Cameron wants Greens in election debates

The Green Party have been campaigning to be included in the televised leader’s debates prior to the UK’s upcoming general election.

The initial suggestion of the BBC, Channel 4, Sky and ITV was to have a first round with the leaders of the Conservatives, Labour, the Lib Dems and (controversially) UKIP, a second with the three traditional parties, and a final round with just Cameron and Miliband.

Since then the Green Party have raised a petition of over 275,000 signatures for their inclusion in the first round, and they have received a large amount of news coverage over the issue. A poll by the Guardian says 89% of their readers want the Greens included, with only 3% agreeing with the current proposals. A YouGov poll for the Times said 47% of respondents wanted the Green Party leader Natalie Bennett included. 

Natalie Bennett, Green Party leader. Image with Creative Commons licensing.

Natalie Bennett, Green Party leader. Image with Creative Commons licensing.

But popular opinion has been ignored. Yesterday Ofcom said the Greens probably won’t be classed as a major party ahead of the May election, while UKIP “may do”. Considering the fact that Ofcom gave them major party status before the EU election and Farage was invited to the debates ages ago – before they even had their first MP – all the signs are that they will soon enjoy major party status along with the three traditional parties.

I’m extremely disappointed about their continual exclusion of the Greens, even though it isn’t entirely surprising. What is pretty surprising, is how Tory Prime Minister David Cameron has responded. He is saying he won’t take part in the debates unless the Green Party leader Natalie Bennett is invited.

This is a spanner in the works, for sure. There’s no way the TV stations are going to run the debates without the Tories – they’re the current governing party and they have the highest polling. Don’t ask me how, but it’s true. Of course it’s possible the debates just won’t happen at all, but I think that’s very unlikely. They were very popular last year, everyone is expecting them, and the TV stations say they remain “committed” to having them.

The other invited leaders have criticised Cameron thoroughly, and Farage is taunting him for ‘running scared’ from debating with him on screen. It obviously has to be all about him, doesn’t it? Obviously Cameron says it’s a question of simple fairness – why should a young party like UKIP be invited without the Greens?

Of course, what he’s doing is transparent: The Greens are much more likely to take votes from Labour than from his party, so of course he wants them there doing some of his work for him. According to the BBC, his “private” (read: actual) view is that:

“If we, the Conservatives, are to get hurt by the people to our right, UKIP, then Labour and the Liberal Democrats should get hurt by people to their left, the Green Party”.

To me it doesn’t matter at all that he’s doing this for tactical rather than ethical reasons. It’s all I would expect, and it’ll have the same outcome. If he sticks to this injunction and doesn’t get pushed over by the other party leaders, then Ofcom may well be forced to change their mind.

A final decision on whether the Greens and UKIP gain major party status will be published by Ofcom after further consultation, in March.

In the meantime, let’s flood Ofcom with messages to make the case for the Green’s inclusion loud and clear! You can tweet them at @Ofcom and see their more traditional contact details here. Here’s some ideas for the Green case:

  • The Greens have 1 MP.
  • While UKIP now have 2 MPs, they were listed as a major party in the run-up to the EU elections and invited to the TV leader’s debates before they had any at all!
  • The Greens are polling on average 7%, neck and neck with the Lib Dems.
  • The Greens have 3 MEPs while the Lib Dems have only 1.
  • The Greens came 4th in the EU election, with over 1 million votes.
  • Green Party membership has doubled over the last year, now over 31,000*

I seriously am praying Ofcom will change their mind about the Greens, because I’m sure they’re very settled on having UKIP down as a major party. I mean, they did it before they even had an MP… Which I just cannot believe. There is clearly serious bias at work.

Anyway, here’s hoping Cameron stays true to his word.
I think this is probably the first time I’ve ever agreed with him!

Image from the petition change.org 'Invite the Greens' petition.

Image from the petition change.org ‘Invite the Greens’ petition.

*When I first wrote this I put the figure at 27,000, the last I’d heard. It’s now 31,000, which just shows how quickly they’re growing.

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