Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Angus Robertson for Prime Minister!

Last night, I posted a comment I had left on Michael Crick's blog, pointing out that it is not necessary for a party to stand in a majority of seats for its leader to become Prime Minister, blowing a hole in the argument that simply rebranding the leaders' debates as 'Prime Ministerial Debates' somehow justifies at a stroke the total exclusion of the SNP and Plaid Cymru. So I was intrigued to hear on Newsnight tonight Crick subtly switching to a different rationale - "of course, the Nationalist leaders are not seeking to become Prime Minister..." I'm of course not suggesting for a moment that my comment was responsible for this shift, but I do wonder if he reflected on his original explanation and realised for the same reasons just how woolly it was.

So assuming we now have the definitive explanation for why the SNP don't qualify for inclusion in the leaders' debates (sorry, keep forgetting, the 'PMDs'), it seems on the face of it there is now a very simple remedy available for the party. All they have to do is release a statement confirming that their (nominal) aim in this election is for their parliamentary leader, Angus Robertson, to become Prime Minister at the head of either a minority or coalition government, as is perfectly possible according to numerous precedents both in this country and beyond. And since, according to Crick, the PMDs are intended for politicians seeking to become PM, that should remove any lingering objections to the SNP's participation.

In any case, I've thought for a long time that the SNP should make clear that Angus Robertson is the person they are seeking to put up for the debates. That would deprive their opponents of the red herring argument that "Alex Salmond isn't even standing in this election", which was always a deliberate diversion from the central issue - the SNP's right as a party to have representation in the main debates.

It's interesting that there is no indication yet of whether the SNP are planning to seek legal redress on their exclusion. I can understand their caution, because if by any chance they were defeated in court there would unavoidably be a degree of negative publicity. However, I personally really feel that the stakes are just too high for this to go untested in court. Remember, it's not just about this election - a precedent is about to be set that will affect every subsequent election for the forseeable future.


  1. Not totally silly, as it would ruin the false premise. Plaid and the Northern Irish parties, even Sinn Fein should also sign the letter though, which will make the gang of 3 approach seen for what it is.

  2. presumably Mr Salmond wants to become prime minister of Scotland and likewise the person from Wales wants to become prime minister in that place

    so they should be on with the other persons who desire to lead their respective countries

  3. Going to court is always the last resort and judges don't look kindly on those who use the courts when disputes can be resolved outside the court.

    Since the BBC, ITV and Sky haven't actually come up with their plans to ensure that the debates result in, "...each broadcaster complying with its duties on due impartiality and election coverage across the nations of the UK.", then it's not a good idea for the SNP to go to court yet.

    Once the details of how the BBC, ITV and Sky are going to try to ensure impartiality in Scotland are published and after the SNP has negotiated and failed to try and get true impartiality then that is the time to go to court.

  4. Anon - who else precisely is bidding to become Prime Minister of Scotland? None of the other main parties think such a position should even exist. And if you mean 'First Minister of Scotland', we have the Scottish Parliament elections next year to settle that.

    This election determines who will fill the fifty-nine Scottish parliamentary seats at Westminster - and there are four major parties contesting those seats, not three. Any debates shown in Scotland must reflect that reality.