On any objective test the Green Party should be in the leaders’ debates

Yesterday the broadcasters unveiled a proposal for televised leaders’ debates that fails basic tests of fairness and balance.

Yesterday the broadcasters unveiled a proposal for televised leaders’ debates that fails basic tests of fairness and balance

So this is what British politics on TV in the twenty-first century is supposed to look like? Four middle-aged white men arguing over whose turn it is to rearrange the deckchairs as the Titanic sinks?

Whatever qualities David Cameron, Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage may have, the public does not think they represent the diversity of modern Britain. It does journalism a disservice to pretend that they do – the public are not fools.

We can either have a real debate, with all strands of political opinion represented, or we can have another establishment charade that will see the public turning off in droves.

Yesterday the broadcasters unveiled a ludicrous proposal for televised leaders’ debates that fails basic tests of fairness and balance. The so-called 2-3-4 format allows different shades of the British establishment free airtime while excluding those who disagree with their politics of austerity. It is neither a reflection of modern Britain nor an aid to the free and fair elections that twenty-first century democracy demands.

The Green Party has to be in there, if for no other reason than to show that there is a genuine choice on offer in this election. You can either plump for business-as-usual, as expressed through the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, Labour or UKIP, or you can vote for the real change that we offer.

Whether it’s a £10 minimum wage, keeping the NHS in public hands, bringing the railways back into public ownership or stopping runaway climate change – the Greens offer a distinctive voice that millions of Britons support.

We’ve also earned our right to sit at the top table the hard way – by building up our membership and staying true to our values. We’re not funded by tax-dodging millionaires and we never will be.

Voters increasingly recognise that the Green Party is different. Our policies are made by our members, not by focus groups or newspaper tycoons. We campaign for what is right and fair, not what is easy or fleetingly popular. We aren’t afraid to stand up to the mighty and the powerful and we aren’t embarrassed to speak out on behalf of those whose voices have been stifled.

On any objective test the Green Party should be in the leaders’ debates. UKIP has had an MP for about five minutes; by May 2015 we’ll have had Caroline Lucas in the House of Commons for five years. The Lib Dems are slated for two debates yet we comprehensively beat them in the European Elections this May – winning three times as many seats and 150,000 more votes. General Election opinion polls put us neck-and-neck with the junior Coalition partners. And when the public get to hear about Green policies they prefer them to the alternatives.

So broadcasters can keep moving the goalposts to shut us out but we are not going to go away.

Since they published their proposals yesterday there has been an explosion of public support for us. Whether natural Green voters or not, people do not like the idea of closing down discussion and debate. With traditional party loyalties fragmenting at an unprecedented rate the electorate want to see the full range of views on offer.

We live in an era of multi-party politics. The broadcasters need to accept that or get out of the way.

Natalie Bennett is leader of the Green Party

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