At present, I’d say the likelihood of the leaders’ TV debates going ahead for the general election were pretty slim. It is said that Cameron does not want to take part, and is using the broadcasters decision to exclude the Green party as his excuse. Of course Ofcom and the broadcasters could still embarrass him by relenting and saying yes to the inclusion of Natalie Bennett.
But as it stands Ofcom have given the broadcasters just the excuse they need to maintain the status quo. By recommending that the Green party is not sufficiently “major” to be included on the platform they are, it seems, not only denying voters an opportunity to see Natalie Bennett go head to head with Cameron et al, but possibly denying voters a chance to see any type of TV debate at all.
What I find difficult to grasp is how Ofcom can think democracy is best served by excluding a party that the majority of voters want to see in the debates. Surely Ofcom could have applied a bit of common sense rather than rely entirely upon its own guidelines that seem weighted towards historic polling data. Indeed, surely Ofcom and the broadcasters can see the benefit of having a more diverse platform for the debates? Do they really think that having four white men in suits, all to a greater or lesser extent backing cuts to public services, and all talking tough on immigration, actually gives voters enough choice?
My cynical side says Ofcom have simply closed ranks on behalf of the establishment. Indeed, the Ofcom board is not exactly representative of the UK electorate, including as it does, two Dames, a Baroness, and other suitably well connected individuals from business and broadcasting. So perhaps I should know better than to think such individuals would see the value of adding an alternative voice to the business-as-usual parties.
But all is not lost yet as Ofcom are consulting on their position. If they can be persuaded to reconsider, then the broadcasters may back down and agree to the Green party being included. Only then will we know for certain whether or not Cameron was bluffing.