Monday, December 21, 2009

Televised election debates will open the floodgates of litigation

There are pros and cons to this development, all of which are now a heated topic of fierce debate on all the political blogs.

But Cranmer is a little bemused.

In the United Kingdom, we have a party of government and an official opposition. The leader of one of these parties will be the next prime minister.

Nick Clegg may have produced the best Christmas card, but he does not have a cat in hell's chance of being the next prime minister.

So why is he granted three debates along with the Prime Minister and the Leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition?

And since he has been granted such, why not the leaders of the DUP, the UUP, the SDLP, Plaid Cymru and the SNP?

Or Sinn Féin?

For they too will be contesting seats in their respective corners of the Kingdom.

And if these, why not UKIP, since they came a very respectable second in the recent Euro-elections?

And if UKIP, why not the Greens, since they also have councillors and assembly members?

And if the Greens, why not the BNP?

Or Respect?

And don't the English Democrats now have a mayor?

And what about the Independent Kidderminster Hospital and Health Concern?

And are not José Manuel Barroso or His Excellency Herman Van Rompuy of rather more political significance than any of these minnows at the next general election?

What exactly are the broadcasting criteria for deciding which political leaders are granted the (bountiful) gift of airtime to espouse their policies to the electorate? There is no precedent; there are no statutory guidelines.

By including Nick Clegg, the broadcasters have now left themselves vulnerable to a series of legal challenges. And a protracted and diversionary judicial review of televised political debate in the UK is the last thing our democracy needs.


Blogger john in cheshire said...

Good point, Iain. I would love to see Brown against Nick Griffin. Obviously, minus the claque that was present at the bbc abomination on QT.

21 December 2009 at 20:12  
Blogger Archbishop Cranmer said...


Mr John in Cheshire, His Grace is honoured that you think yourself to be in such exalted company.

Alas, this is His Grace's humble and obscure blog. Mr Dale is to be found here.

21 December 2009 at 20:21  
Blogger BilloTheWisp said...

Sounds like it is just another step down the slippery slope to an American style Razzamatazz two party election. Elections should be about clearly laid out policies (and honesty) not a 2/3 party spin orgy. The smaller parties are not going to get a look-in are they? I hope they sue.

21 December 2009 at 20:47  
Blogger graham wood said...

I note that the BBC PM programme was quite excited about the news, as if it portends some great political shift.
But the truth is that the TV debate, like the ones in our Provincial Parliament, are now largely academic in any practical sense. If 80% of our laws emanate from Brussels, it matters very little how our politicians debate relatively minor matters, or re-arrange the chairs.

21 December 2009 at 20:52  
Blogger Tarquin said...

umm - the lib dems are already given precedence over all other small parties, broadcasters always go to them for political shows and news, and when have you seen the green party conference given coverage on the BBC?

If they go to litigation over this, then they should be including question time, the daily politics, pretty much every news programme..

21 December 2009 at 21:47  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tarquin said:-

"umm - the lib dems are already given precedence over all other small parties, broadcasters always go to them for political shows and news, and when have you seen the green party conference given coverage on the BBC?
If they go to litigation over this, then they should be including question time, the daily politics, pretty much every news programme."

And lets not forget 'Thought for the Day', maybe we'll get to hear a Humanist view on life!!..or is that taking democracy to far?

21 December 2009 at 22:17  
Blogger The Anti Christ said...

If I said what a load of old bollocks, would you basically get the gist?

21 December 2009 at 22:29  
Blogger James Mackenzie said...

Yup, this looks like a nervous response to the situation known on the betting blogs as The Rise of the Others.

Best show them all it's just a 2.5 party game and hope they'll forget about the Greens and the rest.

21 December 2009 at 22:56  
Blogger English Pensioner said...

I hope it does. It'll be far more interesting than the political debate!

