ITV’s Tom Bradby this afternoon reports that David Cameron will refuse to take part in the pre-election TV debates unless Ofcom reverses its decision to ban the Green Party from taking part. Asked “are you saying you are not going to go in as it stands unless at least the Greens are in?”, the Prime Minister replied: “correct”. Is this cowardice, as UKIP are claiming, or is there another reason Cameron is playing hardball?
First, it is clearly absolutely right that the Green leader Natalie Bennett should be allowed to take part in the leaders’ debates. Regardless of the fact her party is polling above the Liberal Democrats consistently over the last few weeks, there is another matter of fairness at play.
A TV contest between the leaders of the Tories, UKIP, Labour and the Lib Dems means there are two Right-wing parties, one Left-wing party and one ‘centrist’ party taking part. The current arrangement means the Right is split, leaving Labour free to take full advantage. So, in the interests of fairness, throwing a second Left-wing party into the mix is the correct thing to do.
Secondly, could Ofcom’s boss have an ulterior motive here? Ed Richards, the chief executive of Ofcom, is a former adviser to Gordon Brown who used to work in a small office with just the Labour PM and his PA. Perhaps he should declare an interest that his organisation’s decision to stop the Greens taking part does his party a massive electoral favour.