Will TV debates seem tame compared to Question Time?
So the form of the TV debates is decided – you can see the agreement between the broadcasters and the parties here.
This is an electoral innovation and the strictness of the rules reflects the nervousness of the parties, dipping their toes in where none here has gone before.
It may also, of course, prove to be a bit of a turn off.
Viewers who are used to the to and fro of BBC1’s Question Time will find the audience is restricted to posing a question to kick off discussion between the party leaders.
They won’t be allowed follow-ups. In an age of televised Prime Minister’s Question Time, probing TV interviews, monthly press conferences, we now have a prime time 90-minute experience that will be more rigid on content and format.
It may feel a little retro.
It will certainly, by the look of the rules, feel a little American.
You can’t ask a question about an individual politician, about anything other than “election issues”.
We are used to our “moderators” geeing politicians along or keeping them to the subject.
In these debates “it is not the moderator’s role to criticise or comment on the leaders’ answers”.
The rules remind you of the first days of television broadcasting of the Commons – rules on cutaways of the audiences, the size of the camera shot of the moderator.
The prize, the broadcasters hope, is an innovation that will become part of the electoral landscape. Who won and lost in this battle?
Senior Labour ministers originally talked of wanting more debates starting earlier – one talked of wanting them to start before Christmas. They didn’t get more than three.
The Liberal Democrats still can’t believe their luck. Their man, Nick Clegg, will, for the first time, be treated as an equal of the other party leaders.
It is an extraordinary gift from the other parties – we shall see if they come to regret it.