Green Party leader Natalie Bennett.
Show Hide image

Why the Tories want the Greens in the TV debates

The inclusion of the party would help to split the left-wing vote and harm Labour and the Lib Dems. 

After being harried by Labour to commit to TV debates next year, David Cameron has made his most detailed comments on the subject to date. He told the BBC

I'm very keen to examine all the formats that we could have and I've suggested that perhaps we should have one debate with all the parties in, so that everyone can have their say, and perhaps we could have a debate where the two people who could actually be prime minister debate directly with each other.

I don't think you could have a party like Ukip, without an MP, without the Greens, who have got an MP. So there are quite a lot of issues that have to be ironed out.

This differs slightly from the Sunday Times's report last weekend, which suggested that Cameron was open to a "2-3-5" format with a head-to-head debate between himself and Miliband, another with the addition of Clegg, and another with the addition of Nigel Farage and the Greens' Natalie Bennett. Cameron's comments suggest he favours a tête-à-tête with Miliband and a seperate debate with all five party leaders. 

His insistence that the Greens would be included is striking. At least one motive is the Conservatives' belief that the fifth party's increased profile would harm Labour and the Lib Dems. Having long complained about the unity of the left compared to the disunity of the right, Tories have told me that allowing the Greens to enter the debate would be another way to depress Labour's vote share in a close election.

It's also worth remembering that were Cameron to debate Miliband, the encounter would need to take place outside of the official election period. As I've noted before, Ofcom rules on impartiality mean it would not be possible to exclude Clegg. Should Ukip be reclassified as a "major party" (as it has been for the European elections), Farage would also have to be included. 

But as Labour suggests, Cameron's words may well just be "ducking and diving" designed to prevent the debates from happening at all. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Getty
Show Hide image

The Brexit elite want to make trade great again – but there’s a catch

The most likely trade partners will want something in return. And it could be awkward. 

Make trade great again! That's an often overlooked priority of Britain's Brexit elite, who believe that by freeing the United Kingdom from the desiccated hand of the European bureaucracy they can strike trade deals with the rest of the world.

That's why Liam Fox, the Trade Secretary, is feeling particularly proud of himself this morning, and has written an article for the Telegraph about all the deals that he is doing the preparatory work for. "Britain embarks on trade crusade" is that paper's splash.

The informal talks involve Norway, New Zealand, and the Gulf Cooperation Council, a political and economic alliance of Middle Eastern countries, including Kuwait, the UAE and our friends the Saudis.

Elsewhere, much symbolic importance has been added to a quick deal with the United States, with Theresa May saying that we were "front of the queue" with President-Elect Donald Trump in her speech this week. 

As far as Trump is concerned, the incoming administration seems to see it differently: Wilbur Ross, his Commerce Secretary, yesterday told Congress that the first priority is to re-negotiate the Nafta deal with their nearest neighbours, Canada and Mexico.

In terms of judging whether or not Brexit is a success or not, let's be clear: if the metric for success is striking a trade deal with a Trump administration that believes that every trade deal the United States has struck has been too good on the other party to the deal, Brexit will be a failure.

There is much more potential for a genuine post-Brexit deal with the other nations of the English-speaking world. But there's something to watch here, too: there is plenty of scope for trade deals with the emerging powers in the Brics - Brazil, India, etc. etc.

But what there isn't is scope for a deal that won't involve the handing out of many more visas to those countries, particularly India, than we do currently.

Downing Street sees the success of Brexit on hinging on trade and immigration. But political success on the latter may hobble any hope of making a decent go of the former. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.