Full disclosure; I have not been selected to appear in the leaders’ debates, and I’m a bit pissed at that. Fair enough, some of you may say, as I’m not currently the leader of any UK party (though I was asked more than once), but following the rules didn’t get me a blog that a handful of people follow and tweets that are read by enough people to pack out a small village hall, did it? So maybe I’m biased.
Or maybe they’re a fucking sham.
Let’s look at the credentials for each party, shall we? The Tories are in government right now, as are the Lib Dems so that’s an automatic qualification, whatever their chances might be. Nick Clegg might have as small a chance as me of becoming PM but this isn’t a potential PM debate, it’s a Leaders’ Debate and Mr Clegg is not only the deputy PM but also the leader of what is arguably the second most important party in British politics right now. Jokes aside, there are only two parties running the country right now and Labour aint one of them.
Then there’s Labour, who as the main opposition must also get in. They are the largest of the non-Gov parties by far and the fact that they’re currently led by someone who looks like he won a primary school art competition to be leader for the day and then got carried away doesn’t change that.
Who next? Well of course it’s UKIP, isn’t it? They’re the fourth party of British politics.
Except… they’re not. Blanket media coverage may have deprived you of this little titbit but in terms of membership, both the SNP and the Greens outstrip them. The SNP also have more MPs, MSPs, and councillors than they do. Not that these numbers were considered when the decision was taken. Do any of you seriously think Mr Farage would have been excluded had human-bot 3.0 Douglas Carswell lost his seat? In any case UKIP’s ONE MP has just gotten in; the SNP and that tiresome Welsh Plaid Cymru lot have had consistent representation in the House for decades.
So why is UKIP featured in the debates when the Greens who have more members and a longer-standing representation aren’t? Why no SNP? Why no PC? And isn’t there another country on that map too? It’ll come to me.
There is an argument to be made that only those with a realistic chance of becoming PM should be included, but of course that limits it to the Cameronator and the Milibot. Neither Messrs Clegg nor Farage will be Prime Minister in a year’s time. It will be Mr Cameron or Mr Miliband, even if they don’t secure an overall majority. As those of you not just skimming with have noticed though, I’ve already covered the fact that this is not meant to be a debate between potential PMs, and lest any of you need reminding, we don’t have a Presidential system. You don’t vote for the PM. You never have, unless they were your local MP.
Ah, say some, but groups like PC and the SNP are only operating in one nation, not across the entire nation of nations (see how fucking difficult all you Scottish No voters kept things?) which seems reasonable. If PC aren’t standing candidates outside of Wales, why should they be included in a UK general election leaders’ debate. Two reasons. One, this is a UK general election leaders’ debate, not an English one. Two? NOT A SINGLE ONE OF THE MAIN PARTIES RUNS CANDIDATES IN ALL THE DIFFERENT COUNTRIES.
You might think I’ve forgotten Northern Ireland. That was deliberate, because so has the rest of the UK. Look no further than “Team GB” to see that in action. Northern Ireland doesn’t elect Tories, Labour, Lib Dems, or any other party I’ve mentioned. And yet still their guys have seats in the house. Credit to UKIP at least for getting the name right, though that might simply be because GBIP isn’t as catchy.
The compromise suggested by the BBC is that while there will be ‘proper’ national debates featuring ConLibLabKip, there will also be ‘sort of’ national debates in individual nations, as if this weren’t really a UK-wide election for a governing body that legislates for all of us across the entire UK, but a collection of different elections across four different nations. The trouble with this is loud and proud. The ‘proper’ (or ‘English’ or ‘London’ if you prefer) debates will be primetime TV across the entire UK. The sub-debates in Wales, NI and Scotland will be regional ones only available to the rest of the UK via the web, and who but political junkies like you is ever going to watch them like that?
Supporters of Scottish independence often decried ‘the media’ en masse for defending the status quo, which is fair enough because that’s what it fucking did, and that’s what it’s doing now. “The UK” is “London” plus some other bits and like disease, war, and famine, the further away you are, the less you matter. The mainstream media is also London Plus, and has little desire to educate itself on the complexities of a parliamentary system that includes more than three parties, unless of course the leader of a fourth is talking complete shite and gets good ratings and RT numbers on newspaper articles.
Like it or not, MPs from all the parties I’ve mentioned above plus others and independents will be running in a UK-wide general election in cinemas near you, all good bookstores and online retailers next year. Of course a line must be drawn somewhere. If I stand as the leader of the Go Fuck Yourself party, I can hardly claim to have the same right to appear in the debates as Ed Milibandit.
For the establishment media to pretend that this is a London Plus election however, does a disservice to our democracy and all who participate in it. If you’re in Cardiff, Belfast or Edinburgh your choice will be greater than that shown in the debates. For the debates not to reflect that is to say that your vote is not as important as one cast in England. That’s not me being anti-English; that’s the system being anti-UK. Ironic, isn’t it?