Last time, five years ago, it was comparatively clear-cut – and there were three parties that could reasonably be thought of as being part or all of the new post-May 2010 UK government. They were, unsurprisingly, the Conservatives, Labour, and the Liberal Democrats.
Thus when those three parties' leaders were to be the invited participants, it all made sense and was no great surprise. Indeed, two of those leaders subsequently became Prime Minister (David Cameron) and Deputy PM (Nick Clegg).
This time around, the national situation has changed markedly and the waters are distinctly (or should that be indistinctly?) muddy, with no fewer than five parties now of sufficient significance to warrant consideration.
Realistically, there are only two approaches that the organising broadcasters can take without justifiable accusations of political bias...
- Have only those party leaders that can sensibly be expected to have a chance of being the next Prime Minister. That means David Cameron and Ed[ward] Miliband – no-one else; or
- All five significant parties. This is the only acceptable way to include the Liberal Democrats again this time, as their support in the country has consistently been so low as to have them in either equal fourth place or even fifth place, behind UKIP and the Green Party.
However, the Green Party has a larger membership that either UKIP or the Lib Dems, they also have a new MP who took that seat from another party by standing on a Green party platform. UKIP has never done this, merely holding two seats by deploying the same candidates whose positions were essentially secured by a different party, and their holding them primarily as 'the devil we know' in this time of anti-political sentiment.
Of course, the Lefties don't want the Green party leader in the debate(s), as that would tend to level the playing field again – and one thing upon which all Lefty organisations depend heavily is skewing things their way, playing as dirty as they feel is necessary to achieve that goal. They know they cannot win in any fair contest (hence all that postal vote rigging that we have read about in recent years, for example) as their most respected writers have frequently admitted, and as worldwide history during the past century or so clearly illustrates.
The Left's diversionary tactic has been to put it about that David Cameron is scared of facing Nigel Farage.
I am sure he'd face such an encounter with trepidation, but he knows he has little to fear. UKIP has lots of internal problems, many of which reach the public awareness; their policies are often incoherent and nonsensical and get changed on the hoof (as our Mark Reckless recently found) or even scrapped in their entirety; they are essentially one-dimensional in nature so can be easily outflanked by Cameron's broader and more inclusive approach, and insider knowledge, especially on the world stage.
He can handle the gig!
On the opposite side of the political divide, the Lefties know that the Greens are on an upward trend these days, after a couple of years more-or-less in the political wilderness. Their change of party leader seems to be bearing fruit – watermelons in this case, of course: green on the outside but raw Communist red when one looks below the surface.
This means they can 'out-left' Labour easily, and could even (after an all-five debate) lead to the Lib Dems petering out completely within the next couple of years. Thus neither of those parties wants the Greens involved in any of the debates, especially while that party is in the ascendancy. Both are running scared of them.
Thus it is easy to see that it is actually the Miliband and Clegg camps that are 'frit', and David Cameron who is correct in insisting that the Greens be included. Overall, they are now the most significant (especially potentially) of the three 'lesser' parties – and without them, neither of the others (Lib Dems, UKIP) should be included either.
That, folks, is the bottom line!