Sebastian Payne

Cameron’s reputation takes a knock over TV debates — but will it affect how people vote?

 Cameron’s reputation takes a knock over TV debates — but will it affect how people vote?
Text settings

Do voters care about David Cameron’s decision to avoid some of the TV debates? A new poll from ComRes/ITV News out today suggests that although his reputation may be suffering from his current position, it won’t make any difference to how people will vote on May 7. Just under two thirds agreed that Cameron had damaged his reputation over the debates furore, while 59 per cent thought he was being ‘cowardly in trying to avoid the debates’.

According to the poll, 71 per cent said they thought the debates should go ahead if Cameron does not take part and 63 per cent believe there should be an empty chair left out for the Prime Minister. And if the debates do happen, a third reckon that Ukip’s Nigel Farage will perform the best and a similar amount think the Green’s Natalie Bennett would come off the worst.

Crucially, 46 per cent of those polled said Cameron’s stance on the debates would make no difference to how they vote. 36 per cent agreed with the statement that the debates 'will be important in helping me decide who to vote for' while 18 per cent said they didn't know. This backs up No.10’s strategy: take a reputation hit now, weather the storm over who/what/when the debates happen and then shift the campaign back onto the safer ground of endlessly talking about the long term economic plan for hardworking people. 

Although his opponents will continue to say the Prime Minister is ‘frit’ over the debates, it doesn’t appear at this stage as if that will make any difference. Labour clearly believes there is momentum to be gained by continually banging on about the debates — as we saw at PMQs today. But given these numbers, would its efforts not be better placed trying to attack the Cameron on another front?