The Futility Monster

He'll pointlessly derive more enjoyment out of your resources than you

Will The Nats Scupper The Debate?

Posted by The Futility Monster on October 6, 2009 @ 07:30

Might our debates end up looking like this? So many participants that there is no opportunity for banter...

Might our debates end up looking like this? Too many chiefs... no opportunity for banter...

Yesterday’s news that the SNP will take legal action if they’re not involved in the election debates was the first sign that it’s not going to be plain sailing to get this new idea off the ground…

In fact, the reason why Brown was so stupid to dither over the issue for so long was the fact that problems like this were bound to arise which might eventually kill the idea. Why not take the plaudits for being the first sitting British PM to agree to a debate on TV as soon as possible; especially when there’s a good chance it might never actually happen?

Admittedly, though, I didn’t think it would be the Nationalists causing the problem. I had expect the fine detail to be the spanner in the works, like how long each person gets to speak, how many debates, whether there is a public audience, where the debates will take place, whether Nick Clegg should even be there… and so on.

The argument against having the SNP or Plaid present in the debate is that, clearly, neither leader of those parties can become the PM of the UK. And if they aren’t there, maybe Nick Clegg shouldn’t be either for the same reason. But, surely, it would be unfair for them not to be allowed to get their agenda across. They do, after all, contest every constituency in their respective countries, and are all major players in the political system.

But this is where it starts to get tricky. If we invite Alex Salmond and Ieuan Wyn Jones, why not include the Greens? Or UKIP? And what about the BNP? They will each be contesting a large number of constituencies, more than SNP/Plaid in fact. And their leaders have no prospect of becoming PM either. So why not?

That’s not even considering the logistics. Let’s say we have to have a debate each in Wales and Scotland. But that would mean we need more than one debate in England, as surely England deserves more attention than one debate. And what if we wanted to introduce themes to the debates: foreign policy, domestic policy… like the way the Americans do it? Well, we won’t really be able to if there are separate debates for each country.

Unless there are huge numbers of debates. Which is, obviously, never going to happen. Too many debates would be a total failure, as the audience would be split, it wouldn’t be a big set-piece event, lacking the necessary prestige. There’s a reason why there are only three debates in the USA. It truly is the magic number. And that’s completely ignoring the logistical point that Brown, Cameron et al would never agree to more than four debates because of the time consuming nature of them.

Basically, the SNP have opened the can of worms. A rotten, festering can that has enormous potential to ruin what could have been the most interesting development in British electoral politics in many decades.

I hope they know what they’re doing.

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2 Responses to “Will The Nats Scupper The Debate?”

  1. […] British politics is boring me again – I’ll believe the leaders debate when I see it – it’s time to look at what’s going on in the […]

  2. […] the election debates will happen at all. Naturally, some of us told you this was going to happen several months ago. OK, I assumed it would be only the Nats who would scupper the debate… but it was pretty […]

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