Manifesto writers to debate DE Act online

While the three main party leaders are happily swapping PR guff on TV, online pressure group 38 Degrees has decided to organise a politician-debate that gets beyond the usual spin.

In a bid to get answers to the questions that politicians would rather wriggle out of, the campaign group has organised an online debate between the main parties’ manifesto writers, and the questions that will be asked have been put to an online vote. Unsurprisingly, the question that’s currently topping the chart concerns the Digital Economy Bill, which was hastily rushed through parliament last week.

“Why did you pass the Digital Economy Bill without proper debate and consideration of all its implications?” the question asks. It also points out that “no firm evidence is provided, the accuracy rate appears poor and many innocent people are feeling threatened with no recourse other than waiting it out the 6 years from the statute of limitations.”

The question had been given the thumbs up by 562 voters out of 3,808 when we last checked, but it’s rapidly climbing every minute. The question also asks all the candidates if they can “guarantee that given the recent (very rushed) passing of the Digital Economy Act those that have received poorly evidenced demands using volume legislation methods (such as ACS:Law and Tilly Bailey Irvine) will have the threat of court action remedied.”

Assuming that it’s still a top question when the debate goes ahead next Monday, then it will be put to the writer of each political party’s manifesto writer. For Labour, this will be Ed Milliband, while Oliver Letwin will be representing the Conservatives. Danny Alexander will be answering on behalf of the Liberal Democrats.

Explaining the need for the debate, 38 Degrees says that it wanted to “get behind the spin and challenge the parties on the key issues and policies. Unlike the leaders' debates on TV, real voters will be choosing and asking the questions. Thousands of us will be able to listen in live from our computers, discuss the politicians' answers and put our own questions on the Guardian website.”

38 Degrees’ executive director, David Babbs, explained that “by bringing together the men who wrote each of the parties' manifestos, we will have a proper chance to investigate the ideas that they claim should underpin government for the next five years.”

“They might not be as well-known as their would-be prime ministerial counterparts,” says Babbs, “but if they can't answer our questions about their parties' pre-election promises, no-one can.”

The debate will take place on Monday 19 April from 1pm to 2pm, and will be hosted by Michael White on the Guardian website. You can cast your vote here.