Beth Perkin questions the proposal to include Ukip in TV debates
On Monday, major TV broadcasters announced their proposal to include UK Independence Party in the planned TV leader debates for the General Election next year. In response to this proposal, a barrage of angry op-eds have followed, all condemning the fact that the Green Party has been refused such a valuable platform despite having had an MP in Parliament for four years. This is in contrast with Ukip who have barely held their Clacton seat for a week. But to see what has happened as only an unfair exclusion of the Greens is to fall victim to the same kind of mindset that excluded them in the first place.
Critics of the Greens’ exclusion from the debate have cited polling numbers and parliamentary representation in their defense. They argue that the Greens have the same amount of seats (1), and while not flying high in polls with Farage and co., have consistently polled in the same region as the Lib Dems (7%).
But what these critics are neglecting to remember is that there are many other parties that hold more seats than both Ukip and the Greens. Sinn Fein, Plaid Cymru and the Scottish National Party are among the seven parties that hold more seats than these two, while there are five other parties with one seat each. So why is it then that Ukip are the only deserving party of a place in the debate?
Depressingly, what it seems to boil down to is the fact that Ukip has a formidable media machine while the other parties have ineffective, withering ones. Nigel Farage and his cronies may be seen as blithering idiots by a lot of Britain, but, thanks to their PR guru Gawain Towler, we sure as hell know who they are. Ukip, love them or hate them, are everywhere.
To only let the public hear the voices of certain parties undermines the very notion of democracy.
But, if Ukip, a party with just one seat in the Commons are to be invited to a TV debate reflecting the political zeitgeist within the UK, then surely all of these parties should be considered too? The Greens, having brought climate change to the forefront of our political consciousness and kept it there, are just as socially relevant. As are the SNP in light of the recent Scottish referendum.
The proposal to include Ukip in the debate points to a decisive shift in British politics. One that is moving the UK more and more towards a right wing political discourse. The very fact that the media is getting to cherry pick which parties are given this platform is wrong. To only let the public hear the voices of certain, right wing political parties is to limit their knowledge and thus their right to choose, undermining the very notion of democracy.
The debates are supposed to be fair and pluralistic, not used as a way to satisfy the whims and right-wing agendas of our national media. It is not by any means a bad thing that more parties’ voices are heard in the UK. But one voice should not ring louder than the others.
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