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How the Leaders' debates were quietly replaced

Michael Crick | 18:45 UK time, Monday, 1 March 2010

I can report that the "Leaders' Debates" at the forthcoming election have now been cancelled.

Instead, over the past 2-3 weeks they've been quietly replaced with "Prime Ministerial Debates".

It's a cunning manoeuvre, agreed by the three main broadcasters (the BBC, ITV and Sky) and the three main parties, to exclude the SNP and Plaid Cymru leaders from the debates.

Since the SNP will only be fighting the 59 Scottish seats then Alex Salmond can't possibly become prime minister (nor Plaid's Elfyn Llwyd), so both are thereby disqualified from the TV debates.

I'd love to know who dreamt up this clever wheeze. A politician or a broadcaster? The latter, I bet.


  • Comment number 1.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 2.

    Take a look:

    Add to that:

    Pruthi, Anderson, Peacock.
    Terry Freeman/GFX Capital Markets.
    Cameron Farley Investments Limited.

    Look at what the sociopaths did - risk base regulation Mr Brown your legacy.

  • Comment number 3.

    Re Ashcroft:
    Will you be mentioning EIGHT Labour non dom donors? Or the £2.4 million the Lib Dems got from fraudster Michael Brown?

  • Comment number 4.

    In that case could they exclude Nick Clegg from some of them as well please

  • Comment number 5.

    I take it these Prime Ministerial debates will only be televised in Kirkcaldy, Witney and Sheffield as those are the only places where people have a chance to vote for a Prime Minister?

    Or have we just had a major constitutional shift for the benefit of the broadcasters?

  • Comment number 6.

    Nope. This still won't stand up in a Scottish court, which is presumably exactly where the SNP will be heading if they are to be outrageously excluded altogether from the main debates. Contrary to the implication of Michael's post, it is simply not necessary for a party to stand in a majority of seats to become Prime Minister - the 1924 Labour government had just 191 seats out of 615. In the early 1990s the Indian Prime Minister represented a party that had a tiny minority of seats in parliament, and there are numerous examples from continental European countries as well. Once that indisputable fact is pointed out in court - and it'll take about ten seconds - this rather desperate and cynical attempt to draw a distinction between 'party leaders' and 'Prime Ministerial candidates' will disintegrate rather quickly. Of course everyone knows Alex Salmond isn't going to be PM, but then everyone knows precisely the same about Nick Clegg. The principle is exactly the same for both leaders - and neither of them, incidentally, are leaders of nationwide parties (the Lib Dems don't stand in Northern Ireland, and nor do Labour for that matter).

    Strictly speaking, under the British system it's not even necessary to be a party leader to become Prime Minister, only an MP or peer - witness the cases of both Lloyd George or Churchill. So by that standard, there are not three potential 'candidates for Prime Minister' standing at the election, nor four, or even five, but in fact several thousand. I'd suggest a conventional party leaders' debate would be preferable to such a melee, even if (horror of horrors) that means actually providing fair representation to the leaders of all four major parties in both Scotland and Wales.

  • Comment number 7.

    "In that case could they exclude Nick Clegg from some of them as well please"

    Indeed, or include Nick Griffin and Lord Pearson. Let's face it, if it is a Prime Ministerial election we are talking about, Nick Griffin has as much chance of being the next PM as Nick Clegg!

  • Comment number 8.

    Seems I may have
    upset someone
    sorry to whoever
    I talk crap
    behave myself
    from now on

  • Comment number 9.

    Explain again why Nick Clegg will take part!

  • Comment number 10.

    Scottish politics is very boring to anyone who doesn 't live in Scotland. Its bad enough that we have to listen to the results of their poor standard, unattended Scottish football matches without having to listen to their parochial political arguments as well.

  • Comment number 11.

    Flicks, no keep on posting. I enjoy your comments even if I haven't a clue what you are on about.
    John Skinner. The fact that the BBC ignore the Labour and Lib. Dem. "non-doms" is just part of the bias.
    In the same way that the BBC played down the fact that the majority of politicians to be prosecuted for expenses fraud are Labour.
    It is blatant political bias and should not be paid for by a licence fee imposed on all of us , whether we watch the BBC or not.

  • Comment number 12.

    "Prime Ministerial Debates".

    That's Nick Clegg out for a start.

