Earlier this month both the BBC and ITV announced they would hold seven-party leader debates involving pretty much everyone who holds a seat in Westminster or the regional assemblies. As I already loathed the TV debates as they stood in the last election, this move has further irritated me.
First, there is no place for the SNP or Plaid Cymru in these debates as the vast majority of the population cannot vote for them; they are not nationwide parties so, therefore, do not belong in a national debate. These parties have nothing to lose and everything to gain from these debates and how they function. For me, the TV debates are all about showmanship and personal likability with genuine policy mattering very little.
Parties can therefore take advantage of the fact that the leaders of the established parties are universally unpopular and criticise the current system without providing viable alternatives other than the fragmentation of the United Kingdom. This is not something I want or the whole of England can have a say on the matter as English people cannot vote for these parties
Secondly, the Green party of England and Wales is also a regional party, and therefore does not belong in these nationwide debates. Although they do have sister parties in Northern Ireland and Scotland, each party has their own slightly different policies and agenda. Consequently, any statements made by the Greens in the TV debates may or may not apply to the whole ‘Green’ movement nationwide.
Thirdly, if these debates are to go ahead and include regional parties then it would make sense to include parties from Northern Ireland, these debates are undemocratic as none of the major parties (UUP, DUP and Sinn Fein) of Northern Ireland are present in the debate line-up. This creates a democratic deficit where almost 2 million people will not have any representation at these events, as these parties combined have well more than the one seat in the Commons that the Greens occupy then why are they not a part of the debates?
TV debates are an awful idea, they focus on the person rather than the policies; with seven people on stage I fear they will dissolve into little more than shouting matches with very little substance. The UK is not a presidential system, we do not vote for party leaders, each constituency has their own candidates with their own agendas and political alignments, some parliamentary candidates will toe the party line others will be rebellious backbenchers.
If we must have debates then they should be local with constituency candidates battling it out in town halls and on local radio stations; unfortunately this will not happen, as it does not make good entertainment which in itself means there is something deeply depressing about politics in Britain these days.