17 Jan 2013

Cameron: exclude Farage from TV debates

In an interview for the latest issue of the House magazine, David Cameron has made it clear he thinks that Nigel Farage, the leader of UKIP, should be excluded from any TV debates at the next general election.

“Obviously we have to decide on this nearer the time, but the TV debates should be about, you know, the parties that are going to form the government, in my view,” Mr Cameron said.

Since UKIP has no MPs, and will find it hard to elect any MPs even if they maintain their current popularity in the polls, then it seems pretty unlikely that they would have a role, even if a coalition of more than one party again comes about after the next election.

Mr Cameron has come in for much private criticism from Conservatives for ever agreeing to TV debates before the last election, as they allowed Nick Clegg to come to the fore and impress many people who previously did not know much about the Liberal Democrat leader.  He clearly doesn’t want to repeat that with Nigel Farage and give him a huge platform to win over the British public to UKIP.

The Prime Minister said earlier this week that he thinks there should be TV debates before the next election, and said that he is willing to take part again.  But broadcasters who negotiated the last coalition  agreement are far from confident there will be TV debates next time.  Just because we had them in 2010, they argue, doesn’t mean they have become an automatic, established event.  And they point to the United States and Canada as examples of countries where debates did not become automatic.  After the famous Nixon-Kennedy debate in 1960, for example, it was another 16 years before America saw another presidential debate, when Jimmy Carter challenged President Gerald Ford in 1976.

In Britain, for several  decades before 2010, it proved impossible to mount any debates because one party always felt it was in their interests to veto the idea, usually because they were anxious not to endanger their lead in the polls.  Challengers generally want debates, while front-runners don’t.  The same may well happen in 2015.  Whatever leaders may say publicly now about favouring debates in principle, they can always come up with reasons why they don’t like the format and therefore can’t take part.  And the presence of Nigel Farage would be one such possible reason.

Certainly, the big three parties and the broadcasters can expect a strong challenge from UKIP when they try and suggest a debate format next time.  Indeed, Nigel Farage and his colleagues may well go to court to try and make their case.  And we can also expect a much more serious challenge this time from the Scottish Nationalists, whose legal challenge in 2010 was rebuffed in the courts, partly because they mounted it so late in the day.

That’s why there must be a strong chance there won’t be any TV debates in 2015.

Just as interesting is how broadcasters will respond at the next election to UKIP demands to be given a lot more coverage in other TV and radio coverage.  Should they be included as a matter of course, for instance, in studio discussions on issues beyond their normal patch, such as education and health?

In recent elections British broadcasters have broadly worked on the 5-5-4 formula, where the Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats are given airtime roughly in the overall ratio of 5-5-4.  The big question is what UKIP has to do now for that formula to be changed to include them (possibly at the expense of the Lib Dems)?  Can the broadcasters continue to exclude UKIP from the formula if, as some forecast, the party tops the poll in next year’s elections to the European Parliament?  Or if UKIP continues for the next two years to perform better than the Liberal Democrats in opinion polls and by-elections?

It’s a tricky decision for the broadcasters next time, and they’ll base any decision on what to do about including UKIP in the formula on several factors.  They include not just the European election vote, and polling information, but also their record in council elections and the number of MPs they have.

UKIP’s long-term future could depend very much on the outcome.

Follow @MichaelLCrick on Twitter.

21 reader comments

  1. Cllr Stuart Parr says:

    “Should they be included as a matter of course, for instance, in studio discussions on issues beyond their normal patch, such as education and health?”

    It’s only beyond our “normal patch” because the media always want to concentrate on the EU when talking to UKIP. UKIP has the most comprehensive manifesto of any of the mainstream parties in the UK, the perception that UKIP is a single issue party is perpetuated by the media who never ask us to talk about anything else!

  2. Mark Thompson says:

    To get attention you need MPs, to get MPs you need attention. The LibLabCon monopoly is dying. People have had enough. Cameron is a COWARD

  3. sue_m says:

    Cameron wants to stop a party that could take votes from his party from having a voice? How very democratic of him! Clearly he knows his party cannot win in its own merits.

  4. Ray Turner says:

    Not just UKIP’s long-term future, the decision will also influence the UK’s future…

  5. jean shaw says:

    Obviously UKIP should be included in debates outside the EU question . For example on Education their policy is significantly and radical from that of the other Parties but is in tune with what a fair segment of the population think is needed.
    On many issues they speak for the average person whilst the Lib/Lab/Con cosy trio vary only on the margins.
    We need a Party which is willing to contest the cosy consensus which lives on in the Westminster village.

  6. StuartM says:

    ““Obviously we have to decide on this nearer the time, but the TV debates should be about, you know, the parties that are going to form the government, in my view,” Mr Cameron said.”

