Televised Leaders Debates ……. ‘A modern day Whitehall Farce’

Whitehall Farces, for those old enough to recall, usually commenced with ‘a small lie’, which was quickly compounded by a need to ‘keep up appearances’, a mistaken identity or two, a generous portion of ‘confusion and chaos’ thrown in, before traditionally culminating a ‘trouser-dropping frenzy’.


The televised leadership debate process initially appeared simple, a party-neutral independent body Ofcom, was given the task of determining which parties could reasonably be described as ‘main parties’,

– the leaders of these parties would then be invited to take part in three televised debates.


In order to determine which parties should be deemed to be ‘main’ or ‘major parties’, Ofcom meticulously assessed both past and current electoral support,

– recent General Election, local election, and European election results were taken into account, as were the results of a wide variety of nationwide opinion polls.


At the conclusion of their assessment, Ofcom decided that Labour, Conservatives, Lib Dems and UKIP should be considered main parties.


The report which Ofcom produced stated that the Greens were not considered a main party as they had polled ‘single digit’, often ‘low single digit’ percentages in every recent national election, and their highest opinion poll rating in a Great Britain-wide poll, by the end of December 2014, was 5.9%.

Case closed, jobs a good ‘un, time for a tea break.

Ofcom’s work was complete, so it was passed over to the broadcasters to decide when the debates should take place.


However our beloved Prime Minister rapidly stepped in.

Keenly aware that he would be exposed to questions which he

i) Hadn’t personally authorised,

ii) Hadn’t been given the answers to learn in advance, and which

iii) Would not be asked in ‘a leading to an easy answer’ format, by a member of his own party

– in other words, that these debates would not be run along the same lines as ‘Prime Ministers Questions’ in the Commons,

– Mr Cameron announced that he couldn’t possibly take part unless the Greens were allowed to  participate, as “it wasn’t fair to allow some minor parties to take part, but not others”

– this despite having previously been perfectly happy for Ofcom to determine who was a minor or major party, which they duly did, using a set of perfectly reasonable criteria.


“Call me Dave” went on to declare that Lib Dems, UKIP and Greens, were all really ‘minor parties’, in his opinion, and so allowing the Lib Dem and UKIP leaders into the debates and not the Greens, again purely in his opinion, “would not be fair”.


Mistaken Identity! UKIP and the Lib Dems had just been assessed as ‘main parties’, by the very body that Mr Cameron had previously agreed should make this crucial assessment.

But “the biggest mistaken identity” of all, must surely be Mr Cameron, suddenly portraying himself as a ‘fair man’ ?


David Cameron has consistently championed the hated and patently unfair Bedroom Tax,

– he supports every man woman and child in Scotland having £1600 per head of public money extra spent on them each year… compared to England, meaning students don’t pay tuition fees, no one pays for prescriptions, and their elderly are allowed to keep more of their savings before having to contribute to Care Home fees,

– Cameron also supports Scottish MPs being able to vote on purely English matters in Westminster, despite there being no reciprocal English representation in the Scottish parliament,

– yet wants us to believe that ‘fairness in all things’ is a big issue for him.


One might suggest that pretty much all available evidence points to ‘fairness’ and ‘David Cameron’ having, at the very best, ‘only a nodding acquaintance’.


The reason stated for refusing to take part in the debates in their original format by the PM, is of course, quite obviously, and without any question, not the main one.


Cameron’s real reasons for trying to avoid taking part in any debates, are almost certainly:

– he is afraid of having Tory policies exposed and questioned, fearful of his own knowledge of the same policies being found wanting,

– but also wants exposure for the Greens, as they may take votes from Labour & Lib Dems in May.


This last piece of ‘Call me Dave’s logic is open to serious question, it’s a fact that the Greens have gained a lot of members recently, but they have mostly been students, attracted by their blanket, ‘no tuition fees’ policy, and ‘£5 student Green Party membership’,

– a ‘tasty combination’, which has unsurprisingly gone down very well with university students.


