Should the SNP and Greens be included in leaders’ debates?

Welcome to another of our occasional series of posts where two writers offer an alternative view to one of the issues of the day. Today, it’s whether the SNP, Plaid and Greens should be invited to take part in leaders’  debates. 

Jonathan Waddell says there is a case for the Greens to be included on a UK basis but not the SNP and Plaid:

Earlier this week, Wings Over Scotland claimed that to exclude the SNP from UK-wide election debates would be to subjugate Scots to second-class citizens. Website owner and frequent contributor, Stuart Campbell, argued:

the only reason to bar them is that they’re Scottish. In other words, Scotland’s MPs are worth less than MPs from other parts of the UK, and therefore by extension Scottish votes are worth less than other people’s votes.

Speaking as a Scot who believes in giving a platform to a plurality of parties at any given election to encourage a representative debate of the issues and views affecting the country, surely the more obvious reason is that over 90% of the electorate can’t vote for them; or at least a question of electoral logistics rather than anti-Scottish sentiment?

The SNP are absolutely correct to claim that they should be given a platform.  However, they aren’t contesting a single seat outside Scotland, so over 90% of the viewers will never be given a chance to vote for them. Why, then, would they be given a platform in a UK-wide broadcast? They surely wouldn’t expect their Party Political Broadcasts to be played in the rUK where they have absolutely nothing to gain electorally? In the age of devolution, where each party has its respective leaders in Scotland and Wales, these leaders can have their own debates that can be broadcast to their respective electorates. This isn’t a new concept either; we actually did something very similar in 2010, albeit not between the leaders.

So where Willie Rennie can be arguing for a Liberal vision in Scotland, Carwyn Jones can argue for a Labour vision in Wales and the SNP and Plaid Cymru can argue their cases for electing their MPs to their respective electorates. It makes no sense that they should be arguing their cases to electorates that can’t vote for them. This leaves UK wide parties to argue their cases to their larger electorates – which yes, should include the Greens and UKIP. When viewers hear their cases and are potentially swayed by them, they will be able to vote for them, which viewers in England can’t do for the SNP and viewers in Scotland can’t do for Plaid Cymru.

The purpose of excluding the SNP or Plaid isn’t to call Scots and Welsh voters second-class, it’s a very simple logistical point. So in order to make the election debates fair and inclusive, let’s have Scottish and Welsh leaders debate to be broadcast in Scotland and Wales and let’s have UK leaders debate to be broadcast across the UK. It’s no reflection of nationality; simply a logical point arrived at by a realistic view of electoral potential.

Jonathan Waddell is a History and Economics student at the University of Aberdeen, President of the Aberdeen University Liberal Democrats and Vice-President for Communications for Liberal Youth Scotland. He tweets @JR_Wad. 

Caron Lindsay says “Include them all”

I can’t see any reason to exclude the Greens. Some say that because they aren’t a single UK party, with separate organisations in Scotland and England and Wales, they shouldn’t qualify. So, technically, are the Liberal Democrats. In fact, the messages of all parties has to be different north and south of the border because of devolution. We can’t talk about health and education in the same way, although we can say how we would want to see any extra funds which come to Scotland as part of the Barnett Formula spent.

I also think that there is a logical case for excluding the SNP on the grounds that Jonathan has described – that they are only standing in 10% of the UK and even if voters in England desperately don’t want lots of them in the Commons, there is nothing they can do about it.

However, as Charles Kennedy said yesterday on Politics Scotland, all parties who win representation in the Commons could potentially be part of a coalition and their views are therefore relevant. All citizens of the UK should know what their priorities would be. Let’s take civil liberties, for example. Given half a chance, both Labour and the Tories would introduce much more draconian curbs on freedoms and widen the reach of surveillance even further, all in the name of “counter terrorism.” I want to hear what all the parties have to say about that. If the SNP ended up in coalition with Labour, would they back 90 day detention if it made a comeback? They happily quadrupled pre-charge detention casually in an afternoon a few years ago. Their championing of unregulated stop and search, halted by the relentless campaigning of the Liberal Democrats and their casual attitude to the routine deployment of armed police in peaceful Highland communities, on which the Liberal Democrats forced a u-turn does not give us cause for optimism in this regard.

