Channel 4 insisted that the debate was for party leaders only and would not bend their decision, leaving the invitation to Boris Johnson open until the last minute. The result was a disappointed Michael Gove turning up at the Channel 4 studios and not being able to take part.
The rigid standpoint of Channel 4 on who should be able to represent the various political parties involved is certainly open to question. To start with, should they have allowed party ‘leaders’ on the programme if they were not even standing for election for the UK national Parliament?
In that respect, Nicola Sturgeon of the SNP and Adam Price of Plaid Cymru do not meet that criterion so would never be speaking or voting in the House of Commons. In fact their elected Commons leaders would be doing that, not them, so why should they be in the programme at all?
The same applies to Nigel Farage, The Brexit Party leader, but he decided not to attend, in what is another twist to this sorry saga.
Then there is Sian Berry, co-leader of the Greens, who is not standing for election for Parliament, yet was on this party leaders’ panel.
If there had been an insistence instead on party representatives standing in the General Election, the Greens could have put co-leader Jonathan Bartley forward, as he is standing.
All credit then to the leaders of the Labour and Liberal Democratic parties, Jeremy Corbyn and Jo Swinson, who are both Parliamentary and party leaders, for putting themselves in the front line.
So what is the point of having party ‘leaders’ for a political debate in an election for which they will never have political office? Surely, if there is an insistence on party leaders, it should be for the potential leaders of the respective parties in the House of Commons?
Did Boris let the Conservatives down?
It is disappointing that Boris Johnson was not prepared to submit himself for political questioning on this issue of climate change. It does him no credit and was disappointing, not just to his many supporters, but for many others who wanted to know what his stance was.
However, in all fairness, if the Greens are allowed co-leaders, then all parties should be allowed to put forward an alternative speaker to their ‘official’ leader. Michael Gove, as environment spokesman, would in fact have been an excellent representative to put the Conservative Party climate change policy, in place of Boris Johnson.
Did Nigel Farage let The Brexit Party down?
Channel 4 has now been accused of political bias and with some justification. In fact Nigel Farage, leader of The Brexit Party, effectively said this when he argued he had no faith in Channel 4 as his reason for turning down his invitation to appear on the programme. This decision, whilst understandable, is not acceptable for any political leaders who are expected to deal with the media, hostile, biased, or not.
It is likely that the real reason is that climate change agenda is not Nigel Farage’s forte, but then why this insistence on the party ‘leader’? Surely, one of the party’s prospective MPs could have stood in for Nigel, and Richard Tice, the party chairman is standing for election, so why not allow him? After all, if they manage to have some MPs elected, it will be Richard who will be the Commons’ leader and not Nigel, who is not standing to become an MP.
Again, no spokesperson from The Brexit Party was disappointing, denying the public the opportunity to know their views on this important issue.
Channel 4’s bias has no logic
This insistence by Channel 4 on only having party leaders in this debate has little logic to it. As already stated, some of the ‘leaders’ will not be in Parliament so will not be able to vote on political policies there. With the others, there is no cast iron guarantee that they will be elected (as with former Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg when he lost his seat). So at the very least it has to be those ‘leaders’ who are standing for Parliament.
Just why were non-UK parties allowed on a UK political programme
There is another very important factor to this Channel 4 decision on who to ask to appear on their programme, and it is this: Just why were the SNP and Plaid Cymru invited to attend anyway? Neither is a national UK political party, and neither achieved that many votes compared with other parties not invited.
In the EU elections this year, the SNP achieved under 595,000 votes, three MEPs, and 4.1% of the national UK vote. Plaid Cymru achieved under 164,000 votes and one MEP. In contrast, even the badly performing UKIP managed under 555,000 votes (and no MEPs).
At the 2017 General Election, the SNP achieved 978,000 votes, 35 MPs and 3.0% of the national UK vote. Plaid Cymru achieved 165,000 votes, four MPs and 0.5% of the national vote. In contrast, UKIP achieved 594,000 votes, no MPs and 1.8% of the national vote.
In this election, the SNP are fielding 59 candidates out of a total of 650 UK seats. Plaid Cymru are only fielding 36. In contrast even depleted UKIP are fielding 44.
If the Northern Ireland situation is brought into the equation, then the DUP achieved 292,000 votes and 10 seats at the 2017 General Election with 0.9% of the national vote.
Yet, Plaid Cymru, with 165,000 votes and four seats, with 0.5% of the national vote, were invited onto the Channel 4 broadcast but not the DUP!
The Greens only achieved 526,000 votes, one seat and 1.6%, so it clear that the Channel 4 criteria for who to invite on their party political broadcasts are pretty much askew.
It seems that separatists want to split up the UK, and the ‘nationalist’ parties such as the SNP and Plaid Cyrmru are facilitated plenty of promotion by Channel 4 (and indeed the other mainstream media).
If, however, you are ‘unionist’ and want the UK to remain united, then reasons will be found to deny promotion for parties like the DUP and UKIP as much as possible.
To be fair with political broadcasts, there has to be a change of policy. ‘Home’ country only political parties should only get ‘Home’ country broadcasts. They should not be on national UK election programmes unless other UK political parties are given the same treatment.
As a norm, though, national UK election programmes should only be for those standing on a national UK basis.
At present, there is an undoubted bias in favour of the secessionist parties. This has no foundation in fairness, and needs to be ended forthwith.