21 December 2009 at 23:03  
Anonymous jimmy said...

It will be like 3 bald men fighting over a comb. Almost the same views on the EU, the manmade global warming scam, QE and Afghanistan.
Major setback for the SNP though. Missing out on 5hrs of prime time tv plus of course the build up and post debate chatter. For the SNP government in Scotland hoping to increase their number of seats at Westminster it's crazy that their main opposition parties will get all this attention while they are sidelined. Disaster for them really.

21 December 2009 at 23:48  
Anonymous not a machine said...

Bit of a fad if you ask me , I mean the USA can hardly say its its has made less corrupt politics.

None the less it will be interesting to see how the questions work , and the other debates being planned.

perhaps staus quo was right !
"whated ever you want " de dum de dum
"what ever you like" de dum de dum

I would like a conditional polygraph to be attached to the PM , in case we need entertaining.

22 December 2009 at 00:20  
Anonymous farcical said...

What a farce. Does anyone seriously believe that Clegg or Brown will be the next PM ? So what's the point ?
The SNP are leading in the Westminster polls in Scotland so it will kill that surge stone dead.

22 December 2009 at 00:34  
Anonymous Hank Petram said...

I can see a case for giving the SNP air time in Scotland only, since nobody in England has the chance to vote for an SNP candidate, and similarly for Plaid Cymru and the Norn Iron parties. Otherwise, surely any party that has at least one MP in the current House of Commons should be invited along to join in the fun.

22 December 2009 at 01:20  
Anonymous Zach Johnstone said...

Your Grace,

I attended an event today with Cameron just as this news broke; he seemed buoyed by this announcement, naturally claiming that he had been pursuing this for a number of years (although interestingly i seem to remember Clegg pushing for this fairly fervently a number of months ago).

But with regards to your point about Clegg, I would make one inference on this issue. The latest ComRes poll has the Tories down by 3% and labour up 5%. This follows ICM and YouGov polls predicting exactly the same thing mere days ago. Granted, the poll results of late are tumultuous at best, however there is here real potential for a hung parliament.

With the UK economy in line to technically come out of recession in the 4th quarter of this year, an early election is still a possibility and this would at least make the election race interesting. Surely the party that has a genuine chance of holding the balance of power in the next parliament at least needs to be heard, given that its policies would find their way onto the legislative agenda in the event of a hung parliament?

If the main two parties do not wish to contend with smaller parties, then they first have to eradicate the potentiality of minority government completely. All the while they can't, I think the third party at least views an airing.

22 December 2009 at 01:21  
Anonymous Zach Johnstone said...

deserves an airing*

22 December 2009 at 01:22  
Blogger Archbishop Cranmer said...

Mr Johnstone,

You make the mistake of assuming that the Liberal Democrats are the only king-makers.

His Grace suggests you look at past examples of a hung parliament or small-majority governments, and discern the traditional allies of the Conservative Party.

22 December 2009 at 07:42  
Blogger Gnostic said...

I think we should sue the bloody lot of 'em anyway after what they've done. Let's inject some new blood into the process. UKIP anyone?

22 December 2009 at 08:18  
Anonymous Bag Lady said...

What's happened to D.Singh? He hasn't posted for at least 3 days! I'm getting worried!

22 December 2009 at 08:35  
Blogger Demetrius said...

As self appointed leader of the RIP party (Retired Idle Parasites)why have I not been invited? Can it be because I will refuse to prevaricate, dissemble, or wear make-up?

22 December 2009 at 08:57  
Blogger Anabaptist said...

Mrs/Miss Bag Lady: Singh was sent into outer darkness for three weeks by his wife. He was kind enought to tell us this. You need become worried only if he returns.

The question as to who takes part in the debate is easy to answer: all the non-participating parties are easily distinguishable from the Big Three and from each other. There are clear policy and style differences between, say, UKIP and Greens.

But there is hardly any difference between the three parties in the debate, and none of it is significant. It is therefore a fiendishly difficult spot-the-difference contest.


22 December 2009 at 10:30  
Blogger Anabaptist said...

Oops! ...enough...