The chances of the SNP saying “no” to either the Tories or Labour to protect civil liberties vary from slim to unlikely. Given that this directly affects all of us, wherever we are in the UK, we need to know for sure. Those people in England for whom civil liberties are important might want to do more to make sure there were more liberal voices in the Parliament by, for example, voting Liberal Democrat and encouraging  others to do so.

Greens, Plaid and the SNP would demand the scrapping of Trident as a pre-requisite for a Coalition with Labour. That’s another issue which has massive implications for the future of the whole UK and should be looked at upfront.

I’d say include all those parties – and if that means an extra debate to cover all the issues, then that wouldn’t do any harm. As a liberal, I favour open, plural politics and want to hear from a wide range of voices. In the most unpredictable election for generations, we actually need to hear them.

What do you think?

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59 Comments

  • “Greens, Plaid and the SNP would demand the scrapping of Trident as a pre-requisite for a Coalition with Labour. ”

    Let us all hope they do well in the general election and achieve their aim . I would put up with a Labour Rainbow Coalition Government if the prize ws getting rid of Trident.

    What a shame that getting rid of Trident s not a redline policy for Liberal Democrats!

  • David Faggiani 15th Jan '15 - 1:54pm

    I agree with Jonathan Waddell on this one, on balance. I think we have to be a bit pragmatic now, and I don’t think including Sturgeon and Wood is the way to get the debates on this year. It would be nice to see separate debate pledges from the main parties to debate the SNP/Plaid though. I cannot believe this has been such an embarrassing mess. I really wish the broadcasters’ initial plans had included the Greens. Maybe just 2-3-5, or 2-2-5, rather than 2, 3, 4 format, assuming the need for a 3 broadcasters/3 debates structure? Then again, of course we were going to get arguments either way. The Greens don’t seem to be doing too badly out of all the publicity though…

  • In my view, a Westminster party with existing representation and which has nominated candidates for 50% plus one seat of the available seats, thereby having proven some degree of resilience or insurgency as well as being technically capable of winning a majority, should be part of the debates. There is a case for narrowing the field in one debate to have a head to head debate between the two frontrunners, but that’s not the main point really.

    Assuming Bennett has 326 candidates standing around the country, she should be in. If she needs or wants to throw together some sort of electoral alliance with the other Greens in Scotland, and with the assorted nationalist outfits, so that she can more credibly claim to lead some sort of anti-austerity compact across Britain, that is her business. But since the SNP and Plaid Cymru are by their own choice and design incapable of winning an election in the United Kingdom, I don’t really see any point in having them there.

    The BBC alongside local broadcasters should of course continue to run debates at the level of devolved government, which any separatist alternative could be part of. It gets a bit more complicated when considering the list based proportional systems used at the devolved assemblies, since they are designed to bring sub-majority parties into a consensus building government. For them I expect some formula like the one outlined in the article by Matthew Campbell earlier would apply, although with the change that it would also award Significance Points based on local government presence too. In time, I would hope this formula would apply to a proportional Westminster parliament, but voters should at least have a better than evens chance of actually being able to vote for whichever contending party they prefer, and under fptp, that means a size requirement.

  • Stephen Campbell 15th Jan '15 - 2:09pm

    As of today, the Greens have more members than UKIP. They have more MEPs than the Lib Dems. They are quite frequently outpolling the Lib Dems in voting intentions for the May election. It is only our outdated and unrepresentative FPTP system, with its many distortions and inbuilt unfairness that keeps other parties out of the national conversation. As we saw in a PR-based elections with the Euros earlier this year, the Greens are capable of getting far more votes than the Lib Dems. At least we know what the Greens stand for. At least we know they have principles and actually believe in something rather than some indefinable, uninspiring and bland “centre ground”.

