Party leaders agree to Facebook debate

The leaders of the three main political parties have agreed to answer questions from Facebook and Youtube users as part of the UK’s first digital debate.

People can write or film their questions via a Facebook application, which went live on Sunday morning. Other Facebook users can then vote to decide which questions will be answered by Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg ahead of the general election on 6 May.

The three party leaders will each answer the same 10 questions, on the topics of health, education, law and order, foreign policy, the economy and miscellaneous. They will separately prepare video responses, lasting up to a minute, which will be posted on Facebook and Youtube on April 28.

On Facebook’s dedicated general election page, Democracy UK, which has over 34,000 members at the time of writing, users have so far voted on nearly 500 proposed questions. The questions cover a wide range of subjects, including the controversial Digital Economy Bill, economic debt and the privatisation of the NHS.

For example, Dave from Coventry wrote: “May I ask why only 20 people debated the Digital Economy Bill in the Commons despite a lot of opposition? May I also ask why then 200 MP's from Labour and Conservative rammed the Bill through despite opposition from normal people with normal lives?"

According to Richard Allan, director of policy for Facebook, the website has 23 million users in the UK.

"By allowing voters to cross-examine their leaders, these digital debates will put the voters firmly in charge," he said.

Facebook partnered with the Electoral Commission to launch an application on Friday, which allows Facebook users to download a personalised voting registration form from the Democracy UK page.

"We are therefore uniquely placed to reach unregistered voters and to ensure that no one who wants to vote is entitled to do so misses out on the chance to have their say," said Allan.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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