    I thought elections were about free and open votes. Yet Cameron seems to have decided the result in so far as he has decided who will not be relevant. Whilst I am no UKIP supporter, it is easy to see how the Lib Dems will largely disappear next election which may put UKIP in a far stronger position when it comes to any coalitions. So whilst I would agree that UKIP are unlikely to gain an overall majority next election, it does seem possible that they may end-up are part of a coalition (given their recent gains in the opinion polls).

  7. matt says:

    I saw some footage of Nigel Farage and was genuinely impressed. No wonder Cameron doesn’t want to offer him a platform. I’m not the most politically motivated person , I tend to think that they are all in it for themselves. Farage impressed me as a politician who believed in his message, and a lot of us general public are increasingly disillusioned about the EU. UKIP are the only party who are pledged to give us a referendum that you can believe will do it. Of course Cameron doesn’t want to see Farage given more of a public platform.

  8. robert david christiancameron's scared says:

    cameron’s scared shitless because the british people have rumbled his prevarication over this eurozone disaster, GET OUT NOW, the eussr stinks to high hell.

  9. Mark Daniel says:

    Of course Cameron and Clegg will not face Farage at an open, democratic hustings. Farage is not only Britain’s finest orator, always well-informed and devastatingly quick on his feet, but he is also sincere. He would therefore waste them in open debate.

    We can only pray that television companies will abide by the terms of their franchises in defiance of the established government and the mediocratic elite. Their role is to entertain (Farage needed!), instruct (Farage needed) and reflect the concerns and moods of the nation (Farage essential!). For as long as the media base their decisions regarding access on past results, the status quo ante will remain, stagnating whilst the nation stirs and seethes beneath the surface.

    So the television companies must invite Farage because that would be overwhelmingly the desire of viewers. If Cameron then elects to flee, as he has fled popular will in dodging referendums, so be it. The public will form its own opinions as his scut twinkles over the far horizon.

    1. Vallery Squires says:

      Will we ever be able to scrape our boot heels free from the stench of Tory,Lib dem or Labour’s
      excrutiatingly damaging ‘policies’?

      1. doug wright says:

        We have a ‘democracy’ where the establishment/media ensure that no political party/independents outside of the ‘big three’ and now UKIP are allowed hardly any ‘air time’ during any election period. I stood in the 2010 Doncaster Mayoral
        election and only obtained one pre recorded slot lasting just one minute on Radio Sheffield!

  10. Ian says:

    What is he frightened of?

  11. Adam Smith says:

    Sign this petition to allow UKIP to take part in the 2015 TV election debates:


    1. StuartM says:

      Unfortunately the petition will fail because it raises two issues. It says “We believe that if The UK Independence Party or ‘UKIP’ beat either of the coalition parties (Liberal Democrats or Conservative Party) at the European Elections 2014” as well as that they should be included in the debates.

      I would not sign as I do not necessarily agree (or know enough about) the first part – even though I think they should be included in the debates in the interests of democracy.

      Make petitions single issue – only UKIP supporters will sign this one where as just “In the interests of democracy UKIP should be included” would encourage many non-UKIP supporters.

  12. Colin Hart says:

    Please could we have a MP prepared to make history by defecting to UKIP and thus being hero worshiped by the great British public.

  13. Cllr Stuart Parr says:

    We had Bottler Brown who wouldn’t hold an election because he knew he would lost, now we have Cowardly Cameron who won’t hold a referendum because he knows he would lose.

  14. carl says:

    Because your scared Mr Cameron, you know he’s the only one who makes any sense!!!!

  15. pat Carolan says:

    I watched Nigel Farage on Question Time last Thursday. His performance against the Pro Europeans was devastating. They were extremely uncomfortable when confronted by facts about Europes role in our affairs. Little wonder he is now feared by those in the hitherto “main” political parties who have failed to give the British people a choice regarding the relationship they want with Europe. America, Germany, France, Ed Milliband, Michael Heseltine and some parts of the powerful media all fail to recognise one important democratic value. That it is the indominable right of the British people to decide, not theirs. We joined a common market, not a political union that orders us to act in accordance with their rules. The integrity of our borders is now the domain of burocrats in Brussels. I don’t want that. Our right to deport known Terrorists is blocked by their “human rights ” legislation. I dont want that either. I do want a Britain that once more is respected internationally for its values , its spirit and its independance .

  16. David says:

    I disagree with Cameron on most things. One exception, however, is his characterisation of UKIP, which remains spot-on.

  17. J A Jones says:

    Cameron and Clegg should ban any exposure of Farage as it is not in their interest.

  18. mervyn johnson says:

    It should be what the people want not what the politicians desire. More manipulation by those that hold power, to retain power by suppressing those that threaten their power.

Comments are closed.