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150119leaderdebates

What’s the current situation on the political parties’ ‘leader debates’? Is Cameron still playing chicken and using the Green Party as a human shield?

The last this writer heard was that he was saying he wouldn’t turn up if Ofcom didn’t let the Greens take part, as the Green Party is now the fourth largest in terms of membership (behind Labour, the Conservatives – who could be lying about theirs, and the SNP, having overtaken UKIP and the Liberal Democrats).

Ofcom seems to be saying the Greens don’t qualify because they don’t have enough MPs (which seems strange, as it seems perfectly willing to let UKIP take part and it only has one more MP than the Greens).

Is that about right?

It’s rumoured that Cameron has cold feet about the debates because of what happened in 2010, when ‘Cleggmania’ (briefly) swept the nation and everybody including himself seemed to be saying “I agree with Nick”. His advisors are allegedly telling him that Clegg’s performance in the debates seriously damaged his standing and prevented him from gaining an outright victory in the election.

(This may seem odd, as the Liberal Democrats in fact lost five seats at the election, but we need to remember that – in the First Past The Post system – it seems likely that LD candidates took votes from Conservatives, allowing others to take marginal seats).

It seems likely Cameron is also in fear of Nigel Farage, who is generally accepted to have beaten Clegg in televised debates about the European Union.

The other three leaders who were set to take part in the debates have called for them to go ahead, with Cameron ’empty-chaired’ – a podium should be put out for him but left vacant to show he has opted not to participate.

This would still leave the other parties without a voice in the debates and – considering their popularity – that’s clearly wrong.

Perhaps these debates should go ahead, with only the Labour, LD and UKIP leaders if Ofcom won’t bend.

If so, then the other party leaders should consider alternative strategies.

Is there any reason they should not record their own responses to the questions asked in these debates – and the issues raised by them – and make those responses available to the public, via the media broadcasters, newspaper websites, YouTube and the social media?

This would give a certain unfair advantage to the Greens, SNP, Plaid Cymru, the National Health Action Party, FUKP and whoever else, because they would have advance warning of the questions before starting, and would know what the other leaders had said – but it does seem fairer thanaltogether  denying them a chance to put their cases forward.

In this scenario the only loser would be David Cameron who, fittingly, would have denied himself the chance to speak while allowing it to everyone else – poetic justice for a man who has tried to gag political debate in the run-up to the election.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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