Friday, 30 April 2010

Green Party complains to BBC about exclusion from televised leaders' election debates

The Green Party has complained to the BBC about their exclusion from last night’s national televised election debate, a senior spokesman for the Green Party said today.

“We will not be making a legal challenge. But we have complained in the strongest terms to the BBC about our exclusion from their third televised debate,” the spokesman said.

The spokesman said the televised election “is unlikely to affect Brighton Pavilion, our number one target seat, where the Lib Dems will be lucky to save their deposit”.

He said television debates are a good way of engaging the public, but “it is a bad idea to focus the elections on just party leaders, and only three party leaders at that.

“It is not fair on other parties, and it is not fair on voters who can't hear about other parties.

“The televised debates in the present format strongly reinforce the false impression that there are only three parties worth voting for, and this cannot be good for democracy."

Another source close to the Green Party leadership said he could not discuss the details of the complaint, but confirmed the Green Party had complained to the BBC about the leaders’ debate election broadcasts.

He said: “The Green Party’s complaint “in pretty strong terms” is understood to accuse the BBC of denying the voters adequate information on the policies the Green Party is offering – policies the Greens say are demonstrably popular with a large section of the electorate – thus “distorting the picture of what options the voters can actually vote for”.”

He said: “The BBC’s official guidelines to allocate almost all the election coverage to the three parties who were most successful last time inevitably serves to reinforce the status quo. This gives an unfair advantage to the three biggest parties, and denies the electorate information about the other choices on offer. The televised leader debates exacerbate this.”

“Basically the public broadcaster has made a decision to be fairer to the Lib Dems, but at the same time to deny fairness to the Greens. And to deny fairness to the electorate, who have a right to hear about the choices on offer.”

“The Green Party’s complaint is understood to have included an urgent demand that the BBC seek to redress the balance as far as possible by increasing its news coverage of Green Party policies.”

The source went on to speculate about the effect of including Caroline Lucas in the debate:

“Nick Clegg had 90 minutes of being treated equally with Cameron and Brown, and the result was to change public perception of the election. Now imagine what a difference Caroline Lucas would have made if she’d been involved.

“Caroline Lucas would probably have been the story, instead of Nick Clegg.

“There’s a whole load of policies that we know are popular with a wide swath of the electorate but which are not being offered by any of the big three parties. The Green Party’s policies against privatisation of the NHS and the Royal Mail are very popular, not to mention bankers’ bonuses. Left-of-centre voters love the way the Greens talk about putting people before profit, investing to create a million jobs and so on. But thanks to the broadcasters’ decision to limit the debates to three parties, the electorate at large has been denied the chance to hear that those policies are on offer. We expect better from the public broadcaster.

“Fortunately it doesn’t look like Cleggmania’s going to spoil Caroline’s chances of winning Brighton Pavilion, because the Lib Dems barely exist in Brighton, they’re down to two seats on the city council. Like Labour, they’ve lost out badly to the Greens in Brighton. The Lib Dems came fifth in last year’s Euro-elections when the Greens finished way ahead of everyone. Caroline Lucas is still the favourite with all the bookies, not to mention the polls by ICM and YouGov. Frankly the Lib Dems will be lucky to save their deposit in Pavilion, even if Clegg’s extra TV coverage does get them some extra votes.

“But imagine Caroline Lucas had been involved in the debates, and people all over the country had seen her and heard about Green Party policies. This would have radically changed things because a lot of people would have been sitting there saying, “I agree with Caroline about jobs, I agree with Caroline and the Greens about the NHS and the banks and Afghanistan and Trident” and so on.”

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