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View From The Ridge: Let’s hear it for party leaders’ live TV debate

Slugging it out:
Nick Clegg, David
Cameron and
Gordon Brown in

THERE are some things that are so implausible you can’t help thinking future generations will look back and wonder how on earth they ever happened.

The host of the Apprentice USA getting into the White House.

Leicester City winning the Premier League.

Courgetti (yes, that’s it in the dish pictured below).

And — more seriously — the fact that in the year 2018 the men and women running to be prime minister don’t have to face each other in televised debates.

From the US to Bosnia, Colombia to Romania, they are an established feature of democracy before elections.

But in the UK there’s nothing to compel politicians to take part — despite parliament having one of the most famous debating chambers in the world, and debate being a cornerstone of our politics and history.

The 2010 election was supposed to change all that, when David Cameron, Gordon Brown and Nick Clegg had the courage to slug it out on live television and put their politics and personalities to the test. Millions tuned in, keen to make the most of the opportunity to directly compare the ideas of the men who wanted the keys to Number 10.

But then…. everything fizzled out. Subsequent politicians were too risk averse, perhaps, to make their pitch head-to-head in front of the viewing public. Some calculated that they had too much to lose.

That’s why the only way to make televised debates a normal part of our elections is to create a body to compel them to take part.

Sky News has this week launched a campaign for a leaders’ debate commission — independent of both politicians and broadcasters — to determine the format and participants.

The good news is that the idea has already been backed by some big players including Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, former home secretary Amber Rudd and Lib Dem leader Sir Vince Cable.

Let’s hope the momentum keeps building because the rough and tumble of live debates is what democracy is all about.

What’s your opinion?

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No midnight feast as May is fed crumbs at EU table

THERE are some things that make perfect sense to do at midnight.

Sleep, obviously. Party. Have a midnight feast, if you’re young enough that your naughtiest kicks still come from sugar.

But wrap your head around the hideously complex, knotty problem of how the UK leaves the EU without being in the single market or customs union, without having a hard border in Northern Ireland and without damaging the economy? It certainly wouldn’t be on my list.

Deadlock: Mrs May in Salzburg PIC: EPA

It was around midnight on Wednesday, however, that Theresa May was given just ten minutes to pitch the Chequers deal to fellow EU leaders at a summit in Salzburg.

Unsurprisingly, a breakthrough has not been reached. Donald Tusk, president of the EU Council, has said the Chequers plan will not work (and he’s supposed to be on the PM’s side).

Theresa May looked visibly shaken at the press conference yesterday.

After being roughed up by Brussels, she now faces an even stormier Conservative Party conference.

In Salzburg, the home of The Sound of Music — the hills might be alive but Chequers is barely breathing.

Chants are fine thing but look at polls, Jez

I’M HEADING to Liverpool this weekend where the Labour Party conference hall will be ringing with the sound of ‘Oh, Jeremy Corbyn!’

The faithful may be intoxicated but the challenge is to convert people who aren’t party members and break the gridlock in the polls.

Conference: Corbyn PIC: GETTY

On Sophy Ridge on Sunday, at our new time of 9am, we’ll be joined by deputy leader Tom Watson and shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey.

Let me know if you have any questions for my guests.

Follow @SophyRidgeSky