    People want massive changes to our politics. Labour, Tory and Lib Dem only offer more of the same: tinkering around the edges and superficial differences, but all three of the “old” parties are wedded to the Neoliberal, globalisation “consensus”. I despise UKIP and all they stand for, but at least they are, like us in the Greens, giving people an actual choice. We’ve had 30 years of Blue Tories, Red Tories and Yellow Tories. Enough.

    Keeping the Greens out of the debates would be undemocratic. Any Lib Dem who claims to believe in PR and democracy and then goes on to argue that the Greens should be excluded (as some in previous threads have argued) shows how undemocratic and, dare I say it, illiberal this party has become.

  • The SNP may not stand in the other three countries but they are standing for a parliament which governs the whole UK They are likely to have considerable influence in that parliament and the whole UK needs to hear what they have to say. A UK parliament is meaningless unless the UK can can reflect and accommodate its diversity, whether that is national or social. The pedantic argument about where parties stand is pure self interest on the part of Labour Tory and Lib.Dem.

  • Tony Dawson 15th Jan '15 - 4:13pm

    Of course they should be represented if possible. The more the merrier. There is, however, a logistic constraint over a debate in terms of how to operate any sensible debate where there are too many participants.

    Why should those parties currently represented in parliament be considered to have any special place in determining how broadcasts about issues of a forthcoming election? Certainly not a monopoly. The electorate should, surely, be presented with a range of different viewpoints about what needs to be done and how to do it. The idea that those who have been doing the job (MPs NOT just government) should have a monopoly over this is wrong.

    However, the parliament of the past has allowed the electoral commission to have a deciding say in this matter. Personally, I would give this strange-minded bunch no say over anything at all but that is the way it is. So, by all means try to change their minds. But they have the say and if Cameron takes his bat home there should be the ’empty chair’ with whatever signs placed in it which the others wish to deposit there. Whether there is a tub of lard left in the chair is optional.

  • Tony Greaves 15th Jan '15 - 4:19pm

    This is all a Bubble Obsession. Most people could not care too hoots and are bored by the whole thing.

    Tony

  • Helen Parker 15th Jan '15 - 4:25pm

    I agree with Caron (1) because UK politics decreasingly fits a two party mould and it is important for the electorate to understand this – a debate that includes them all would help this along a good deal and (2) because there is a possibility of another, perhaps more diverse coalition. Voters outside Scotland or Wales should still hear about what the SNP or Plaid Cymru might do in this scenario.

  • Stephen Hesketh 15th Jan '15 - 4:36pm

    Greens – absolutely.

    Depending upon what happens to our party, many of us may be ‘Greens’ through choice or necessity by 2020.

    Otherwise I think Tim Oliver15th Jan ’15 – 3:48pm sums it up well. On the same basis, I would object to any English or Irish party taking part.

  • Bill le Breton 15th Jan '15 - 4:40pm

    Tony G is right. In fact the ‘debates’ confirm people in their ‘contempt’ for Westminster politics.

    However, what is coming across in every news cast is “The Greens are doing much better than the Liberal Democrats”.
    It is both damaging and dangerous.

    Two reasons to get off this topic

  • As the debates seem destined to feature three or four parties representing the right and centre-right (you can work that number out any way you’d like) it would be nice to have at least some token balance. Or, indeed, anything to prevent the debates from turning into another Nick v. Nigel Nightmare.

  • Let us have everyone, the more the merrier, it reduces the time and focus on Clegg, our elephant in the room. Can we get someone else to stand in?,

  • Eddie Sammon 15th Jan '15 - 5:50pm

    If the public want the Greens then let them have the Greens. However, they shouldn’t be given an equal platform with the likes of the Conservatives and Labour, so they could only be included in the first debate.

    My point about the Green Party of England and Wales, which during the Independence referendum they seemed very happy to market themselves as, is no knockout blow, but I still think it matters.

