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Monday, October 05, 2009

Debating the future of Britain

It has been argued elsewhere that we do not have a Presidential system and that therefore the series of Leaders debates that now look like taking place are at odds with our Parliamentary system.

The Prime Minister after all is not directly elected but is appointed by the Queen once she is satisfied that he or she can command a majority in the House of Commons, or has the best chance of forming a government if there is no overall control.

However, things change and although the unwritten British constitution remains the deciding factor, the nature of 24/7 media coverage has effectively focussed people's minds on the top job. Even though there are more regional variations in party support than there has ever been before, it is the leaders who are the ones who command all of the attention in a General Election.

The introduction of Leaders' debates is a natural extension of that trend and marks a significant step towards a more Presidential system. It is not something I welcome but it is where we are.

David Cameron has intervened in the debate as to who should feature in these debates to suggest that Scottish First Minister, Alex Salmond would not be welcome. By implication I suggest he would not want Elfyn Llwyd or Ieuan Wyn Jones participating either.

Quite apart from the fact that Alex Salmond and Ieuan Wyn Jones will not be standing for Parliament, these debates are supposed to be between candidates for Prime Minister of Great Britain, as such parties such as the SNP and Plaid Cymru who are not fielding enough candidates to win that prize have no place participating in them. Nor do parties who have no MPs and no realistic chance of winning such as the BNP and UKIP.

By all means stage separate debates amongst the party leaders in Wales and Scotland but in this particular instance we should be clear, this is a United Kingdom election and as such debates between Prime Ministerial candidates should feature UK-wide parties alone.
puts into sharp focus the fact that Westminster isn't OUR institution.
We must agree to differ on this, Peter.
"these debates are supposed to be between candidates for Prime Minister of Great Britain,"

So what are you saying you want a David Cameron monologue?
It's one hell of a stretch to call Nick Clegg a "candidate for Prime Minister of Great Britain", Peter.

It's really not on that your party will get such free exposure. You already get far beyond what you merit in Wales through the British media.

There should certainly be different debates for the nations. Failing that, I can't see how you can justify Clegg's presence simply on the basis that the Lib Dems field enough candidates for him to become Prime Minister... that's a bit like saying Wales lose enough football games to be World Champions.
As someone who is supposed to be Liberal and a democrat, how can you argue that these debates should exclude leaders of other parties who partake in the UK election?!!! If you want a new open, transparent and people centred democracy to emerge, surely these debates should include all parties who have representation in Parliament? So let's see Tories, Labour,Lib Dems,Plaid,SNP,Greens and UKIP all involved please.
Whether you like it or not we do NOT have a presidential system and electoral law reflects that, as it must.

If we did, it would be acceptable to exclude Salmond from the debate-unless he were a candidate for the presidency.

Under current arrangements NOBODY actually votes in an election for the PM-they are deluding themselves if they think that they do.

David Cameron has stated that he, unlike Thatcher, will show "respect" for Scotland. This leader of ONE MP in Scotland immediately shows his contempt by seeking to exclude the leader of the Scottish Government from debate.

The hypocritical Labour Party describes it as "sinister" that the SNP may take legal action to assert their legimitate rights when they themselves took successful legal action to stop an interview with Major at the time of the much less important Scottish local elections of 1995.

Make no mistake, if the leader of the Scottish Goverment is excluded from all debates many Scots will recognise this for the display of contempt that it is.

Alternatively, if Salmond is given some reasonable involvement he will wipe the floor with the 3 "giants" when it comes to a true understanding of Scotland and its wishes.
Garmon: but Nick Clegg is precisely that, a candidate for Prime Minister. The Liberal Democrats have the third largest grouping in House of Commons. They will be challenging strongly to take a large number of Labour seats and quite a few Tory one. It is conceivable that they can win enough seats to be at least the second largest party and polls have shown that where people think we can win they vote for us. In a no overall control situation Nick Clegg could easily end up in Government. Of course people should see what he has to say for himself in these debates.

Oh and by the way, in Parliamentary terms the Welsh Liberal Democrats have the second highest number of MPs in Wales.

Aled: there is nothing illibral or undemocratic about my argument. In these terms you have to earn your seat at the table and the three main party leaders clearly have. This is a debate between party leaders, the other UK parties will no doubt have their debates around the seats they are contesting.

Tom: Plaid and the SNP want independence. Why should they be involved in a UK wide debate where they are not relevant. I have said that I support separate debates in Wales and Scotland.
You say "Plaid and the SNP want independence. Why should they be involved in a UK wide debate where they are not relevant. I have said that I support separate debates in Wales and Scotland."

Well, for the very obvious reason that if this is a debate about the future of Britain it is very relevant if the future may turn out to be about England Scotland and Wales as separate entities, don't you think?

As for your acceptance of debates in Scotland, debates between Scottish party leaders have taken place since 1992. What is being proposed here is additional debates excluding SNP & PC.

Just not acceptable. There should be one or more debates in Scotland and Wales with Cameron, Brown & Clegg and the PC/SNP leader.

If something like this does not happen there will be no UK debates at all unless they are blocked in Scotland at least-and don't think the SNP wouldn't get the support of at least their voters (30% or so)in that.
Your inconsistency, Peter, is to want separate debates for Wales and Scotland, but to ALSO expect a debate between the leaders of the three parties elected from England to be broadcast to the whole of the UK including Wales and Scotland.

To be consistent, there should be a separate debate in each country, with the elected parties from each country taking part. For England it would be Labour, the Tories and the LDs. For Wales it would be Labour, the Tories, the LDs and Plaid. For Scotland it would be Labour, the Tories, the LDs and the SNP.

If it's not done that way then all five leaders (or perhaps the leaders in Westminster, that doesn't matter too much to me) should appear in a UK-wide debate. However, I think that's less desirable, not least because the fact of having different political parties in the six counties complicates everything.

If people in Wales or Scotland have to put up with having two broadcasts (one for the UK and one for Wales or Scotland) it means that three of the parties unfairly get TWICE the exposure of either Plaid or the SNP.

It seems that what you mean by fairness is what's fair to your party.

MH @ Syniadau
Peter please don't take too much offence to this but your comments here are bonkers and beyond inconsistency. You say that only those that are candidates for the prime ministers position should be in this debate. yet you say in the very best (and lets face it highly unrealistic) scenario the Lib Dems will be the second biggest party in a hung parliament. There is no way that any other political party would back Nick Clegg as leader. Therefore the point that he should be in this race is stupid.

The fact is there is more chance that a combined SNP/Plaid group would be bigger than the Lib Dems than there is of the Lib dems being the second largest party.
The point I was making is that second largest party is a realistic goal and largest party just one step away from that. So yes, Clegg is a serious candidate for PM and yes he should be involved in this debate as the leader of a UK party.
You’re argument that any debate between the leaders of the three “main” parties would between candidates for Prime Minister is mistaken. Although unwritten it is a constitutional fact that any person elected at the next General Election could be Prime Minister. By convention the Monarch of the day calls the leader of the largest Party to form a government. If he or she is unable then it is theoretically possible that the leader of second party third party or even possibly even smaller party who could put together a coalition to become prime minister. It does not even have to be a Party leader. After the last assembly election there was even a possibility that Dadydd Elis Thomas would lead a coalition government. This may be fantasy but it is as big a fantasy Nick Clegg being”A candidate for Prime Minister”.
That may be the constitutional position but it is not the real world is it?
But Nick Clegg as the Prime Minister is? You're losing the plot Peter
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