22 December 2009 at 10:31  
Blogger AndrewWS said...

And if these, why not the Libertarians ( who may not have any seats yet, but whose leader (Chris Mounsey) would be far more worth watching and listening to than any of the establishment politicos? Hmmm?

22 December 2009 at 11:29  
Blogger Lord Lavendon said...

I've posted about why I disagree with the whole issue of these debates, but as a brief summary:

1.It goes against the british constituional practice- we do not elect the PM, the Queen appoints based on the majority that a particular party leader can command in the Commons. So why make this into a beauty contest?

2. Fairness- why allow only the three main parties, why not include UKIP, Greens, BNP and anyone else you care to mention.Also why have a seperate Scottish/Welsh debate and no seperate English one?

3. Not The British way - we have manifestos and the intelligent reader could make a decision based on these alone or decide to vote for their local MP, because they do a 'good' job, regardless of party. Do we really expect these debates to discuss key issues in an informed way? Or do we expect political point scoring -e.g. labour/tory investment/cuts and the liberals anti-politics, don't vote for the main parties meme? (which is what happens at PMQ's almost every week).

22 December 2009 at 11:39  
Blogger Sir Henry Morgan said...


I nicked this article for our Wigan blog. We support the BNP.

I linked appropriately.

22 December 2009 at 11:54  
Blogger ultramontane grumpy old catholic said...

Would you buy a used car from any of these gentlemen?

22 December 2009 at 13:52  
Anonymous Ross J Warren said...

I agree there should rightly be a storm of indignation about the non-democratic nature of these debates. We do not live in a Two or Three party state. If we are going to go through with these debates they should at the very least support democracy, not mock the concept. The whole notion of these debates is flawed, we do not elect a PM, we elect a constituency MP, and yes these three do lead the three largest English parties. They certainly do not represent everyone, and they do not have a right to preferential treatment. These Debates were always a bad idea, Sky should not be setting the agenda, but if we are to have such debates they should be consistent with our Constitution. Our Democracy is being dealt another blow, by this wrong headed series of debates, which is so obviously lacking the leaders of the many other Major parties that should of course be involved. I am worried that these debates will undermine the principle of representative democracy that has served us for the most part very well indeed. I certainly want to hear all the arguments of all of the parties not just those of the three largest parties. I may well support the Conservative party, but I also believe in Democracy and the British Constitution. Let the legal challenges begin.

Your Grace is a star!

22 December 2009 at 14:58  
Blogger alistair said...

Could it be your grace that Mr Clegg has been included because either Mr Brown or Mr Cameron does not really want the debates to go ahead but want to look as if they support them. By including Mr Clegg they know there will be a multitude of legal challenges, the debate falls, but they come out smelling of roses and not alienating the lib dems who they need in some marginal seats. Or am I just being to Machiavellian

22 December 2009 at 15:07  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

These three party leaders are all agreed that we want to be part of the EU, a point at major disagreement with the electorate. The electorate also disagree with all three parties view of war with the Afganhis, capital punishment, the bribing of large segments of the population in return for votes, the underequipment and lack of support for the armed forces, the toleration of corruption in the commons and lords and throughout the political class and failure to prosecute the offenders. So where are UKIP,the BNP, UK libertarians and the English Democrats, in whom our hope rests?

22 December 2009 at 19:00  
Blogger Marie1797 said...

A genuine debate with real members of the public in the audience asking those lovely awkward questions as opposed to a carefully selected public would be good, with Jeremy Paxman as host of them will make interesting programs. But, with the main three parties all in cahoots with the EU it might end up as just a ratings boost at best for the TV channels concerned.

I would like to see all candidates taking part in live debates. Anyone who puts themselves up for public vote needs to be able to use all possible media avenues to broadcast their manifestos and get their messages across to us so that we may make a decision on who we think would serve us best, and that would have to include all other parties ( yes the BNP as well!) and individuals who are standing not just the main three.

23 December 2009 at 00:34  
Anonymous no nonny said...

UGOC: "gentlemen"? Now that's Christian of you!!!

23 December 2009 at 03:11  

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