Politicians across the spectrum have come together to express their frustration at the recent announcement of who will be in the next TV Leader’s Debates before next May’s General Election.
The debates, which drew great attention in 2010, may not have been indicative of the actual outcome of the election, but did engage people in the sort of personality politics and excitement we have witnessed in the USA.
The BBC, ITV, Sky and Channel 4 announced that they were planning to air three leader’s debates, six weeks prior to polling day.
However, their invitations have been widely criticised. Most notable is the criticism of Nigel Farage of the UK Independence Party being invited.
Many have seen this as unfair, as UKIP have only just picked up their first MP in parliament, whilst the Green Party has had one MP in since the last election.
Some to show their indignation are the SNP, the Greens, Plaid Cymru, and the Conservatives.
Alex Salmond rightly argues that these are “leaders” debates, and so should feature the main contenders for Prime Minister. UKIP look set to do well next May, but Farage is not likely to be PM any time soon. However, he also appears to convey that the SNP should feature, as they have six MPs in parliament.
This is a ludicrous suggestion, as the Scottish Nationalist Party are sort of – well – isolated to Scotland. The same applies to Plaid Cymru and Wales.
David Cameron’s position, though, almost sounds like something similar to Margaret Thatcher’s when TV cameras in the House of Commons was voted on during her time as PM.
She dismissed the proposals, not because it would not be good for her, but to protect the House’s reputation.
In 1987, she said:
“I’ve thought about it very deeply. The Commons is a small, intimate chamber; those heavy lights, the heat, I think it would be dreadful”.
Cameron has always been known to be a little sceptical of the leader’s debates, and indeed Labour have accused him of using this issue of the Greens not being represented as a “smokescreen” to hide his want to be rid of them.
Despite the great hooha! that has followed the announcement, I am inclined to be on the side of the broadcasters here.
It is of no significance that both UKIP and the Greens have one MP in Westminster. We are discussing the next General Election. What the parties have now is of no real interest to the broadcasters. These debates are designed in order for people to see the faces of the main contenders for the next General Election.
According to the latest YouGov poll, UKIP sit at 18%, whilst the Greens do not even have their own category yet, and simply come under “Other”.
Indeed, 35% of the public would like to see Farage join the Labour, Tory, and Liberal Democrat leaders in the debate. Furthermore, 21% said they would like to see this plus the leader of the Green Party.
Nevertheless, the trouble for the Greens is that they are not making headlines; UKIP is. UKIP are far more likely to pick up a dozen seats next election that the Green Party is. Furthermore, despite the Green Party having an increase in its popularity, this is largely isolated to Scotland following the independence referendum campaign.
Some may argue that UKIP’s rise is largely isolated to England, though, as UKIP only have one MEP here. To those of that argument, I would remind them that Scotland has 59 of the 650 parliamentary seats at Westminster, whereas England holds 533. That is nine times more than Scotland.
Essentially, the trends in England are more likely to have a noticeable affect on UK politics than those in Scotland.
So, I would conclude that the broadcasters are totally correct in their proposals. We should look at, not MP numbers now, but predicted outcomes and current trends that might indicate what will happen next year.
I would actually suggest that the Greens should replace the LibDems, as the latter are barely getting near double figures in the polls. Yet the LibDems may still “wield the balance of power” come next year, as the chances are that we will see a second coalition government.
Will it the a ToryKIP, ConDem, LibLab coalition? Who knows just now!