Given the consequences of last Thursday, what to make of David Cameron’s previous demands for televised election debates?
The knives are already out for the Tory leader in some quarters at least; Peter Bingle of Bell Pottinger describes it as “the most inept Tory campaign in living memory” given that the party had until fairly recently a 20-point lead.
This could be premature. And of course Cleggmania could yet fade away – and there are still two debates to come – but the following statements by Cameron now have a distinct whiff of hubris:
1] ‘I hope in the next few days Gordon Brown will make clear that once he’s actually the Labour leader and Prime Minister he’ll take part in proper TV debates that could really help bring politics to life.’ (BBC News Online, 19 May 2007)
2] ‘Any time, anywhere. I will even pay for the taxi to take him to the studio. In fact, I’ll even drive the cab!’ (Cameron, The Sun, 6 September 2007)
3] ‘Does the Prime Minister agree with me that the time for such live television debates at general election times has now come? Will he agree to hold television debates with the leaders of the main political parties so that people can see us discuss the issues, the policies and the challenges for the future of this country?’ (David Cameron, Hansard, 27 February 2008, column 1084)
4] ‘Let’s have one. Let’s have several…Any time, any place, anywhere.’ (The Sunday Times, 26 April 2009)
5] ‘The Government seems to have a number of positions on this. I’ve only ever had one: a prime time televised debate is just what our political system needs.’ (Conservative Party Press Release, 29 July 2009)
6] ANDREW MARR: Let’s come onto the next few months of election campaigning. How important are these debates going to be to you?
DAVID CAMERON: I think they’ll be very important. I mean I’m delighted they’re happening because I mean there is a danger right now that if all this election is about is the sort of production of competitive dossiers, we’re going to bore the public to tears, and we’ve got to get across …