“So why are Ukip being allowed to participate but not any of the other minority parties?” – Fraser Whieldon on the General Election TV Debates

“So why are Ukip being allowed to participate but not any of the other minority parties?” – Fraser Whieldon on the General Election TV Debates

Fraser Whieldon discusses the inclusion of Nigel Farage in the TV Debates for the General Election 2015, and the exclusion of the Green Party and SNP.


Broadcasters have invited the Ukip leader to take part in one of three televised debates [GETTY]

Broadcasters have invited the Ukip leader to take part in one of three televised debates [GETTY]

The bastions of British broadcasting (the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Sky), recently announced their proposed format for a series of debates between the most popular political parties in Britain in the run up to next years’ general election. Sky and Channel 4 will use a more presidential format, directly pitting Ed Miliband for Labour against Prime Minister David Cameron for the Conservatives, in the hope of emulating the presidential candidate debates held in the USA every four years. The BBC will also let Nick Clegg tag along in their debate, though any prediction of a revival of so-called ‘Cleggmania’, as was seen in the debates in 2010, are unlikely to be widely held.

What caught many peoples’ attention was the inclusion of Nigel Farage, the leader of Ukip in the ITV debate. Whilst Ukip topped the poll in the 2014 European elections, at the time of writing they only have one MP (Douglas Carswell in Clacton), the same as the Green Party (Caroline Lucas in Brighton Pavilion) and five fewer than the Scottish Nationalist Party.

So why are Ukip being allowed to participate but not any of the other minority parties? The most historic and dramatic political event in the past 4 years has not been Ukip’s victories but the independence referendum in Scotland, something the SNP played a crucial role in. Additionally, a number of political figures including Labour frontbenchers Caroline Flint and Sadiq Khan have voiced public fears about the effect the Green Party will have on Labour votes, estimating that the Greens to Labour are what Ukip are to the Conservatives.

Leaders Debate in the 2010 General Election. Photo: WikiCommons

Leaders Debate in the 2010 General Election. Photo: WikiCommons

So why include only Ukip? The answer – Farage is television gold! The larger-than-life, beer-chugging, chain-smoking, tweed-donning hybrid between Winston Churchill and Toad of Toad Hall will attract viewers like bees to pollen with people settling down with a drink and a snack to see this scoundrel bounce those Westminster elitists around the room. And whilst Natalie Bennett and Nicola Sturgeon are both intelligent, passionate and entertaining in their own way (Bennett likes to claim she is the only leader of a British political party who knows how to correctly shear a sheep), nothing can beat the pure rush of a man on a mission (the man: Nigel Farage; the mission: get Britian out of the EU in the next 5 minutes).

However, moving away from the relative popularity of the leaders of Britain’s smaller parties, what does this mean for the democratic nature of elections? As mentioned previously, the Greens and the SNP both hold elected office, represent constituents, and have manifestos containing their ideas and arguments on a range of issues, just like Ukip. Yet Ukip are given a platform to address the nation and other small parties aren’t.

To me this highlights what I see as the true purpose of television debates. They are not meant to enhance the democratic process or make leaders accountable, they’re meant to make money. ITV aren’t interested in giving a platform to smaller parties, they’re interested in selling advertising space. I’m surprised they haven’t asked Russell Brand to participate too, god knows he’d be a good boost for viewing figures. Better yet what about Frankie Boyle? Or Silvio Berlusconi? He’s a politician isn’t he?

The point is that you can’t take these debates to have a lasting effect on British politics. I like many others was taken in by Nick Clegg and his promise of a new politics. 4 years on, I hate the man and the party he stands for because of what he actually did with power.

That is what will leave the lasting impression on people: not what you say but what you do. If Ukip end up as the deal breaker in the next Parliament, that will be the true test of their ideas and stamina, not some exchange of sound bites and shouty arguments at prime time.


