David Cameron is in a huff he won’t take part in the General Election TV leaders’ debates unless the Green Party is there too.
Is Dave missing all that prancing aboot with the huskies or has he just found the perfect way to avoid truly scary adversaries like Nigel and Nicola?
Broadcasters intend to have three TV clashes in the run-up to May 7 Cameron vs Miliband, Cameron vs Miliband vs Clegg and Cameron vs Miliband vs Clegg vs Farage. The Greens, SNP and Plaid Cymru have all been excluded.
Last week, the broadcast watchdog Ofcom backed that stance, prompting Dave’s brave act of green solidarity.
On Question Time, panellist and Tory MP David Davis was asked if his leader should also demand the inclusion of the SNP who have six times more MPs than the Greens and a gazillion more party members?
The former shadow Home Secretary dismissed that inconvenient reality with a snort: “Regional special interests, in a way. I don’t think we have to go THAT far.”
Much laughter. Now, let’s analyse that calmly.
Let’s set aside for a moment the fact that Scotland is a nation like England, not a region like Yorkshire. Let’s overlook the fact Dave’s gang are as ‘regional’ as the SNP with one solitary Tory MP in Scotland and that Ukip will almost certainly not win a single Westminster seat in Scotland making them ‘regional’ too.
Let’s sidestep the fact that no ‘UK’ parties truly deserve that name because none stand candidates in Northern Ireland.
Let’s simply ask why it matters so much that politicians seen on UK-wide TV must purport to represent the whole UK?
What would happen if SNP candidates stood in Corby or across London? It could be done.
Doubtless Dave, Ed, Nick would find another way to veto their inclusion on grounds of sheer irrelevance to the majority of (southern) Brits. But if the polls are to be believed, Alex Salmond’s SNP brigade could hold the balance of power at Westminster after the General Election. If that happens it might be a wee bit important for all voters to know what they think.
I know it’s easier for everyone churning out programmes, debates, opinions and democratic procedures to pretend the UK is still a unitary, two-party state with the Lib Dems bobbing about on the margins. But it isn’t.
Scots watching the TV debates will see a choice of four unionist parties which doesn’t reflect Scotland’s political reality. Yet, if they are not politically engaged, their vote will probably go to one of those four parties. That’s undemocratic.
Indeed, let’s put it more strongly. The SNP may soon have the third largest contingent of MPs at Westminster, but remain too ‘regional’ to be included in mainstream debate. This is the nub of the UK’s existential dilemma.
So at this rate there won’t be any debates Cameron and Miliband are too scared of Farage and the broadcasters are just scared. They know they can’t let the Greens on without the SNP, can’t let the SNP on without Plaid Cymru and can’t allow mainland nationalist parties on without inviting the Northern Ireland parties too.
Ten folk on a panel pure nightmare!
There are three proposed debates with different configurations to reflect the differing strengths of each party. The formats just need to be reshuffled a bit to involve every party with Westminster representation at least once.
Personally speaking, I’d tune in to the 10-strong-rammy and I’m sure I’d not be alone.
So come on broadcasters, what’s the worst that can happen democracy?