Nick Clegg: Don't leave the Liberal Democrats out of it

Friday 31 July 2009 00:00 BST

It seems the Prime Minister is the only person left in the country who thinks there shouldn't be a televised debate between party leaders at the next general election.

It would be an opportunity for transparency, to reinvigorate political debate, and to put party manifestos and leaders up against one another in a fair competition.

Gordon Brown says there's no need for debates because we have Prime Minister's Questions. But, despite nearly always descending into farce and name-calling, at PMQs, opposition leaders can only ask questions about government policy. In a proper debate, each leader would be able to question both the other parties' policies as well as championing his own.

Our politics is marred by profound unfairness. Big donations mean far too much is decided by which party has the biggest coffers. A televised debate would go some way to correcting that.

A debate wouldn't advantage a party; it would advantage the people. It would be the voters' opportunity to see the leaders competing to be Prime Minister promoting their policies and answering difficult questions about how they'd change the country.

It would bring in a wider audience than leaders could reach otherwise, giving more people the opportunity to make up their own minds based on the facts.

If Gordon Brown believed in the Labour party and his own record, he would be champing at the bit to hold this debate. I'm eager because I want people to know about Liberal Democrat policies, and I want the opportunity to explain why Labour and the Conservatives would take us in the wrong direction. Labour's time is up, and the Conservatives think it's automatically their turn, but I think in these difficult times we need to do something altogether different.

The author is leader of the Liberal Democrats

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