Won’t you tell me when my light turns Green?

LEP Columnist Barry Freeman
LEP Columnist Barry Freeman
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Conservative and Labour stand on the brink of a great victory over their bitterest foe – open and more fully representative democracy.

Yes, one timely mutual bout of my enemy’s enemy is my etc. later and they are, it seems, a rush and a push (more likely a gradual hush) away from killing the leadership debates stone dead.

Debates which, broadcast on BBC and ITV in 2010 drew 8.5-9.5m viewers (even the Sky News-staged debate pulled in more than 4m, a stunning figure for digital and, with a share of 2.1m, a record at that time for the station) and in so doing they did more to smash the binary world of British politics than any other single event in my lifetime.

The Lib Dems, of course, were the chief beneficiaries, and it is no wonder that today they remain absolutely committed to a repeat.

Having spent five years as a convenient whipping boy for the Tory-Labour press axis, the debates represent their one chance to put out a version of the Coalition story from a Lib Dem perspective.

Mightn’t work – but without them they are dead in the water.

Of course, that Cameron has wanted the hell out is old news, and the arrival in Westminster last year of two old true blue chums draped in the anti-papal purple of UKIP can only have quickened this desire.But how to flee and not look weak? Then, happily for Dave, up pop the Greens with his get out of jail free.

Since 2010 the ballot box has
handed the Greens s one MP, three MEPs, two members of the London Assembly and some 172 councillors nationwide. At the 2014 European elections they beat the Lib Dems into fifth. They have more members than either UKIP or the Lib Dems.

And Ed Miliband would sooner lick urine off a nettle than stand alongside them, on a level, open playing field, in front of audiences almost certain – with UKIP in the mix – to outstrip those of 2010.

By necessity – a result of wider direct involvement in government – the Greens have been compelled to move beyond the single set of issues which initially defined them and set out a broader programme. One based on many policies far to the left of anything the market-friendly New Labour team of Ed and Ed are putting on the table.

They’d bleed votes from their old rump like the Tories are to Farage.

Forget OfCom. A red herring, a fig leaf. If Miliband gives the green light these debates are go. But his light, if not his party, remains red.