    The debates should happen. Anyone afraid of having a political debate with someone doesn’t deserve to lead the country!

  • Nick Collins 15th Jan '15 - 6:02pm

    Perhaps Cleggie should refuse to take part unless Al Murray is invited.

  • I’m with Charles Kennedy on this one. So yes Stephen W you do have a point, but I suspect the other 90% would like to know what sort of things these ‘fringe’ groups may introduce into any coalition negotiations.

  • Tony Dawson 15th Jan '15 - 8:39pm

    @Nick Collins:

    “Perhaps Cleggie should refuse to take part unless Al Murray is invited.”

    You mean that bloke who’s seriously worried by Nigel Farage? Have Al Murray and David Cameron ever been seen at the same time in the same place? 😉

  • I think they should have separate debates on Scottish and Welsh TV with the SNP and Plaid included in those.

    If Cameron doesn’t want to participate in the Scottish debate he can let Ruth Davidson do it for him?

    The Greens, yes, I’d like to see them. They aren’t as big as UKIP but if OFCOM are basing the decision to include or not to include purely by how the parties did at the last General Election the Greens actually won a seat then, unlike UKIP.

  • It is baffling that Jonathan Waddell claims that the “logical” reason for excluding the SNP from the electoral process (in terms of access to the highly questionable “leaders debates) is because, as a Party limited to contesting seats in only one of the nations of the UK, it has no legitimate right to have it’s policy platform aired alongside the allegedly UK-wide Parties.

    This seems to fly in the face of the federalist nature of the LibDems and rather than rallying to the side of Miliband, Cameron and cult of Farage, it might have been expected that the LibDems would whole-heartedly endorse the inclusion of the SNP in all of the proposed debates.

    After all, the SNP leads in the Scottish Parliament, which in case Jonathan forgets, is an devolved arm of the UK Government. It is, so to speak, already part of the structure of Government in the UK. Furthermore, with 6 elected Westminster MP’s, has undoubtedly far greater claim to representation in media debates than either the Greens or UKIP. Let’s not forget too, the fact that the SNP, in terms of membership, is currently the third largest Party operating in UK politics, with 1 in 50 Scots a member.

    To deny that reality is to display gross indifference to the huge expression of democratic engagement witnessed only a few months since in the Scottish Referendum.

    The Green Party of England and Wales, which is, as Caron Lindsay reluctantly accepts, is absolutely separate from the Scottish Greens. Where then is the logical argument that insists a right to media access for a Party entirely restricted to electoral contests in England & Wales, but denies that same access to one engaged solely in any of the other nations of the UK.
    The public who seem inclined to return another hung Parliament (and one in which the “smaller Parties” may hold unprecedented influence) will doubtless draw their own conclusion on those traditional Parties seen to be running scared of the new politics that exist throughout the UK.
    While Caron Lindsay correctly identifies the need for the electorate beyond Scotland, to be able to scrutinise the SNP (and other so-called smaller parties).

    The LibDems would do well to come out fighting for as broad a range of voices as possible in ALL the broadcast debates, rather than be seen to stuck in a Miliband and Cameron fix.

  • I think the debates should be about hearing the views of all the parties currently represented in Parliament and who are putting up candidates in a significant proportion of seats – with additional debates in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to reflect the parties in the devolved parliaments/assemblies. I also really want to hear more about what the Greens stand for as they could conceivably be in a multi-party coalition even if they only get a handful of seats.

