When MP Roy Hattersley cancelled an appearance on the satirical TV show Have I Got News For You, he was infamously replaced by a tub of lard.
As humiliating a fate appears to be awaiting Prime Minister Theresa May for refusing to take part in a head to head TV debate with her main political rivals in the run up the General Election. There are calls to run the televised debates regardless, but with an empty chair where the Prime Minister should be.
The opposition, naturally, have leapt on the refusal, accusing the PM of ‘running scared.’ But if you’re ahead in the polls why risk a live TV debate in the front of millions in which you could come a cropper? That appears to be the thinking behind Theresa May’s refusal.
Certainly as far as Jeremy Corbyn is concerned, the potential gains of TV debate far outweigh the risks.
But even Mr Corbyn is getting cold feet.
Despite his criticism of May, he has now said he will not take part in a TV debate if the Conservative leader is not playing.
So who wants these debates to take place anyway?
Well, and perhaps the politicians should take note of this fact, it’s the people!
While the purists may hate personality politics and gladiatorial TV clashes, the public just loves a spectacle. And if the politicians can be tripped up, both metaphorically and, as was the case with Ed Miliband last time round, physically, all the better.
The majority of the public want these debates (a Sunderland Echo poll has 74% in favour), so the political leaders should bow to the will of the people and take part.
If the leaders do run scared of a debate, who could blame the public for regarding them all with the respect normally reserved for a tub of lard?