Adam Boulton: Dimbleby got 'too involved' in Griffin Question Time performance

The first ever television debates between party leaders in the run-up to the general election are in danger of being ‘negotiated to death”, senior party sources told the Guardian.

On senior figure told the paper there was a danger the spontaneity was being dragged out of the debates as key issues – like the degree of audience participation, audience selection and whether speakers would be allowed to interrupt each other – remained unresolved despite talks between rival parties and broadcasters last week.

Despite the reportedly difficult gestation, Sky News’s political editor Adam Boulton outlined his vision for the format today by saying he intended to get the leaders ‘going at each other”.

Boulton said success would be to avoid a ‘bear pit’format with the leaders and the audience ‘in a kind of Question Time.”

He told the Independent: ‘Certainly my vision is that it will be a very different thing from that [Question Time]…

‘The problem with those shows is that sometimes you get a common view emerging from the panel – or in the case of Nick Griffin, the panel and the question master and the audience all against one person.

‘Well, if we get a group thing from the three leaders it will be a disaster. The point is to get them to differentiate themselves from each other in front of the audience rather than circle the wagons against the audience.”

Boulton said he felt David Dimbleby ‘got too involved and seemed to be operating as a panellist’during the appearance of the Griffin, British National Party leader, on the BBC’s flagship current affairs programme last year.

He said: ‘I think if I had been doing that I would have tried to move it along so it wasn’t 50 minutes talking about the BNP. I would have tried to have got the BNP talking about law and order, Europe, foreign affairs, whatever.”

Boulton will host the second of three ‘presidential style’debates between the three party leaders in the run-up to the election. The first will be run by ITV and the third hosted by the BBC with Dimbleby controlling affairs.

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