process of debate on the floor of the parliament every week. But for all its value “Question Time” has its own rules and its own ritual theater that invalidate it as the kind of debate to which British voters are entitled. And as the list of questions the average citizen or thinking journalist would want to ask these characters grows, the need for the debate grows more urgent and the prospect for a valuable exchange grows more compelling.
Let’s see Brown defend playing footsie at a distance with Qaddafi. Let’s see Cameron defend backing a racist right wing leader of the right in European parliament. This is one of those occasions where television is the best medium for providing both heat and light.
Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images
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