The Greens have, to those who don’t delve too deeply, a cosy, ‘environmentally friendly’ image, which hides many of their ‘verging on Communist’, quite frankly, ‘stark staring bonkers’ policies, including:

  • working to destroy all sense of British nationality
  • introducing a total freedom for all non-Europeans, as well as European nationals to move to the UK
  • providing unlimited free legal aid to all asylum seekers
  • allowing all illegal migrants to remain in UK once they have escaped deportation for five years
  • decriminalising membership of terrorist organisations such as ISIS


The BBC has devoted considerable air time recently to Natalie Bennett (Green leader), inquiring what her conditions would be in order for the Greens to be willing to take part in a Coalition government,

– this must surely be some of the most pathetic and pointless television ever broadcast.


The Green party currently have one seat, which they will do quite well to hold on to in May after the total mess they have made of Brighton, where they have their one MP and control of the local Council,

– but have virtually zero prospect of gaining any additional ones

(supposedly their next best target is Bristol West, where they need a full ‘22% swing’ in order to win)


If I was Cameron, I would be quite keen to keep the Greens away from the debates.

If some of the more ‘lunatic’ Green policies get exposed to the wider public, then almost certainly their poll ratings will take a big dip, they will lose voter support, and it will benefit Labour and the Lib Dems.


By any reasonable assessment, the SNP shouldn’t be present in Westminster, ‘period’…. but given that they are, and with current polls suggesting they may well will win 50 of the 59 seats in Scotland,

– if the Greens are included in the debates, it becomes quite difficult to argue that the SNP shouldn’t take part as well.


‘Confused? You will be…’


The latest proposals (as of 23rd Jan) are for BBC and ITV to screen two ‘two hour debates’, featuring the leaders of Conservatives, Labour, Lib Dems, UKIP, Green Party, SNP and Plaid Cymru,

– Sky and Channel4 jointly screening a final ‘head to head’, with only Cameron and Miliband invited.


Seems reasonable you might think, except… why include the SNP (6 seats in Westminster currently) and Plaid Cymru (just 3 seats) … but not the DUP (who have 8 seats), or Sinn Fein (5 seats) ?


Not too surprisingly, Peter Robinson, leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, isn’t at all happy, has objected to being excluded, but has had his objection thrown out on the basis that the DUP don’t compete against Conservatives, Labour and Lib Dems in the constituencies where they stand.

George Galloway has also complained, and is consulting lawyers with a view to mounting a legal challenge to his Respect party not having been invited, on the basis that they currently have exactly the same number of MPs as the Greens (‘one’).

The Lib Dems aren’t at all pleased about not being included in the third debate, and are considering a legal challenge to their current exclusion from it.

The DUP, Sinn Fein, Alliance and SDLP are all separately considering legal challenges, to try to force the BBC and ITV to include them, meaning there could eventually be 11, or even 12 leaders taking part in the first two debates….

– effectively rendering them completely unworkable and pointless

(exactly as Cameron very likely anticipated when he first declared that he wouldn’t take part unless his ‘great mates’ the Greens were included)


And… still no firm commitment from our Prime Minister has been given as to whether he will take part in any of the debates, even in their new format.


The broadcasters, having ‘bent over backwards’ to accommodate our PM, have stated that any leader who refuses to participate in the new format debates will simply be represented by an ‘empty chair’,

– however it’s a little unclear how this would work in case of the third and final ‘head to head’ debate,

– if Cameron doesn’t show up… will Miliband ‘debate’ with an empty chair…

– bookmakers odds for who will win that one will be interesting…. ‘place your bets’…


So, it’s still unclear if any debates will actually take place (scheduled for 2nd, 16th and 30th of April)

– if they do, who will participate in them,

– and whose metaphorical ‘trousers will be around their ankles’ at their conclusion.


“May the Farce be with them”.


Published and promoted by Pete Durnell, of 18 Farm Avenue, Oldbury, West Midlands B68 8PW   Tel 07736 935181
Printed (Hosted) by, Automattic, Inc., 60 29th Street #343, San Francisco, CA 94110-4929, USA


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