The Mancunion

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Corbyn’s terrible TV debate strategy

Refusing to take part in TV debates without Theresa May was a bad idea from Jeremy Corbyn


Jeremy Corbyn has announced he will not take part in TV debates unless Theresa May also agrees to participate. The Prime Minister has made her thoughts on this issue very clear and has publicly stated that she is unwilling to take part in any TV debates.

Presumably, this was an attempt by Corbyn’s team to lure Mrs May into agreeing to debate. However, as usual with Corbyn and his strategy team (if you can call it ‘strategy’), I have to ask myself: what on earth they were thinking?

Making the argument that if Corbyn is so weak, why don’t you agree to debate him? certainly has some legs. Whether it is effective or not is a different question entirely, but it is at least logical. After all, Miliband used the same strategy with David Cameron, who also was reluctant to take part in TV debates. Cameron was eventually forced to agree to take part in TV debates, albeit on his own terms.

Assuming Theresa May does indeed refuse to take part in TV debates, what should Mr Corbyn do? If he doesn’t take part, a core of his campaign is undermined. Corbyn’s campaign is underpinned by the message that he is a man with integrity, who puts people and issues before party politics. And yet here he is, playing party politics with Theresa May, holding the country to ransom.

Corbyn has essentially created a ‘lose-lose’ situation for himself. Should he take part without May after making these comments, he will look indecisive — no longer a “man of principle” after having gone against his word. Should he not take part, he will look childish and no longer someone who is above party politics.

Almost certainly, this will actually incentivise May not to take part in TV debates. She would now have the perfect alibi. May can simply hold firm and call Corbyn’s bluff. Then, any bad press for not taking part in debates would be diluted  and split between herself and Corbyn (that is, should he stick to his word and also not participate).

In addition, Corbyn has claimed that he wants politics to be as accessible as possible. If he believes that TV debates are an important tool for engaging people, he should take part regardless of whether May participates or not.

Immanuel Kant argued that the moral worth of an action depends upon motive: doing the right thing because you believe it is the right thing to do. Corbyn should show some leadership, set a good example, and agree to take part in the TV debates.

If May doesn’t, then so what? He could attack her and she wouldn’t be there to put up a defence. It was a win-win for Corbyn. Again, he has missed an open goal.

Labour are dragging in the polls and desperation is clearly kicking in. This is a terrible, terrible idea from Corbyn who has managed to somehow create his own ‘lose-lose’ situation. The original message of “why run scared if I’m so weak” had some legs. But now he has handed May a lifeline.