Ed Miliband’s commitment to legislate for leaders’ debates in future elections seemed to me to have come from the same stable. It’s perhaps even less well thought through than even some of Blair’s efforts, but it gives the impression of reacting decisively to a problem and promising to act.
The proposal is blatant nonsense, of course; but I doubt that Miliband will be over-worried about that. He’s seen a problem, promised decisive action, and is now moving on. All his focus groups probably told him that being decisive is a good thing in itself – the ‘about what’ and ‘in which way’ questions are secondary.
On the essence of the issue, I doubt that the public are demanding these debates in the way that the politicians and broadcasters seem to believe. And I have a suspicion that 7 (or more) way debates are going to be televisual Mogadon, with too little time to explore any issue in depth, deteriorating into a swapping of pre-rehearsed sound bites and insults. Plenty of artificial heat, and very little light.
None of that matters in the slightest to Miliband or his advisers, because his latest promise isn’t about debates or even about legislation; it’s all about image. New Labour never really went away at all.