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British Politics Tip Toe into the TV Era

BY Nancy Scola | Thursday, April 15 2010

It's worth keeping in mind the idea that "technology is changing politics" is all relative. Tonight in the UK history will witness the very first, ever, televised debate between the leaders of the political parties vying for spots in Parliament. It's being taken as a watershed moment in British politics and society. The New York Times' Eric Pfanner:

The debate is being billed as a seminal event for British society and television. Optimists see it as a chance for leaders to reconnect with a jaded electorate. Pessimists fear that it will further the ascendance of show business over substance in British politics.

“We’re suddenly going to have a significant portion of the British population spending the length of a football match watching three people talking about politics,” said Stephen Coleman, a professor of political communication at the University of Leeds. “I think what we watch Thursday night will become a water-cooler moment on Friday morning, which is something we get very rarely in British politics.”

It's somewhat amazing, considering that the political parties in the UK have been fairly aggressive and innovative online this election, to think that TV represents the innovation here.