In Britain, Foreign Policy Dominates Next Televised Debate

BY Simon Marks  April 22, 2010 at 3:26 PM EST

Britain’s main contenders for prime minister meet again in their second televised debate Thursday night, following their debut on April 15, and the subject this time is foreign policy. The debate is likely to see three central issues dominate:

1) Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats: A week ago most Brits couldn’t pick him out of a lineup. Thanks to what was widely considered a stellar performance in the first debate, he’s sizzling. Current Prime Minister Gordon Brown of the Labor party and Conservative leader David Cameron will want to knock him down to size tonight.

2) Trident: To knock Clegg off his perch, the other two will likely turn on his policy of unilaterally disarming the cornerstone of Britain’s nuclear deterrent, Trident. You’ll hear a lot of talk about that in the debate tonight.

3) Afghanistan: All three leaders will slug it out over UK involvement in Afghanistan, including the ongoing debate over whether the British Army is adequately equipped. You can expect Brown to defend his record, Cameron to engage in a delicate ballet — criticizing Brown, but justifying his own support for the war — and Clegg to fire salvos at both of them in a bid to take the heat off himself.

It will be an interesting evening in British households, as they sit down to watch only the second-ever televised debate between party leaders vying to win a Parliamentary majority, and thus the keys to the prime minister’s office, Number Ten Downing Street. But the audience size for tonight’s event could be lower than the 9 million who tuned in for the first debate a week ago, not least because tonight’s debate is being screened by a cable network “Sky News,” and will not be seen in its entirety on over-the-air broadcast television.

Tune in to Thursday’s NewsHour to watch my full report.