The burd is an election junkie and I am about to get my fix!
It all kicks off later this week. Parliament dissolves on Wednesday – with a half day no less! slackers – and from here on, expect to be bombarded by launches, hustings, photo opps, leaflets, broadcasts, soundbites, manifestoes and debates.
Both STV and BBC Scotland intend to host TV leaders’ debates but the planners appear to have lost their abacuses. According to our esteemed telly folk, there are only four party leaders in Scotland – Alex Salmond, Iain Gray, Annabel Goldie and Tavish Scott. It’s going to make for riveting viewing huh? But they seem to be ignoring the fact that over the last four years, another party has graced the stage in Holyrood and intends to be back there next time, it hopes with more than its current two MSPs.
Why no invite for the Scottish Green Party and Patrick Harvie for these leaders’ debates? Who knows. Oh, no doubt they will be able to justify it somehow – they always do – but it doesn’t make any sense to me. It doesn’t matter that the party is wee, has only two MSPs, has a clumsy co-convenor arrangement, and isn’t contesting the constituency seats. If the debates were about contenders for First Minister, I’d understand, but then want to know why Goldie and Scott are being allowed to trail in Salmond and Gray’s wake?
And yes, inwardly, the prospect of a five person stage for these debates makes me groan. It will be hard to get beyond the set piece statements and monologues and actually get a bit of banter going between the “contestants”. But as with the UK General Election debates in which the other two squabbled incessantly over who could agree with Nick, at least in the first few, the dynamics of alignment would be interesting to watch. If the Greens leap from two to six seats, they would be much more worthy suitors for either of the two main protagonists. Indeed, a Lib Dem meltdown might necessitate some wooing and courting of the Greens by the SNP and Labour: it would be fascinating to see that begin to be played out on air.
Moreover, Patrick Harvie would bring something to the debates, as he did with his first appearance on Question Time. He’s articulate, passionate and opinionated. The Scottish Greens are more to the left of any of the other parties, obviously more green and a lot more lukewarm on independence than they used to be. They would have something different to say, something that might just chime with a good part of the electorate. And a little bit of colour outside the crowded centre would be good to see and hear.
As a small party with very little purchase power, there is no doubt they will be allowed a moment or two during the forthcoming campaign. Otherwise, they will find it hard to secure the sort of headlines and coverage that will give them traction and a breakthrough in terms of vote share. Exposure in the leaders’ debates would therefore do them a lot of good and frankly, our democracy some good too. At the moment, success depends on size and how much you can spend. It shouldn’t be like that.
Broadcasters who perpetuate this state of affairs do us no favours. They are planning to put on for our delectation, party leaders’ debates. The Scottish Greens are the fifth party in Scotland and should be allowed to be involved. The boys at Better Nation have got a campaign up, urging people to do stuff to make this happen. I’ve done my bit and I hope you will do yours.