When David Cameron announced a couple of months ago, that he would not take part in the TV debate in the proposed head to head format, there was uproar. Of course Dave didn't want to get muddled up in all of this TV debate milarky, despite singing their praises to the heavens at this point in the last election. As the incumbent party, all the Torys stood to gain was a headache from Ed Miliband bleating on about how Dave hates poor people, and a Pinocchio nose from telling us the economy is fine and dandy, despite being so far up the metaphorical creek that you couldn't use a paddle even if you had one. His insistence on more participants was simply damage limitation in his own part; a hope that viewers would be distracted by Nigel's issue with Romanians, or the spelling of Plaid Cymru, rather than his party's failings.
The way that social media reacted to the news of David's reluctance to appear in the debate, anyone would have thought that Dave had stated his intent to impose self-exile to a mountain shack in Tibet. Forget the fact that these aren't really 'debates', more a public exercise in saving as much face as possible, whilst occasionally trotting out pre-planned lines conjured up two weeks prior by some overpaid PR goons. What this really emphasised was the issue of accessibility which today's politicians are currently wrestling with.
The 'average Joe' spends only a matter of minutes every week, considering political issues. This distancing means that the TV debates are not only increasingly important for politicians to convey their messages to a briefly attentive audience, but also for the general public to generate some sort of connection with the candidates (and subsequently their parties).
As I have mentioned in a number of my previous posts, it is widely acknowledged that British politics is becoming more presidential in nature. The importance now attached to debates is probably both a cause, and a result of this focus on the cult of personality and image. Politicians have of course picked up on this, and we must assume that Ed Miliband's pleading 'kiss me through the camera' stare, and appeals to "people back home", were part of his own doomed efforts to seem less like the kind of guy who spends his free time scribbling down saucy Eddie Stobart truck names from a motorway bridge.
However, after watching 'The Island with Bear Grylls' on Channel 4, I think I have stumbled upon a solution for both the political and media establishments, one that will engage and connect politicians with voters in a far more honest and beneficial manner. I give you: 'The Island with Party Leaders'. Not only would this allow the contestant's leadership styles to be displayed in microcosmic form; but surely in such challenging circumstances, some of the leaders may stop resembling autobots sent out on a failed social experiment.
Rather than the same monotonous superlatives currently trotted out daily by the national news, imagine how refreshing and fantastically revealing morning headlines from the Island would be! Picture Dave's tan as his natural oils work their magic, and he looks even more like a cooked ham than usual; odd Ed befriending the previously undiscovered natives and attempting to unionise their hunter gatherers, before being caught on film struggling to eat a wild boar sandwich; Clegg sitting on the fence as conflict emerges, unsure of what he stands for; Big Nige, drunk on homemade Pina Coladas, fending off prospective immigrants at the beaches with a homemade spear, despite the island's chronic skill shortfall; or Natalie Bennett attempting to coerce Nicola Sturgeon into using her radical new eco-potty. Throw in John Humphrys providing the voiceover and you've got TV gold!
The possibilities are endless, and I feel the rewards would be equally so. In one fell swoop, voters would connect with, and better understand the deeper rooted values of the political leaders; whilst the leaders get a stab at proving that they are actually humanoids of this planet. BBC, I shall expect your call.