Written by David Broadbridge
UKIP have accepted the Telegraph/Guardian/YouTube proposal for a digital debate, which as David Cameron wants, could be held before the start of the general election campaign. Labour, the Liberal Democrats and Greens have also been invited.
The proposal put forward is intended to engage young voters in the political process and allow a different form of debate to take place. In accepting, Nigel Farage has put pressure on the Prime Minister and said that he should “show up to try and defend his record in government.” Indeed the Prime Minister on the surface appears keen to engage in a digital debate before the start of the campaign and negotiations are ongoing.So far the three broadcasters – BBC, ITV and Sky – and the political parties have made a mess of negotiations and the digital debate seems to be the only one that is making real headway.
David Cameron’s initial request to include the Green Party in debates was entirely justified, but when the broadcasters counter proposed including the Greens, SNP and Plaid Cymru, Mr Cameron was given more fuel as he could and did then request that the DUP be included in the debates as well. This has lead to arguments that he may be trying to find a way to pull out.
Had the broadcasters simply added the Greens then the SNP, Plaid Cymru and the DUP would have all protested – but seeing as none of them stand in more than one part of the UK, they are not national parties. Indeed, there should be debates in Scotland and Wales where the main parties are included along with the nationalists. Northern Ireland has a completely different set of parties and should have debates as well.
In the run up to the previous election, there were debates in each of the regions of the UK. If the seven-way debate goes ahead then there is no reason why there should be other debates in Scotland or Wales.
David Cameron is right about one thing; you cannot exclude the DUP who have eight seats and are the fourth largest party in Westminster and include the SNP who have six and Plaid Cymru who have three.
Mr Cameron has now ruled out a head-to-head with Milliband, and argued for just one seven way debate before the campaign. His reasoning is unknown, but as we saw from the 2010 debates and 2014 Europe debate, the outsider always wins.