The BBC has rejected the Green Party’s request to be included in the proposed televised leaders’ debates. The BBC has said this is because “they, unlike UKIP, have not demonstrated any substantial increase in support.”
The broadcasting giant has proposed that three debates should be held and the Greens be excluded from them all. The first debate would include UKIP, the Liberal Democrats, Labour and the Conservatives, with a second debate involving the Lib Dems, Labour and the Conservatives, the final debate would be held between the two frontrunners, Ed Miliband and David Cameron.
This particular format has infuriated the Green party who took to the internet in protest and circulated a petition, which as of today has more than 200,000 supporters.
The BBC responded to the Greens with a letter to director of communications, Penny Kemp, saying, “UKIP has demonstrated a substantial increase in electoral support since 2014 across a range of elections along with a consistent and robust trend across a full range of opinion polls; the Green party has not demonstrated any comparable increase in support in either elections or opinion polls.”
Most would argue that with the lack of support for the Liberal Democrats there inclusion whilst the Greens are excluded would be hypocritical. The BBC answered that concern by saying, “The performance in elections of the Greens in relation to the Liberal Democrats has been mainly the result of the decrease in support for the latter as opposed to a significant increase in support for the Green party; opinion polls do not as yet demonstrate that the Greens have drawn level with the Liberal Democrats. Even if they did, we would still, of course, be taking as our starting point the result of the 2010 general election, where the Lib Dems took more than 50 seats and 23% share of the vote, demonstrating a level of electoral support overall substantially ahead of the Green party.”
The letter does however leave a loophole which would allow for the Greens to enter the debate if there was any “new evidence of increased support for the Green party”. The BBC also went on to reiterate its stance of giving the best debate possible to the public which would include the Greens provided they gained enough support to warrant entry.
Natalie Bennett, Green party leader, said: “The BBC in its reference to polling data for the Green party and the Liberal Democrats would seem to be concentrating too much on past performance rather than looking at current interest in the Greens.”
She would continue to say “We are concerned over the statement beginning ‘we would still … be taking as our starting point the result of the 2010 general election’. This demonstrates very clearly how the BBC appears to be acting as a worrying brake on democratic change; I believe they are failing to grasp that the future of politics doesn’t look like the past.”
Mrs Bennett is right to say that politics should not look backwards but she must also recognise that the surge in popularity of UKIP means that they cannot be excluded from these talks and despite clear indication they will fall back the Liberal Democrats still control 50 seats.
I hope that the Greens do have a surge in popularity; it will mean all major parties in the UK will be represented in debates, but what is worrying is that in that case too many voices will spend time shouting over each other and not getting to the heart of issues. We will have to wait and see, this election is shaping up to be the most diverse we have seen in many years. Maybe new perspectives in these debates will bring up better discussion and we can really see the will of the people and not the lesser of the evils presented to us. Maybe including the Greens will mean each party is kept in check and not allowed to simply spout talking points. I think what is most likely is that the Greens will not get enough support and once again they will be left out in the cold; silent except to those who really want to listen.