13 Oct 2014

Farage invited to TV debate

Douglas Carswell just re-entered the Commons in his new guise as a Ukip MP. The Commons, which had been noisy with Labour cheers for the new Heywood and Middleton MP, Liz Macinnes, went into what Douglas Carswell afterwards called “stony silence”.

There was strangely reverent bow to Michael Gove, the chief whip, the whole exchange to the bafflement of many Tory MPs who were maintaining granite like expressions. Rather than choose his seat on the opposition backbenches, Douglas Carswell went out of the exit behind the Speaker’s chair and off to tea with Nigel Farage. Whips will be peering round the door to see how many Tory MPs accepted Douglas Carswell’s invitation to join them.

A landmark day for Ukip because it also brought an invitation to the leaders’ TV election debates. They’re only invited to one of the 3 planned debates in the broadcasters’ outline plans. Nigel Farage said the broadcasters might need to revisit that if his poll ratings continue to spiral upwards.

Instead of three debates of three leaders (Lab, Con and Lib Dem) the broadcasters are proposing one debate of three, one of Con v Lab and one of four leaders (the three plus Ukip).

David Cameron insisted this morning that he was a big fan of TV debates but raised two objections to the draft plan which will come as no surprise to the broadcasters. He wants to move the debates (most if not all of them) out of the actual election campaign proper.

The broadcasters’ plan keeps them all in April 2015 (parliament would rise on 31 March, kicking off the campaign proper). The broadcasters will argue that with an exceptionally long campaign in the diary the debates will not dominate the election in the way they did last time.

They will also argue that the novelty factor will have worn off and that should help reducing their dominance of the campaign too. They would also argue that you can’t really have “election debates” until all the parties have published their manifestos, and that means waiting until the starting gun has been fired.

Deep down, the Tories worry not only that Nigel Farage would sweep up support as he did in the Clegg/Farage debates in the European election. They also worry that with Ed Miliband’s ratings so low, the only way is up for the Labour leader. Prof Philip Cowley, co-author of the “The British General Election of 2010,” told me expectations of Ed Miliband are so low that “when he comes on stage and doesn’t soil himself … he will out-perform expectations”.

Will Ofcom allow the ITV debate to stay at four party leaders? The Greens are already lobbying for a place in the studio. The Ofcom committee that would weigh up any such challenge looks at a whole “basket” of measures of support including polls and performance in national elections.

The SNP (now with the third highest party membership levels in the UK) is demanding access to the debate. Last time round the SNP took the matter to court in Edinburgh.

One senior figure in the Tory campaign has mooted the idea of trying to restrict the TV debates to parliamentary party leaders. That would mean Caroline Lucas for the Greens and Douglas Carswell for UKIP. Doesn’t seem to be flying, that one.

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5 reader comments

  1. Alan says:

    No issue, TV debates are like TV news, only the media, PR companies and vain politico’s take them seriously and not for what is said either. Discussion of the Palestinian vote may have been more interesting given the British press on the whole is ignoring that story.

  2. michael palmer says:

    The decision for a TV debate inter-party should include ALL parties that are running for election, and those that have completed the necessary registration requirements.

    If it is an electoral debate, then in the interests of continuity and context, the debate should be held within a close proximity of the election; or perhaps have a round of debates pre-election from around the country [including our affiliated cousins form Scotland, Ireland and Wales].

    People politics rather than pandering to corporate investors and the like should be preferred, freeing up valuable time for our elected representatives to address the concerns of the people.

    It can only be fair, just, and reasonable to allow ALL parties concerned to pitch to the public, using a medium the majority [of the people] are most familiar with; the outcome of the debate will not be binding, but in the 21st C surely this mode of outreach will make politics and West Minster more accessible to the people who should be voting.

    Let them [people & politicians] have their forum, free from devise, manipulation or corruption – if at all possible?

  3. John Killah says:

    It is not until the final sentence that there is even a mention of the Green Party (no, I am not a Green Party member). What is so utterly depressing is that Channel 4 News, at the vanguard of unbiased knowledgeable reporting allows itself to be part of a broadcasting cabal that proposes a debate including UKIP (one parliamentary seat) but excluding the Greens (also one seat). Thought that you were both different and better.
    The media is (usually) correct on castigating how out of touch the Westminster Village is on what is really happening in the country.
    Your highly surprising support for the continued media love-in with Mr Farage at the deliberate exclusion of others with an equal claim will do little to stop the public’s increasing alienation from the democratic political process.
    Sad that I am even writing this but on this issue Channel 4, you really should to be hanging your head in shame.

  4. Philip Edwards says:


    All the others have to do is ask Farage which of the privatised services will be returned to community ownership with NO COMPENSATION except in cases of proven need, since the ripoff merchants have already had their thieving profits.

    Then supplement it by asking which of the privatised elements of the NHS would he return in-house.

    Then finally ask him does he denounce the proposed corrupt TTIP deal and further warmongering in the Middle East and Ukraine and the Thatcher years.

    No prizes for guessing how close he’d be to a card-carrying neocon tory stance.

    Not that the others could summon the guts to pinion him that way.

    Immigration as an “issue”?…..Well, we know his answer to that one…….

  5. CWH says:

    At the last General Election one of the reasons given for excluding Alec Salmond, leader of the SNP, was that he was not an MP – neither is Nigel Farage!

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