Debating Over Debates


The various proposals for TV debates before the 2015 General Election have provoked reaction from all sides of the political spectrum. The Green Party demanded inclusion from the start and now both David Cameron and Nick Clegg are calling for new proposals that take ‘minority parties’ into account.

This has forced the main broadcasters to present alternative plans which include what Ofcom terms as ‘minority parties’ such as the Greens and the SNP.

The TV debates were designed to make elections more democratic by giving members of the public the opportunity to question party leaders directly. It is ironic that this can now be seen as another illustration of the alienation of voters by politicians.

Some, including Ed Miliband accused David Cameron of ‘running scared‘ over the TV debates when he refused to take part unless the Greens were included, insisting that their exclusion was unfair.

This change in policy from the Prime Minister’s initial view on the issue meant that the proposals had to be revised. Initially broadcasters threatened to ‘empty chair‘ Cameron if he didn’t turn up to the debates. However, this was soon changed and a revised plan was presented this Friday. This new plan includes two seven party debates between Labour, the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, UKIP, Greens, SNP and Plaid Cymru and a third ‘Prime Minster” debate between David Cameron and Ed Miliband.

The 7 party leaders included in the new debate proposals (Image: Getty Images)

What initially appeared to be the ability of Ofcom, the regulator which is responsible for broadcasting, to dictate the pattern and representation of the debates by excluding ‘minor parties’ worried some. Journalist Krishnan Guru-Murthy tweeted that he was worried by the amount of power Ofcom seemed to have in relation to debate, which were meant to aid people in making their own choices.

The issue also produced heated exchanges in Parliament during Prime Minister’s Questions. Ed Miliband accused the Prime Minister of ‘running scared‘ and making a ‘pathetic excuse‘, calling for his participation along with Nick Clegg. Cameron asked why Miliband was ‘so chicken’ when it came to having the Green Party included in debates.

Some have suggested that the reason Labour didn’t want the greens included in the debates was due to recent polling figures, which show Labour having the lowest level of support it has had in 5 years and the Greens enjoying their highest level of support for 20 years. It has also been suggested that David Cameron’s attempt to include the Greens in debate plans was a way of stalling them and making them less prominent due to the risk that a head to head debate with Ed Miliband may not benefit him and his image.

It remains to be seen whether all parties that are involved will accept the new debate proposals. In a joint statement the broadcasters that are organising the debates (BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Sky News), said that all parties will receive formal invites and they will ’empty chair’ any party leader who refuses to take part.

Peter Robinson, DUP Leader and First Minister of Northern Ireland (Image: BBC)
Peter Robinson, DUP Leader and First Minister of Northern Ireland (Image: BBC)

Controversy also still exists over the new debate proposals. While they now include the SNP, Plaid Cymru and UKIP, a number of parties in Northern Island have expressed their dismay over the fact that they have not been allowed to take part. The DUP, Sinn Fein, the SDLP and the Alliance Party all said that they should be featured. First Minister of Northern Ireland, Peter Robinson, said that excluding the DUP – which is the largest party in Northern Ireland was an attempt to ‘to marginalise Northern Ireland from the national debate’. Respect Party MP George Galloway has also said that he should be included.