  • stuart moran 15th Jan '15 - 9:48pm

    I think there are two separate questions

    Firstly, there is the question as to whether the Greens should be invited – in my view ‘yes’ but I do not see how you can force the broadcasters to do that…….it is Ofcom that have seemed to provide the framework for the broadcasters with this major and minor party definition. I am really not sure what you could do about it really, especially now that any changes would give the indication of giving in to the PM

    Secondly, there is the refusal of Cameron to take part. He is using the Greens as a figleaf and is so transparent as well – as though he cares about them! The Tories do not want to do debates as they can only lose from them, especially if Farage is there (Crosby is 100% against I heard). I have seen no indication for LD or Labour that they want to avoid the Greens although this is the current nonsense Cameron is coming out with. It is particularly galling that he says this after the insults he threw at Brown in 2010 – he then, of course, thought he would do well – seems that the people are not so keen on him under pressure as he thinks they should be

  • Matt (Bristol) 15th Jan '15 - 10:07pm

    Yes to regional and national debates within the UK, yes to ‘minor party’ inclusion in UK-wide debates, but not as main speakers.
    As I say here and in the comments below: https://www.libdemvoice.org/opinion-election-debates-must-b-44197.html#comment-333845

    (blatant self-promotion)

  • I’m afraid some Liberal Democrats are not thinking far enough ahead. Whatever benefit may accrue to the Lib Dems from excluding the Greens from the debates will be extremely small. But please consider what disadvantage the Lib Dems will reap if the same rules used to exclude the Greens in 2015 are used to exclude the Lib Dems in 2020!

  • Phil Rimmer 16th Jan '15 - 7:47am

    These debates are fake democracy. If we can’t kill them off, then you have to let everyone else in.

    The thing I find more worrying is those of my fellow Liberal Democrats who can’t see that endorsing the exclusion of the Green Party, the SNP/Plaid Cymru is giving them a massive boost. Still, it shows the current state of strategic thinking in the party machine.

  • David-1 16th Jan ’15 – 5:30am

    David-1,
    you seem to be assuming that in the 2020 general election there will be a viable party called ‘The Liberal Democrats’.

    Is that wise? We habe just had information about the membership of The Greens ( Colin 16th Jan ’15 – 6:19am
    — membership has passed both UKIP and the Liberal Democrats).

    How long will it be before there are more genuine Liberals in the Green Party than there are in Mr Clegg’s party of fellow Anchors in the Centre?

  • Phil Rimmer 16th Jan ’15 – 7:47am

    Hi Phil, I am intrigued that vou can see any evidence of “strategic thinking in the party machine”.

  • Lauren Salerno 16th Jan '15 - 9:02am

    A million times no to SNP or Plaid. They are unaccountable to the majority of the electorate and should not be considered alongside truly national parties, nor should they form part of any government

    Only when the UK is federal should they play such a significant role and impose themselves on those whom they discount

  • Toby Fenwick 16th Jan '15 - 9:36am

    First, I welcome the debates: 20m tuned in for a reason last time.

    Second, I deplore the exclusion of the Green- it doesn’t reflect realities, and looks like a stitch up, and it offends a British sense of fair play.

    But these considerations shouldn’t mean all parties are equal: only Cameron or Miliband will be PM in May; but neither are likely to command a majority. Thus if there’s a PMs debate (and there should be) then there’s room for a DPMs debate if you will- the leaders of the parties who stand to provide either DC or EM with a parliamentary majority.

    Thus, you’d envisage a national debate for parties running in more than half the seats (UKIP, Con, LDs, Lab, Green) , a potential PMs debate (Con v Lab), and coalition debate (UKIP, LDs, Green, SNP, PC, UUP, DUP, Alliance, SDLP, SF). In Scotland, Wales and NI you’d expect to have debates covering all the players.

  • Jayne Mansfield 16th Jan '15 - 9:37am

    How on earth did we manage to decide which party to vote for before we had the last leadership debate?

    I find this Presidential style stuff off-putting, but at least the discussion about who should be able to participate has
    raised the profile of the Green Party.

  • Jayne Mansfield 16th Jan '15 - 9:42am

    @Nick Collins,
    I believe that if the debates do take place, they should be live from the Apollo.

  • Tsar Nicolas 16th Jan '15 - 9:55am

    Lauren Salerno

    It has been stated on LDV that the Lib Dems are 200 candidates short of a full slate for the GE.

