David Cameron has made clear that he will not participate in the leaders’ television debates unless the Green party is included. This morning, Ofcom ruled against the Greens taking part.
Anyone at all surprised that the defence of Natalie Bennett’s eco-conscious, left-wing party by the man who is said to have dismissed environmentally friendly policy as “green crap” shouldn’t be. It is obvious that Cameron sees the political benefit of the Greens being included in the debates. They could take votes of Labour and the Lib Dems. However, as things stand, Cameron would only be up against Labour, the Lib Dems, and Ukip – debating with Nigel Farage on television would exacerbate the damage Ukip has already done to the Tory vote.
It may be a little cynical of the Prime Minister to insist on Green participation for electoral purposes, but his reluctance to be involved in the television debates at all is clear. He has been very reticent about answering questions about whether or not he wishes to take part ahead of May 2015, and the BBC’s Nick Robinson reports that the PM would be “quite happy for there to be no debates at all”.
The reason behind this is that there is very little incentive for Cameron to participate, whether Bennett is invited or not. He has consistently polled ahead of his party, and so it would be unnecessary, and unwise, to take any risks trying to boost his popularity further. Unlike Miliband, his personal poll ratings haven’t been particularly dire. Also, it is clear from Nick Clegg’s woeful clash with Farage in televised debates last year that the only party leader who would truly benefit from television debates – Bennett aside – is Farage. Incidentally, the latter has called the PM “a chicken running scared” for his reluctance to join in the debates.
Ed Miliband has accused the Prime Minister of “shoddy behaviour”, and calls for him to, “accept the broadcasters’ proposals” as it’s for them to decide.
When I asked for Bennett’s view on her unlikely champion, she commented:
Obviously David Cameron has his own political interests but I think we should give the Prime Minister credit for recognising that the debates would be unbalanced and bad for British democracy if Ukip is included and the Green party excluded.