Cameron v Miliband, via Paxman and Kay Burley: why tonight's non-debate is a pathetic show of our 'democracy'

The two leaders will attend the SAME TV studio but won't go head-to-head

With just 42 days to go until voters choose who they want to lead the country, the two contenders will both attend the same TV studio.

Couple that fact with the knowledge – or the claim – that Britain is one of the most advanced democratic countries in the world, and anyone would be forgiven for assuming they would meet each other in the same room to have a head-to-head debate about their vision for Britain.

They’d be wrong.

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The two main party leaders will be interviewed separately on Thursday night's programme

Instead David Cameron and Ed Miliband will be interviewed separately by Jeremy Paxman and will each face questions from a studio audience, moderated by Sky News presenter Kay Burley.

So Channel 4’s Cameron and Miliband: The Battle for Number 10 is a clash being fought on separate battlefields. 

It starts at 9pm, with the bizarre format of David Cameron being grilled for 18-minutes by Mr Paxman first, then facing questions from the audience for a further 18 minutes, with Ms Burley playing the role of David Dimbleby in a Question Time setup.

Kay Burley and Jeremy Paxman at rehearsals ahead of 'The Battle For Number 10'

Then Mr Miliband will be up, but with the reverse format – facing a Q&A with the audience and then being interviewed by Mr Paxman.

Labour will point the finger at David Cameron’s refusal to take part in a head-to-head debate, and they will be sending as many people dressed up as chickens to stand in as many camera shots with the Prime Minister as possible.

But it’s not just the Tories who are guilty of undermining our democracy in what could be the most important and certainly one of the closest election fights in history.

Cameron, Clegg and Brown took part in the 2010 televised debates (Getty)

So much power has been put in the leaders’ hands that having won the coin toss, Mr Miliband decided to choose the latest possible time to be grilled by the formidable Mr Paxman, and therefore minimising the effect of any hiccups that may well occur with Britain’s scariest interviewer because by 10pm most viewers will have gone to bed.

Not until this time next week will we get a proper election debate, with the remarkable sight of political leaders appearing head-to-head in the same TV studio, broadcast live to the nation.

But that format is also likely to be a farce, with little chance of anything short of chaos coming from the seven leaders shouting against each other.