    If that turns out to be true, the Lib Dems will no longer be a national party.

    These leaders’ debates could well prove to be a terrible trap for us.

  • I do not think that it is right to discuss the motivations and intentions of another Party that is not invited to the discussion. This applies to any Party whether deemed national or not.

    If the Tories or Labour explain how they would handle the SNP for example, what should the chair of the discussion do? Try to speak up for the SNP? Halt the discussion? Anything without a response from the horse’s mouth would be unsatisfactory.

    The same applies to Lib Dems. If there is a Cameron/Miliband head to head in which they both misrepresent the Lib Dems record or intentions, how should that be handled?

    It would be completely wrong if the debates were set up to allow an unopposed free hit.

    Perhaps other parties could have representatives who would be permitted to contribute in any event where the position of their party was invoked in the discussion. This would be fair, but difficult to manage.

  • The possibility of a rainbow coalition means that Charles Kennedy is correct. All must explain what they would bring to the table so that, if necessary they could explain to THEIR electors why they could or could not fulfil their prmises.

  • Whoruleswhere 16th Jan '15 - 10:52am

    I think what is absurd is to include a political party based on poll ratings when those poll ratings aren’t going to translate into seats. UKIP are riding high in the polls but polls still suggest that they will win 0 seats.

    The logic of the broadcaster’s proposal was for one debate for those that could become PM (Tory and Labour – no argument there), one for current and potential parties of Government (T, L and LD – but I think there’s a case for including the SNP here who might be about to win 50+ seats), and one for parties that might win seats (T, L, LD, and UKIP – this is where the logic breaks down. It is uncertain that UKIP will win any seats, my guess is they won’t, and certainly their chances are no stronger than the Greens and Respect, who have a track record of winning seats and are well established in target constituencies).

    My suggestion was that the BBC is a national broadcaster so they have a debate featuring the 3 national party leaders: Lab, Tory, Lib Dem. ITV is a regional broadcaster so they have a series of regional debates for the parties that are relevant in those regions. So you’d have

    STV: Labour, Lib Dem, SNP
    ITV Wales: Labour, Tory, Lib Dem, Plaid
    ITV Ulster: UUP, DUP, SDLP, SF, Alliance
    Meridian: Labour, Tory, Lib Dem, Greens, UKIP
    ITV Yorkshire: Labour, Tory, Lib Dem, Respect (maybe UKIP?)
    Granada, Tyne Tees: Labour and Lib Dem
    West Country: Tory and Lib Dem (maybe UKIP?)
    Border, ITV Central, ITV West, Anglia, and London: Labour, Tory, Lib Dem

  • Toby Fenwick repeats the line “the next PM will either be Cameron or Miliband”.

    He forgets the distinct possibility of a Conservative Party which having failed to achieve a majority in the 5th General Election in a row decides to dump Cameron.

    It might be as a condition of a Coalition with UKIP and the DUP that Cameron has to be replaced as PM by a tooth and claw Brexit man.

    If Cameron does not achieve a majority, Clegg will be reminded of what he said about Brown in 2010.
    You remember all that stuff about the people having spoken, the voters decide these things not the politicians, Brown has clearly failed to get the endorsement of the British people For another term s PM?

    There is a real problem in logic for Liberal Democrats who back the ‘Anchors in the Centre’ approach.

    If Cameron has demonstrated that the British people have decided he should stay as PM by giving him a majority he will have no need for the Liberal Democrats to prop him up again.

    If Cameron has not demonstrated that the British people have so decided then he should be treated in the same way that our leader treated Gordon Brown in 2010 and told to sling his hook.

    Or did I misunderstand what Mr Clegg said in 2010 ?

  • Hi John,
    Cheeky! I think we now have considerable evidence of not only a complete absence of strategic thinking, but also of political life as we know it, amongst those who run the party.

    I do wonder how many constituencies (with or without MPs) have already decided to do what happened widely before the 1987 General Election: cut loose from the national campaign, work like hell and hope for the best.

