For the first time since the 10 May 2010, the day before Gordon Brown relinquished Number 10 and the Tories jumped into bed with Nick Clegg, I agree with David Cameron. Following yesterday’s announcement by Ofcom, the British broadcasting regulator, indicating that the Green Party does not qualify for “major party status”, a move that might quash their dreams of sharing the stage in the televised debates ahead of next year’s General Election, Cameron has stated that without the Green’s inclusion he will not take part himself.
This is a shrewd political move, something of a rarity for Cameron, and one that all of us on the right should support; not on the grounds of fairness, democracy, or because the Greens have anything worth saying. No, we should support it because the inclusion of Natalie Bennett has the power to stop Miliband scraping his way into power next year.
Understandably, the left are, through gritted teeth, backing David Cameron on this issue for entirely different reasons. They will argue that the Greens have a sitting Member of Parliament and a handful of MEPs. They will rightly point out that the Green Party pushed Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats into fifth place during this year’s European Elections, sixth place if you include the Scottish Nationalist Party.
They will propose that, given the Greens have beaten the Lib Dems in countless by-elections, both local and national, in addition to regularly outperforming the hapless yellows in national opinion polls, perhaps it is their party that should be on stage ahead of Clegg’s.
Many from all sides will argue that it is not the role of Ofcom to influence who takes part in the debates that carry such influence and point out that, in the interests of democracy, the fickle British public should be allowed the opportunity to vote for another shiny toy that promises the world now that Nick Clegg has been found wanting.
Some poor fools might even attempt to convince us that the Greens have sensible, costed, desirably policies that present a “real” alternative to “austerity”, but then to argue with the foolish is folly. I can’t really dispute the validity of some of the aforementioned points but they are not why we must fight for Natalie Bennett’s place among Cameron, Miliband, Clegg and Farage. We must support the inclusion of the Green Party leader because without her, Ed Miliband may yet be allowed to creep in to Number 10.
The television debates before May 2010 had a phenomenal effect on the outcome of that General Election. Just three weeks before polling day the “Clegg mania” induced by his own inclusion saw the Lib Dems sky-rocket into first place, ahead both of the then major political parties, in a YouGov opinion poll for The Sun.
Millions tuned in to watch the new boy on the block lie through his teeth and promise an idealistic alternative. We all know how that worked out; Nick Clegg became king maker and currently resides as Deputy Prime Minister, despite his party’s dwindling popularity. There is nothing to suggest that next year’s debates won’t be just as influential on the outcome of the election.
The inclusion of the Green Party will give Natalie Bennett a chance to present her socialist dreams to the masses, no doubt tempting many wayward leftists away from Labour who remain tarnished in the eyes of many on the left by their most successful Prime Minister of all time, Tony Blair.
Although few Conservative activists will admit it, let alone their leader, there is a genuine fear that UKIP may split the right-wing vote and allow Labour another chance to bankrupt the country. The presence of the Greens might counteract this and, hopefully, irrevocably damage Miliband’s election strategy that relies heavily on his party being seen as the only alternative to “austerity”.
If given a platform, Natalie Bennett will not waste the opportunity to highlight Labour’s record of failing to tackle either tax avoidance or the terrible evil of wealth creation, nor their failure to bring about what the left consider “meaningful” reform to the banking system. The Greens tend to spout just the same sort of nonsense as the UK political scene’s new rent-a-gob, Russell Brand, and given the chance many of those same people who thinks Brand’s insight exceeds that of an A-level politics student will turn from “I agree with Nick” to “I agree with Natalie”.
David Cameron knows this. For all his faults, he is not entirely stupid. No single Conservative voter will perform an absolute volte face by defecting to Bennett’s bunch but many might well vote for Farage. The Green leader openly despises UKIP and will use her platform to fight Cameron’s nemesis just as much as she will try to appeal to the very voters that Miliband needs to form a government.
Despite the best efforts of many, the divisions within the British right will not be fixed ahead of May. The best thing we can hope for, to avoid Prime Minister Ed Miliband, is to allow the left to tear themselves in two as well. Granting Natalie Bennett a platform to millions is just the way to do it.