Wednesday, 3 March 2010

On Plaid Cymru and the Prime Ministerial Debates

So, the BBC, ITV and Sky will be holding live televised debates in the run up to the General Election, and they are only inviting Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg to take part. This news has left Plaid Cymru (and the SNP) very cross and frustrated and you can kind of understand why.. they don't want voters in Wales and Scotland to be misled into thinking that the three main parties in the UK are the only one they have an option to vote for at a Westminster level.

Peter Black AM has already blogged about this today, and as I type is vehemently defending his point of view on Twitter against Plaid supporters who feel slighted. It can't be denied he makes a very good point; with just three MPs out of a total of six hundred and forty six, Plaid Cymru's claim to fair promotional airtime is somewhat tenuous.

It gets even worse when you consider that as much as it's a proud little nation, the population of Wales hovers somewhere above just three million, which means that only 3m/60m or 5% of the population of the UK even have the option to vote Plaid Cymru.. so anything Ieuan Wyn Jones would have to say in a debate would be completely irrelevant to 95% of people watching.

I think there's a strong argument for regional broadcasters in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to run their own televised debates in addition to these 'Prime Ministerial' ones, as audiences in these countries need to hear not only the policies of the respective nationalist parties, but also a specialised debate which leaves out devolved issues. In the same way that 95% of the target audience of Sky, ITV and the BBC's events won't be interested in what the leader of the 'Party of Wales' has to say, a massive percentage of the subject material covered in these debates is going to be irrelevant to Welsh viewers as it will focus on things like NHS spending - for which decisions made in the House of Commons will only affect English voters anyway. Indeed, there are rumours that the televised debates may not even be shown in Scotland and Wales, and as this post over at SNP Tactical Voting points out, the locations for all three debates are in England.

In the meantime, my advice to anyone who feels their options are not properly represented in the national media is this: find out who your local parliamentary candidates are for yourself. Check their credentials - you must have access to the Internet to be reading this! Ask them questions about their views and their party's policies. Read your local press. It's not actually the responsibility of the national broadcasters to tell you what your vote will do. It's down to you - with the tiny amount of power you have every few years, why not get off your backside and exercise some responsibility in using it?