  • Phil Rimmer 16th Jan ’15 – 11:48am

    Are you suggesting that our MPs should come in ‘plain packaging’ free from any branding ?

  • My understanding is the Offcom judgement has a test on whether a party has a chance of winning 10 or more MPs.

    The best the greens might do under our first past the post system is win three seats. UKIP following by-election victories are now considered as possible coming out with ten. That is despite the electoral system being biased against them even though they have a large minority of people supporting them.

    SNP are predicted to come out with up to 40 seats but are excluded as they are Scottish.

    My personal view is the depates should include the ‘king makers’ if there is a hung parliament. So there should be a debate with Lib Dems, SNP and the DUP from Northern Ireland. All of whom will have the potential to have a bock of seats that could make Cameron or Milliband the next Prime Minister. Greens won’t have the seats even if they did get 10% of the national vote – first past the post doens’t favour political parties such as theirs.

    The Greens do though looks set to make gains at local election but not as many as UKIP. UKIP are on the verge of becoming an official group on the Local Government Assn (LGA), The greens are miles away from that milestone – so yet again proof they are not a major party and only a minor party.

  • Stephen Campbell 16th Jan '15 - 1:25pm

    @lloyd: “The greens are miles away from that milestone – so yet again proof they are not a major party and only a minor party.”

    A “minor” party which now has more members than the Lib Dems. A “minor” party with more MEPs than the Lib Dems.

    Who, exactly, is the “minor” party here?

  • It’s amusing seeing so many Lib Dems tiring themselves in knots to justify rules to benefit the Westminster clique while pretending to be oh so interested in democracy, devolution and allegedly federalism.

    If the there are UK wide debates excluding significant parties like the SNP, PC, the Scottish Greens and so on then they should be restricted to UK wide issues reserved to the Westminster Parliament. So no discussion of health, education , transport, housing and so on. If England needs a separate regional debate on those then presumably the English independent TV companies could organise something.
    Even so this will still give the Westminster clique double broadcasting exposure which would not be democratic.

    Even with these rules it still means that the Westminster clique would get double

  • nvelope2003 16th Jan '15 - 2:48pm

    Would it be constitutionally correct for the SNP, a party whose principal objective is the break up of the UK, to be part of a coalition Government, or even the party which supports a particular Government to enable it to stay in power.
    The Irish Nationalists only sought Home Rule, not the end of the UK, so it was not unreasonable for it to support the one party which was willing to grant that objective. The SNP is quite different. What if a party wanted to remove the South West or East Anglia from the UK and merge with Spain ?

  • Well, nvelope, what if it did?

  • matt (Bristol) 16th Jan '15 - 3:26pm

    Well, Nvelope, Edward Carson the Irish Unionist, served in twice in a UK government that he had previously urged preparation for armed rebellion against. Anything is possible.

  • SIMON BANKS 16th Jan '15 - 4:53pm

    I go with Jonathan. The SNP and Plaid Cymru have never contested seats outside their home countries. No English or Welsh resident can vote for or against the SNP. The nationalist parties deserve to feature in debates on TV covering their countries, and it would be up to the UK parties to decide whether to field their UK or national leaders. The argument about the Greens is more complicated. They’re a contestant across the UK, but although they’re clearly on the up, neither their general election 2010 performance nor any polls other than the last Euro election make a clear case for their participation; and the Euro election is obviously different. Any TV debates during the next Euro campaign could take account of the results last time, but there have been plenty of Euro elections in the past that produced wildly different results from the general elections before or after.

    Nonetheless, they’re serious contestants. A compromise would be to feature them in one of three debates.

  • @Simon Banks

    On your argument, why should Scottish voters have to listen to the views of the England and Wales Green Party? Will their spokesperson advocate Scottish independence which the Scottish Green Party does?

