Sunday, 15 March 2015

These graphs show why David Cameron is determined to dodge election debates

Election debates would allow Ed Miliband to get his social justice message across to a mass audience

Is it just me who is wondering why David Cameron is so determined not to take part in the election debates? His first attempt and second attempt to scupper the debates, by inviting minor parties, failed when the broadcasters agreed to his demands. So now he is refusing to take part in any election debate besides a 7 party debate before the short campaign. So why is this?

The answer may lie in an opinion poll producrd this morning. I have posted a graph of some of the raw data from this poll. The figures reveal something quite startling.

First of all, this graph shows that more people are still undecided about how they will vote than in any other election before. Activists on the ground from both major parties say that an unprecedented number of people are still open to persuasion about how they will vote. What better event is there that can persuade voters which way they will cast their ballots than election debates held during the election campaign?

The sceptics amongst the commentariat will point to the spectacular failure of "Cleggmania" in 2010 as evidence that election debates really don't have an impact on how people will vote. A second piece of polling produce by the same company throws the commentariat's assertions into question:

What this graph shows is that an astonishing number of people-40%-say they are prepared to base how they will vote based on the election debates. This proves beyond doubt that the 2010 debates were an astounding success in engaging people with the election, as they were watched by 25 million people.

Another question then has to come to mind. Why is Cameron, so often regarded as having charisma and oratory ability, so determined to avoid a debate with Ed Miliband, the most unpopular leader of the oppostion since IDS? My suspicion is that Cameron is afraid that such a platform would allow Ed Miliband to get his unique message of social justice across to a mass audience. We saw in 2010 how election debates can completely change the perception of a leader. When 55% of people, according to YouGov, say that it's time for a change, and only 32% believe Cameron deserves to remain in Downing Street, there is a real danger that the PM will be seen as a washed-up has been, devoid of fresh ideas, coming up against a leader of the opposition who has the ideas and conviction, but lacks the charisma necessary to get his beliefs across to the electorate. In the 7 party debate, Miliband's message will likely be drowned out by insurgents such as Farage and Bennett.  But in a head to head debate, with the chance to look prime ministerial, Miliband has the chance to get his message across. The clear fear in the Tory camp is that a sort of "Milibandmania" may result, sweeping away any expectations of a Tory victory. In such a situation, it is no surprise Cameron is avoiding it. Only time will tell what the effect of this will be.

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