David Cameron has insisted that he will not participate in the televised debates in the run-up to May’s General Election because the Green Party has not been invited to participate. He has cited that the Green Party should be included because of the inclusion of ‘some minor parties like the Liberal Democrats and UKIP’. Whilst the content of the statement is fair, he might want to say that once more with feeling.
Though spun in a spirit of fair play towards the Green Party and hoping to portray him levelling them up to the status of UKIP and Liberal Democrats, it is in actuality an uncomfortably thinly veiled gesture attempting to level down Farage and Clegg’s parties. Several thoughts come to mind. Cameron lacks confidence. Cameron lacks consistency. Cameron lacks competency. At least as far as the debates go.
There are plausible arguments for and against the inclusion of the Green Party. Ultimately, they aren’t insignificant, they have a Member of Parliament, and it benefits social choice to enhance awareness of the options available for election and the policies which are salient to a party with alternative views. It’s also possible that UKIP are in a position whereby they may participate simply due to the variety of platforms they have had to convey their policies. Giving the Green Party a platform seems intuitively justified. The argument against their inclusion is that as television production, there should be no inherent grounds why producers shouldn’t have the choice as to what does or doesn’t get included in their programming, their ultimate aim being to appeal to viewers.
None of these reasons figure into Cameron’s motives.
Cameron does not feel like he will fare well in the debate or at least that he has more to lose than gain. The only thing he gained from the 2010 debates was a coalition instead of a majority government. Love him or hate him, the Liberal Democrats gained a lot of support via Nick Clegg from his performance in the debates, partially because as an individual, Clegg actually scores quite well charismatically. Farage does also. In taking this stance on the debates Cameron seizes the opportunity to either avoid them all together or dilute the attention that may be given to Clegg and Farage.
It is difficult to determine what constitutes a big party. The Liberal Democrats are larger than the Green Party and UKIP if counting membership and the 2010 election. Opinion polls indicate that they will not perform similarly in May, however. Though UKIP now have 2 MPs, the Green Party has had their 1 MP since 2010, not having been a defector. It may seem valid to have all three or none in terms of fairness. Whether that is for anyone but the organisers of the debates to decide is a different question however. It may seem fair that the party of the Deputy Prime Minister is a participant as he was five years ago. It may be that a slippery slope of inclusion occurs and the viewers are deterred from what actually matters: policies.
For Cameron to effectively boycott the debates due to the Green Party’s exclusion is to deprive himself from a platform where a large number of viewers who may not otherwise examine his policies will be able to effectively scrutinise them and be allowed to judge his ability to continue his role as Prime Minister. Being the one in power, he may want to reduce the viable options. Having not been in power prior to 2010, he made no such qualms about the Liberal Democrats’ inclusion. His change of heart is not a symbol of integrity.