What are the leaders’ debates for?
Because the UK is run by representatives from elected from constituencies, most of us watching a leaders’ debate will never get to vote for the party leader we think made best showing, or whose views we most agree with.
The current plan for the leaders’ debates – one on the BBC, one on Channel 4, and one on ITV - is for them to include the four men who lead four parties in the UK – the Conservatives, Labour, the LibDems, and UKIP: but exclude the women who lead the Green Party, the SNP, and Plaid Cymru.
In 2010, three leaders’ debates were for the three men who led what would obviously be the three biggest parties in the next Parliament, and in the sense that we saw David Cameron and Nick Clegg bonding as the two younger, public school men, excluding Gordon Brown, they were illuminating – even if Nick Clegg managed to parlay his brief popularity into a five-year crash for his party.
When the story broke that David Cameron had refused to wear a t-shirt that said “This is what a feminist looks like”, ELLE professed itself surprised:
When ELLE asked him, along with Ed Miliband, the leader of the Labour Party and Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Liberal Democrats (and other influential men including Benedict Cumberbatch, Joseph Gordon Levitt and Tom Hiddleston) to wear the Fawcett Society’s iconic ‘This is What a Feminist Looks Like’ t-shirts for ELLE’s inaugural feminism issue (on sale October 30), he refused.
Not once, but five times.
It’s possible, of course, that Cameron refused because he knows he isn’t a feminist. Not only is he known for telling the Shadow Chief Secretary of the Treasury in the House of Commons to “calm down, dear” (six times), his government has since 2010 imposed austerity cuts that place a disproportionate burden on women.
The BBC, ITV, Sky and Channel 4 will be holding
three four debates before the general election in May 2015.
One of them, reasonably enough, will be a head-to-head between David Cameron and Ed Miliband.
Another two, also reasonably enough, will include besides the Conservative Prime Minister and the leader of the Labour Party (still predicted to be Labour Prime Minister by a narrow majority), the Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the LibDems, Nick Clegg – even though the LibDems appear likely to see their 57 seats drop to 18 after 7th May 2015.
The fourth debate will privilege a minor party above the SNP and the Greens: Nigel Farage, who is not an MP, whose party is still predicted to have no MPs after 7th May 2015, will get to take part in a four-way debate with Cameron, Miliband, and Clegg.
It’s been so long.
Do you remember this? On Wednesday 28th April 2010, Nick Clegg began a final push for students to vote for the LibDems.
“Labour and the Conservatives have been trying to keep tuition fees out of this election campaign.
“It’s because they don’t want to come clean with you about what they’re planning.
The next General Election for the UK will be on 7th May 2015. In Scotland, we’re all looking at 18th September 2014, but for the Westminster parties, the general election campaigning has already begun.
At the 2010 general election, the results were Conservatives 307, Labour 258, Liberal Democrats 57: the LibDems dashed into a coalition with the Tories, and the hugely unpleasant mess that followed is still miring us up.
It’s fair to say that without the LibDem decision to join the Tory party and keep them in government (despite Tories not having won an election since 1992) – there likely would not have been a majority-SNP government in Holyrood: conceivably, if enough Scots had voted LibDem in 2011, there might not be an independence referendum this year.
For about fifty years, until Nick Clegg agreed to a coalition with the Conservatives, probably most people would have agreed that LibDems or Liberals, the third party in UK politics, were “for” providing an alternative to Labour or the Conservatives: a party basically on the left in politics, but edging towards the centre. Sometimes letting Tories be elected on a minority of the vote, since left-wing voters split between Labour or the LibDems.
Since May 2010, Liberal Democrats have voted to support massive cuts to funding for public services, terrifying attacks on support for the poorest and most vulnerable in our society, in favour of retroactive legislation on money due for unlawful workfare sanctions, and of course the privatisation of the NHS, and now are expected to vote for selling off the Post Office.
Support for the Liberal Democrats has crashed. To win back even half their seats in 2015, the LibDems will have to treat every maybe-winnable constituency as a by-election like Eastleigh – will have to recruit massive numbers of volunteers while their party is losing memberships. The current prediction is 23 LibDem MPs in Parliament after May 2015, while Labour should have a majority of over 100.