More articles in General Election 2015
  1. Labour Party and Business: A Difficult Relationship?
  2. Chameleon Conservative Cameron Shows True Colours
  3. An Election Reflection for a Majority Minority
  4. Mhairi Black: Giving Politics a Makeover
  5. Galloway Threatens Legal Action Over Election Result
  6. Voter Turnout: What The Numbers Tell Us About The 2015 General Election
  7. Looking At The Reaction to the Election Explains its Result
  8. The Polls Were Wrong Because People Lied, it’s That Simple!
  9. Russell Brand “Resigns” from Politics following General Election Result
  10. It’s Not The Cold War Anymore, We Don’t Need a Nuclear Deterrent
  11. The Future of Labour: Who Will Be The Next Leader?
  12. The Future of the Liberal Democrats: Who Will Be the Next Leader?
  13. The Future of UKIP: Who Will Be the Next Leader?
  14. A Tale of Three Ends
  15. The Tory Legacy
  16. If the Party Leaders were characters from Friends…who would you vote for?
  17. The Ten (Well, Six) Commitments: Is Stone Legally Binding?
  18. Tuition Fees: A Hollow Attempt to Pander to the Student Vote?
  19. 6,417 Ed Milligrams – What Do You Actually Vote For?
  20. Boris Johnson to become Gangster Rapper
  21. Political Engagement: The Calm After the Storm
  22. Parliamentary Candidate Interview: Green Party’s John Spottiswoode.
  23. Parliamentary Candidate Interviews: TUSC’s Sue Atkins
  24. Parliamentary Candidate Interview, Independent Candidate Chris Daviss
  25. “I don’t think the Liberal Democrats should be in government just for the sake of it” – An Interview With Nick Clegg
  26. Parliamentary Candidate Interview, TUSC’s Nick Chaffey
  27. Parliamentary Candidate Interview: Conservative’s Jeremy Moulton.
  28. Should Young People Be Made To Vote?
  29. The Nationalist Parties
  30. No Votes for Women?
  31. None of the Political Candidates Ticking Your Box? There is Another Option.
  32. The Other Parties
  33. Liberal Democrats Party Profile
  34. The Green Party
  35. Labour Party Profile
  36. In Defence of the Coalition
  37. Why Labour Should Win the Election But Won’t
  38. The Protest Vote: The Weapon of the Disenfranchised.
  39. Why Young People Must Use Their Vote
  40. An Interview With Natalie Bennett
  41. What Will a Multi-Party System Mean for Britain?
  42. Tuition Fees: Must Try Harder Ed
  43. Science and Policy
  44. This Election is Far Bigger Than Party Politics
  45. Parliamentary Candidate Interviews: Ian Callaghan, Green Party
  46. Parliamentary Candidate Interviews: Lib Dem’s Adrian Ford
  47. Paliamentary Candidate Interview – Labour’s Darren Paffey
  48. Parliamentary Candidates Interviews: Lib Dem’s Eleanor Bell
  49. TV Debates: The Crucifixion of David Cameron
  50. Parliamentary Candidate Interview – Labour’s Rowenna Davis
  51. Parliamentary Candidate Interview, the Green Party’s Angela Mawle
  52. Can We Trust Politicians Who Act Like Schoolchildren?
  53. Parliamentary Candidate Interview – UKIP’s Sandra James
  54. Manifesto Focus: Labour
  55. Why Nuclear Weapons Are Imperative For The UK’s Security
  56. Southampton’s Role in the General Election Should Not Be Overshadowed by a Sausage Roll
  57. Just When You Thought UKIP Couldn’t Do Anything Right…
  58. What the Hell Do You Want?
  59. Which Political Leader Are You?
  60. The EU: To Be or Not To Be
  61. Your 2015 General Election Candidates
  62. What a Silly Sausage: Southampton UKIP Candidate Accused of Bribery
  63. UKIP Party Profile
  64. Conservative Party Profile
  65. The Leaders Debate: The Insurgents, The Pretender & The Incumbent
  66. SUPA’s Short and Sweet Guide to Voting on 7th May
  67. TV Debate: Clash of the Titans
  68. Leaders Debate Brings Hope For Progressive Politics
  69. TV Debates: David Cameron and Ed Miliband Versus Britain
  70. 14,000 Voters Missing From Electoral Role in Southampton – Register to Vote Now!
  71. Men’s Rights Party Set To Contest in General Elections
  72. A Royal Coup? – Queen Guitarist Brian May Considering Standing for Election
  73. Debating Over Debates
  74. Galloway Demands Inclusion in TV Debates
  75. The General Election 2015 – A Disunited Kingdom? 
  76. 99 Days To Go: The Most Unpredictable Election Yet!
  77. Poll Indicates Demand for Green Party to be Included in Election Debates
  78. Have You Registered To Vote?
  79. Is Sol Campbell running for Parliament?
  80. Salmond to Stand as MP
  81. Students May Hold the Key!
  82. The Green Party Should Not Be Included in the 2015 General Election Debates
  83. Parliamentary Candidate Interview: Alan Whitehead MP
  84. What’s at Stake for Students in the General Election?
  85. It’s Time For Politicians To Get Down With The Kids
  86. The Debates Debate
  87. Who Will Run The Country in 2015?
  88. New Year, New Government? New Politics?
  89. Newly Elected Itchen MP Accused of Helping UKIP Secure Labour Votes

Deputy Editor 2017-18, International Editor 2015-17. Languages graduate interested in Latin America, world news, media and politics.

Leave A Reply