5 Responses to ““So why are Ukip being allowed to participate but not any of the other minority parties?” – Fraser Whieldon on the General Election TV Debates”

  1. Mark Thompson

    Oct 19. 2014

    The green party dont exactly have 25% in opinion poll support and have not won a national election this year have they?

    Another poll put UKIP at 24% yesterday.

    Speaks for itself.

    Reply to this comment

  2. Jack Rainbow

    Oct 20. 2014

    None of the above story is relevant. The real reason UKIP will have a TV presence along with the old parties is simply that if they are refused they will hold an unofficial TV debate and draw millions, embarrassingly, away from the official debate. The result will be more voters joining UKIP than if they allowed Nigel to administer another public slapping at the official debate.

    Reply to this comment

  3. Gary Conway

    Oct 20. 2014

    The Greens have one MP, but she was elected in 2010 on less than half of the vote that UKIP got that year.

    The Greens are contesting 6 seats at the 2015 General Election. UKIP are contesting 650 seats.

    The Greens are not a national party.

    If we’re looking at performance in the polls, then the question should be why are the Greens not taing part when the Lib Dems are.

    Reply to this comment

  4. Stuart Fry

    Oct 20. 2014

    ‘Why are UKIP being allowed to participate’? because to disallow them this right would be an outcry and why is that? Because they have become the third most important party in British politics, having consistently polled around 18% for well over a year now, recently polling at 25% suggesting 1 in 4 would vote for the party and of course, easily winning the most recent national election earlier this year! Oh and also winning the Clacton by-election by a landslide!

    You rightly mention that UKIP only has one MP, but that is because we do not have general elections every week, in fact the last time we did have one was in 2010, way back when UKIP were genuinely something of a nothing party but times have changed, the polls, recent election results, political analysts comments on how many UKIP seats will be won in 2015 etc all confirm this. Surely, it is the current what is relevant, not the state of politics from nearly 5 years ago? Back then, many liked the Lib Dems, yourself included from the article but you, like many have now seen the party for what they really are; a spineless bunch of cretins without any principles only concerned for their mild power at the expense of any integrity.

    The Greens equal UKIP in MPs but unlike UKIP, are only popular in one single constiuency (Brighton Pavillion) nationally, they poll around 5% and it is uncertain as to whether they will even hold on to Brighton! UKIP are expected to win in; South Thanet, Boston & Skegness, Thurrock, Clacton and Grimsby and current polls suggest they are well on their way to doing just this but analysts have suggested they could get as many as 30 seats.

    But the biggest question that you failed to answer is why is Clegg attending TWO of the three debates!? Yes, he is in a coaltion but does anyone still actually want him to be? Really!? The man is a spineless moron and is hated even by many of his own voters and ex-voters. And yes, they have 50 odd seats but will this remain the case come 2015? I very much doubt it, if the polls are anything to go by, they are destined to lose ALOT of seats. Many pollsters suggest they could be left with as little as 11 MPs; meaning potentially UKIP could have more MPs in 2015 than Lib Dems. That is of course, if they are given a fair voice beforehand and attention is not focused unfairly on a spineless weasel on his way back down the hole that he crawled out from.

    UKIP ARE the third most popular party in Britain at present. FACT. They are also the biggest in terms of Britain in the Europe and come 2015, they could well be the third biggest in Westminster. The Greens can not say the same and the Lib Dems might not well not be able to in the near future.

    These debates need to be based on the present public opinion, not on a distant past ensuring that those already in power have a greater chance of remaining in power; how is that democratic?

    Reply to this comment

  5. Stefan Vassalos

    Nov 05. 2014

    Party policy isn’t beamed into voters’ heads unadulterated and equally-weighted; political information comes through the media. I’m not saying that some of Ukip’s ideas don’t resonate with people, but so do many of the Greens’ — maybe if the most-invited Question Time panellist of the last few years had been Natalie Bennett instead of Nigel Farage the Greens would be polling pretty well too.

    Reply to this comment

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