Monday, 11 November 2013

A Bit Of A Heated Debate

One of the by-products of the news surrounding both Grangemouth and BAE Systems has been the he said, she said nature of studio discussions.  This was even more so if the discussions involved the Glasgow Labour MP Ian Davidson.

Indeed, there were points last week when I was wondering if Ian Davidson was in danger of becoming Scottish Politics’ very own version of Tony Slattery.  A figure that turned up absolutely everywhere you looked.  Davidson’s show of shameless self promotion did make me wonder if come the next Westminster Election there would be a concerted effort to “get” Davidson.

Rather curiously though, it occurred to me during one of these debates that the calls from the SNP and from “Yes Scotland” for Cameron to debate Salmond seems to have disappeared.   Indeed the subject of debates for the referendum came back to me yesterday.  Andrew Rawnsley’s piece in yesterday's Observer more than hinted that Team Cameron were not entirely favourable towards a repeat of the leaders debates that took place during the 2010 Westminster elections.

Firstly, the Independence debates.  It would be inconceivable if the Scottish First Minister does not debate with the Prime Minister over Independence.  Both Salmond and Cameron are on different sides of the debate and are the highest profile members of both sides.  As for calls for Salmond to debate with the chairman of the Better Together campaign group, Alistair Darling. Well that would be akin to Cameron debating with the chairman of the Taxpayers Alliance before the next election.  And that aint happening.

Indeed, while it’s not that likely that Cameron & Salmond are going to debate, Rawnsley’s piece cast doubt on the Leaders debates happening in 18 months time.  The jitters on Cameron’s side is based on experience.  They were seriously blindsided by the performance of Clegg in 2010, so much so that they believe that Clegg’s performances denied them a working majority in 2010 (even though polling suggested that this was not a possibility until the “Rochdale event”). 

While Cameron’s reticence regarding an Independence debate is clear cut (Salmond would best Cameron in any debate), his reluctance is based on a worry that Milliband might pull a rabbit out of the hat and actually win any of the debates.  As Rawnsley points out, this kind of upset has happened twice, most recently with Obama’s slow sluggish first debate with Mitt Romney last year.  That and Milliband’s habit of getting under Cameron’s skin, Cameron has dubbed Milliband a con man and a mafia mobster in recient PMQ’s in ratty performances, has possibly put the seed that continuing the debates might not be a good idea.

What might though put an end to the debates though could well be the current great unknown unknown of the British political scene.  UKIP have constantly been polling ahead of the Lib Dem’s & there have been calls for their leader Nigel Farage to be included in the debates.  I rather think a lot will rest on what happens to their polling after the Euro Elections.  Many people think their polling will drop off over the course of next summer.  However if their polling hold’s up or continues to grow, then the calls for Farage to be included will grow.

If those calls are heeded & Farage is included, I can see the “Leaders Debates” disappear under a welter of litigation.  The SNP would have a case for them taken off air here (the only part of the UK where UKIP still poll badly), while the Greens (who have an MP) also would have a grievance.  All of which would be helpful to a reluctant PM.

It remains to be seen if both parties can come together for pre-referendum debates and for the Westminster election debates.  What is true is that Cameron & co are conflicted over whether to take part. My only hope is that if they don’t that Ian Davidson is not used as a proxy.