March 6: How to solve TV debate dispute

Have your say

AS Tony Blair’s one-time communications chief Alastair Campbell has argued so forcefully, David Cameron’s obstinacy over the proposed TV election debates reflects very poorly on the Prime Minister’s stature. After all, the Tory leader has left himself open to the charge of hypocrisy after calling for such exchanges prior to the 2010 election.

It also further undermines the public’s respect for politicians after a succession of probity scandals. If the parties, and broadcasters, cannot agree on the rules of engagement after five years, their antics are hardly going to energise those voters who have become increasingly apathetic with time.

Yet, while Britain’s political pluralism is very different to the USA where its election debates are limited to the two candidates competing to be president, there is no reason for the interests of all parties not to be accommodated.

First, there should be separate regional debates in each of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland for the relevant parties, and where those issues most pertinent to the devolved nations can be discussed in full.

This, in turn, would pave the way for separate exchanges between the leaders of those nationwide parties fighting at least half of the 650 constituencies across the UK – the Conservatives, Labour, Lib Dems, Ukip and Greens.

Finally, there should be a head-to-head debate between the two leaders with a chance of leading the country after May 7 – Mr Cameron and Ed Miliband, the Doncaster North MP.

At a time when Britain portrays itself as one of the world’s great bastions of democracy, voters deserve nothing less and Mr Cameron needs to recognise this. After all, he wanted the debates when it suited his agenda in 2010 and he should have nothing to fear from such scrutiny and voter engagement if he believes that he is the right man to lead this country.

Science inequality

CBI: good teaching will inspire

IN AN increasingly progressive world, it is important that gender stereotypes from the past are consigned to history – girls are more than able to excel in maths and science while nothing should preclude boys from pursuing more creative courses. The key test is each and every young person being given an equal chance to pursue those subjects which are most likely to shape their future career.

Yet, ahead of events to mark International Women’s Day, there will be consternation that gender stereotypes are still preventing some girls from pursuing careers in the so-called Stem subjects – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – which have been the traditional preserve of their male counterparts. It is a state of affairs compounded by today’s CBI report which reveals the extent to which science lessons are being squeezed off the primary school curriculum.

The key statistics are this: more than half of teachers believe science has been downgraded over the past five years while one third say they lack the confidence, for whatever, to teach the subject. Is it because they do not have the resources to make lessons interesting and fun – or could it be down to the fact that their own science lessons, as children, failed to create a lasting impression?

Either way, all students – male and female – deserve better. After all, the clue is in the name – primary schools should be where the pupils learn the basics in a range of disciplines before they transfer to secondary school. As such, the CBI’s call for the recruitment of more specialist teachers is one that the Government should not ignore.

Six of the best

Electric plan for region’s railways

there WILL be relief that the railway line from Hull to Selby is one of six Yorkshire routes which should be next in line for electrification – this part of the region is invariably the poor relation when it comes to transport investment and the urgent need to increase capacity between Leeds and Manchester.

Yet, while Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has – to his credit – recognised the need to overhaul the region’s railways following decades of under-investment, the growing number of reports identifying the economic opportunities will be worthless unless there is the funding available to implement such schemes.

Ahead of this month’s Budget, and then a election campaign where good intentions will be delivered far more punctiliously than some of the trains operating locally, the next stop for Mr McLoughlin, and the Chancellor, is setting out a timetable for action – and when promised improvements will be delivered.