Controversy has hit the UK as Prime Minister Theresa May has refused to debate Jeremy Corbyn and other political party leaders on the BBC. In her place she sent Home Secretary Amber Rudd to fend off interrogations on her behalf. This is the paramount decision in a string of strictly monitored appearances that have characterized May’s campaign trail this year. But why is debate considered so central to political campaigning? Who gains from public facing political debate and why?
To understand why debate is so crucial to our political system, we must interrogate the meaning of ‘democracy’. The idea of democracy rests on the reasoning that we must cultivate transparency, openness and accountability. Of course, political parties are not obliged to attend every public appearance, however this definition of democracy seems to contradict May’s hesitancy in participating in crucial events of the General Election campaign such as the BBC debate.
Students who wish to study HSPS may question if debate is a useful tool to harness these central values. And to what extent the media acts as a medium to help or hinder democracy. Does the media act as an honourable tool to keep politicians accountable? Or does the media’s biased views and inflammatory language allow politicians to hide policies within emotional voting patterns?
Students looking to apply for Psychology may question the role of visual debates in swaying voter’s party alliances. They could look at how politicians are trained to influence us through public appearances. They could also consider how our own personal allegiances affect how we view the debate.