Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Salmond on TV, or maybe not on TV?

It says a lot about broadcasting in this United Kingdom that Alex Salmond has to come to London to make a big splash on the proposed leaders' television debates.

His joint press conference with Plaid Cymru leader Ieuan Wyn Jones was packed out this morning. Always hold a party in a small room and double the invite list, that's what I say.

It was a bit of a Eurovision Song contest, double handed presentation, but the leaders got their point across about how they feel it is grossly unfair to exclude SNP/Plaid from three television debates being staged for Clegg, Cameron and Brown.

I feel their pain. These Thursday night campaign debates have the potential to suck up all the media coverage and commentary for the day preceding, the day of and the day after the event. That's the reality. The day before the debate in particular will be a viod of political message making. Voters in the US always use the "I'm waiting for the debate" excuse to rebuff doorstep campaigners and telephone canvassers.

So far the SNP and Plaid have huffed about legal challenges and reviewing their commitment to the BBC licence fee system but these were not what they wanted to focus on today.

They pressed the BBC on it's impartiality and responsibility to be a broadcaster to the nation as a whole. Salmond emphasised that the BBC had to understand the ramifications of their decision and how he would, from now on, portray the organisation as an English Broadcasting Corporation

Two key concessions though, ahead of meetings with the BBC and ITV. The principle the nationalists now want to establish is participation, not parity.

The SNP don't expect equal standing on a UK platform with the other parties but the right to point out that in Scotland, or Wales, there are other policies on offer.

The other point, and I think this is the first time Salmond has conceded this, is that he might not be the SNP representative in the UK debates, if it comes to participating.

"The key issue is participation. If it was made a condition that it would be people standing in Westminster we could discuss that," he told me.

It's a bit early to bury this argument about a debate but I got the feeling that the SNP has already started mourning the loss of campaign air time.

By the way - that new SNP slogan "More nats, less cuts". Don't they mean, as my pedantic colleague Mike Settle pointed out, More nats, fewer cuts. Given that there are up to nine political tv debates to be endured in Scotland there's room for a slogan that says: "Please! Fewer debates."

UPDATE: The BBC reaction statement prattles on about how it is organising subsequent leaders' debates in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland after the big boys have had their party.

It ends with the key phrase: "We will continue to speak to the parties as we develop our plans."

Develop our plans? Nothing set in concrete then? Into that chink will rush a demand for Salmond and Jones to be on the flanks of the big three during the big debates.

1 comment:

  1. I feel that the SNP nor Plaid have any right to be in a UK General Election leadership debate. Both parties advocate independence for Scotland and Wales respectively, and by implication do not have an interest in UK government - as they aspire to leave the UK at the earliest possible opportunity. Advocating differing policies in Scotland and Wales by the nationalists should be done at elections for the Scottish Parliament or Welsh Assembly. The SNP certainly should field NO candidates for the UK general elections.