Well, finally, Gordon Brown has agreed that he will participate in a TV debate ahead of the next general election.
Back in July I suggested that one of the broadcasters should announce there will be a debate and threaten to empty chair any of the 3 main leaders who refused to turn up. Then in early September, Sky News did just that (I wonder if Adam Boulton reads this blog!).
Nick Clegg and David Cameron straight away agreed to it in principle. Look what we have had from Gordon Brown though:
- Firstly he refused to say if he would participate.
- Some of his colleagues though such as Peter Mandelson appeared to be trying to bounce him into it.
- Then just before his speech to the Labour party it was heavily trailed that he would accept the challenge in his speech. It appears the idea was dropped at the last minute, thus making him look indecisive, again!
- Then finally, a month after the initial challenge and both his main opponents accepted he belatedly says yes.
I struggle to think of a more cack-handed way he could have handled this. He could have pre-empted all of this months ago by announcing he would do it and would have looked like he was setting the pace. Alternatively, as soon as Sky News announced it, he could have accepted thus making him look ready and willing to embrace the challenge. He could have put it in his speech to the Labour conference which would have gone down very well with activists and help put an extra spring in their step.
Instead he waits until 3 days after his speech and after all the Labour delegates have drifted away from Brighton.
Gordon Brown got to the position he is now in largely because of his reputation as an excellent political tactician. This episode strongly suggests to me that any skills he may once have had in this area are now gone.
Still, at least we are now very likely to get one, possibly more TV debates ahead of the election which is a very welcome move and kudos to the Sky News team for forcing this issue. I have no doubt if they had not have done this there would have been no debate.