    If it is true that this renaming has been done to exclude the SNP and PC from the debates along with the Democratic Unionist Party, Sinn Fein and the Social Democratic and Labour Party, (The Ulster Unionist Party will be represented via their link with the Conservatives), then it's a clever ploy but once again done with no knowledge of the rules of the game.

    Under OFCOM the SNP is classed as a major party in Scotland along with the Conservatives, Labour and the Lib-Dems. PC has major party status in Wales and the NI parties have major party status in Northern Ireland.

    Party political election broadcasting is not worked out on the basis of a party's UK standing but its standing in each of the constituent home nations of the UK. The debates, call them what you will, are multi-party election broadcasts and unless they are impartial in all four home nations then they will fall foul of OFCOM, the BBC guidelines and the law. The only way they can be impartial in Scotland is for all four major parties to be on the platform at the same time. Similarly for Wales and Northern Ireland.

    What the broadcasters are trying to do is to apply the rules of impartiality in England which has three major parties to the four party setups in Scotland and Wales and the four party set up in Northern Ireland. It's a classic case of the broadcasters thinking that England is Britain is England.

    What a lot of bloggers and commenters don't get is that the SNP is not trying to get onto the UK broadcasts it is demanding its right to be treated with impartiality in any program broadcast in Scotland. Unless the SNP get onto a multi-party debate broadcast in Scotland then they will stop it via the Scottish Courts before it starts. Plaid Cymru and the Northern Ireland parties will do the same. The problem for Sky is that they can't do regional broadcasting and the problem for the BBC and ITV is that they don't want English, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish debates they want a UK one even though many of the topics such as law and order, education and the NHS are already devolved and the debate will be on English issues only in these areas.

    The BBC, ITV and Sky can call the the debate any name they like but unless it conforms to the OFCOM regulations and the BBC guidelines for impartial political broadcasting in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland it's going to plough straight into the ground in the courts.

  • Comment number 13.

    Mandy is up for an investigation oh what a heath

    Robinson of a Hinduja

    No one cares about this stuff - you know those who will be
    putting their paw mark next to your name NOT

    Trust me your all going the wrong way like a...... well better
    edit myself at this point.

    it ends in

    ash in a croft

  • Comment number 14.

    Crikey just watched Nigel Farage getting a roasting by Jo Coburn on the Daily Politics for the Rompey mouth off tirade.

    Just to be sure I'm not Nigel Farage

    heaven forbid

  • Comment number 15.

    No Salmond or Llwyd but presumably Nick Griffin qualifies?

  • Comment number 16.

    just offstage from the Leaders debates we will have Nursie, standing by to look after David with his comfort blanket and Horlicks and favourite Teddy, the men in white suites to look after Gordon with his favourite tipple, tea and two digestives, Rennies and thearapist, Nick Clegg will need no such fripperies as all he will need is a mirror to see if his hair is in place....

  • Comment number 17.

    I thought that the Prime Minister of the UK was appointed to the role by the unelected head of state? Has this changed recently!??!

  • Comment number 18.

    You've told it like it is.Well said Michael.

  • Comment number 19.

    #16 stevie
    "Nick Clegg will need no such fripperies as all he will need is a mirror to see if his hair is in place...."

    Two mirrors, surely. You've forgotten the one he'll need to check his codpiece.

  • Comment number 20.

    As we move closer to an election with our PM declaring a Future Fair for all .. I wonder where that will put me in the fight for my rights to have my Moroccan husband with me here in the UK.. I have teamed up with a another Yorkshire born and bred wife of a Moroccan who has been fighting for 3 years on this issue! What goes on..when we see others dropping in willy nilly and getting their spouses over. I have found out a Romanian student in a one room rent as got her Egyptian husband here.. whilst I am happy for her and she caringly told me about the EU family permit she used and that it may be the answer for me.. I find we as UK nationals do not qualify for the EU family permit... so what is going on?

    Love knows no borders....see our blog link to follow our story and can you help?

  • Comment number 21.

    Clegg stormed it ! Gordon Brown comes from an upbringing of true principle and service. 'Dave'and 'the boy wonder'George Osbourne ('Jeremy Paxman makes me look so so silly in interviews') and Big(mouth?) Boris come from grotesquely removed (from ordinary people)privilege, Champaign guzzling andother ocasional 'stimulation' via Bulingdon 'ethics'. Thatcher's Nasty children, Mr Cameron gave a woefully transparent, vacuous and contenless performance.
    David exposed, Brown confirmed, Clegg Revealed !


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