The general election was dominated by TV debates focused on three grey men in suits. The Over the Rainbow TV show focused on twenty pretty girls in gingham, so perhaps was the more interesting! There were similarities in that it was youth that won out over experience in both cases. However, unlike Dorothy, in the general election the contestants were not treated equally. All of the smaller parties were excluded from the main debates, with the Green Party and UKIP particularly disadvantaged. At least the Nationalist Parties had separate debates in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, but neither the Green Party or UKIP were invited onto the panels and their vote was squeezed as a result. In my own case the BBC refused to talk to me as candidate for Richmond throughout the election campaign, unlike the Tory, Labour and Lib Dem candidates. My complaint of bias to the BBC Trust goes unanswered after two weeks, contrary to their own rules.
Yes, the Green Party won in Brighton, which was down to an excellent candidate in Caroline Lucas and a lot of hard work over many years. But think how much better those TV debates would have been with the wit and wisdom of a woman like Caroline Lucas to contrast with the sameness of the three grey men in suits? That is something that this coalition has shown us. The difference between the three grey men was in style not substance. Their policies are interchangeable, as is demonstrated by Nick Clegg’s endorsement of the Tories’ Big Society idea. Tory, Liberal and Labour agree on Afghanistan, nuclear weapons, nuclear energy and punishing the public for the mistakes of politicians and banks. To cover up their MPs’ expenses scandal they have set up yet another quango full of over paid bureaucrats.
Why is it important that the smaller parties are heard? Well apart from the democratic principle of a level playing field, sometimes we get things right. For instance, on Afghanistan, the Tory defence secretary Liam Fox is quoting as saying last Friday that Britain was not a “global policeman” and he would like to see British troops return home “as soon as possible”. Well I hope William Hague, Foreign Secretary and the victor of Richmond, was listening. He may then recall that this was exactly what I said to him in the Richmond hustings at our last general election battle in 2005 (Richmond Zetland Centre 29/4/2005). Since then 282 British service personnel have died in Afghanistan and 104 in Iraq, along with thousands of civilians. If the Government and the people had heard the Green Party message then, perhaps those deaths might have been avoided?