    An if they are UK debates presumably they should not cover devolve issues e.g. health, housing education, transport an so on? Are doe s the rest of the UK have to listen to the English parties` debates on those issues? In case you don’t know we have a Scottish Election in 2016 when we will be debating those issues in Scotland.

    And how do you overcome the problem of the Tories, Labour an the LDs getting more than one bite at the broadcast cherry so disadvantaging other parties?

  • Stephen Hesketh 16th Jan '15 - 5:35pm

    JohnTilley 16th Jan ’15 – 11:00am

    “There is a real problem in logic for Liberal Democrats who back the ‘Anchored to the Centre’ approach.”

    Indeed John, but surely this is only one of many.

    Anyone who has watched the BBC two-part series by Jacques Peretti will see that the mainstream centre-left Liberal analysis of Thatcherite, so-called free market neo-Con economics and the alleged benefits of trickle down has actually been closer to the truth all along.

    Sadly the policies (and ineptitude) of the Clegg-Laws-Alexander-Marshall-Browne group has created a huge opportunity for the Greens to steal our clothes and very many mainstream members and supporters.

  • Stevan Rose 16th Jan '15 - 7:18pm

    Perhaps there should be separate debates for each of the constituent countries headed up by their respective country leaders. I’d be happy to see the Greens on the podium if only to see them ripped to shreds when it comes to real practicalities. They will lose votes not gain them. I would prefer that Nick Clegg develops a 24 hour bug just before each debate and has to be replaced by Vince Cable though.

  • nvelope2003 16th Jan ’15 – 2:48pm
    “. What if a party wanted to remove the South West …from the UK and merge with Spain ?”

    It may have escaped your attention that for European Parliament elections the South West is already merged with that bit of Spain commonly known as Gibraltar.

  • Stephen Hesketh 16th Jan ’15 – 5:35pm

    Thus far I have only seen Part One of the Jacques Peretti but I thought it was excellent

    As you say it blows a hole in the Marshall Laws diversions of the last ten years.

    The free-market chickens are finally coming home to roost yet Clegg and co have positioned themselves with the Thatcherites just at the very moment that the rest of the world is turning away from free-market fanaticism.

  • Stephen Hesketh 16th Jan '15 - 8:17pm

    Dear Lib Dem colleagues, the Jacques Peretti two-part series ‘The Super rich and us’ is highly informative and available on BBC iPlayer:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b04xw2x8/the-superrich-and-us-episode-1

    As John Tilley says “The free-market chickens are finally coming home to roost yet Clegg and co have positioned themselves with the Thatcherites …”

  • nvelope2003 16th Jan '15 - 9:15pm

    John Tilley: Well the Treaty of Utrecht does say that the King of Spain shall be sovereign over Gibraltar so technically you are right but not in practice.
    matt(Bristol) Sir Edward Carson was not trying to destroy the UK. Is trying to maintain it an offence ? Personally I am not that bothered whether the Scots stay or not . Maybe it is time to call the whole thing off.
    My point is that the SNP could support all sorts of things while in a coalition Government to get what it wants in the knowledge that its supporters will not have to pay for them but the rest of us will be landed with the bill. I do care quite a bit about that.

    David-1: or 2 or 3 ?? Does it matter ?

  • Matt (Bristol) 19th Jan '15 - 12:11pm

    Nvelope – Get real!

    In April 1914 Carson smuggled guns into Britain from Germany (with whom there would shortly be a major war you may have heard of) with specific aim of the being used to resist the British Army.

    That was crimnal then and remains criminal now. Within the decade, he was in Cabinet as Solicitor General for England, a territory he did not hold a seat in and had little interest in the domestic politics of.

    After all that, Salmon as Goreign Secretary would be a minor offence.

  • Plaid Cymru has an agenda only relevant to Wales so should be treated like the SNP and DUP and excluded from any national debates as their comments are not relevant nationally, whatever the merits UKIP and the greens do have a relevant national relevance to the election unlike the irrelevant minority parties of the SNP, DUP and Plaid Cymru.

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