Thursday, September 03, 2009

The West Lothian Question for Sky Election TV Debates

You could almost see it coming, Sky issue an ultimatum to the leaders for a television debate and Alex Salmond demands to be part of it. Stewart Hosie the SNP Westminster whip claims:

"Sky must meet its obligations to audiences across the UK – and so any debate involving Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg would have to include Alex Salmond. "

As I pointed out early last month there are a lot of issues with that, the first being that the leader of the DUP has more right on current representation, the other that 4 other parties would on 2005 seats contested have more right that the SNP to a UK-wide platform. Indeed he is contesting less than 10% of the seats.

However, the most crucial point of course, in my opinion, is that Alex Salmond himself would not be standing in the next Westminster election. This is not a contest for where he wants to have his sole seat after the election. The other party leaders at least would be contesting the election, would if elected have some responsibility for the issues that would be open for deabte. I've already stated, as it seems do Sky, that there should be debates for the Scottish and Welsh to be held these should have the Scottish or Welsh leader for each of the parties in Westminster. In the case of the Scottish Lib Dems that role falls on Michael Moore not Tavish Scott and for the SNP that would be Angus Robertson not Alex Salmond. As Tam Dalyell would say can we really have a Member of the Scottish Parliament answering questions about matters over which he has no say*.

Another reason that I see Alex Salmond forfeiting his place in the Westminster debate is the lack of interest he has shown in the place, from even before he gained his Holyrood seat. From the start of 2007 to present he has the worse attendance record of any MP who has actually taken the oath to serve, only Sinn Fein's non-attendance is worse.

I think the televised debate is a good thing, long overdue and important to get the policies tested in a format from those in know. Like in the American debates where the speakers are kept to their strict timings to answer and rebut one another. How big can we make such a debate and keep it relevant? That is an interesting question.

However, Caroline Lucas has more of an ax to grind over the debate but is more focused on the funding discrepancies for minority parties yesterday. UKIP's Nigel Farage who fielded the fourth highest number of candidates said nothing at all. Only Salmond is again first out of the trap to demand equality where for him none exists on a number of counts. But it is a question that Sky need and appear to want to address. But if they are only looking for party leaders no substitutes, they may well set the rules for Westminster leaders no substitutes.

*It should be noted that once the Prime Minister goes to the Queen to gain a dissolution Salmond ceases to be an MP or a candidate seeking election to that Parliament.

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