So I was encouraged to receive an email from the SNP a few minutes ago revealing that they've decided to take the plunge and challenge the broadcasters in court over the rigged leaders' debates. I must admit there was a little while when I was worried that they might let this pass without even putting up a fight, but I should never have doubted them. There's also a fundraiser to cover the cost of the action, which you can find HERE. (It appears to be for SNP members only.)
Of course the dilemma with this sort of thing is always that if the court case is lost, you're left in exactly the same place that you started, apart from the fact that you've got less money than before. But that's the nature of the beast - you can't win a raffle if you don't buy a ticket, and the potential benefits if the case is won (or perhaps I should say the potential avoidance of harm) is so great that it seems to me it's well worth the risk. It's also important to lay down a marker and emphasise that people haven't just been going through the motions by objecting to these rigged debates - the proposed format really is outrageous. There's been an attempt to gaslight us by portraying two-way leaders' debates as "traditional", but in fact they've never taken place in UK general elections before. Not even once. There were no leaders' debates at all prior to 2010. There were three-way debates in 2010, and multi-party debates (including the SNP) in both 2015 and 2017.
What are the chances of success in court? Heaven only knows, but it should be remembered that it's not unheard of for judges to rule against the broadcasters in cases of this type. In 1995, Labour and the Liberal Democrats successfully persuaded a Scottish court to block the broadcast of a Panorama special featuring an extended interview with the then Tory Prime Minister John Major in the middle of a Scottish local election campaign. The killer question posed by the judge was whether such a programme would ever have been scheduled during an English local election campaign, and the BBC were unable to answer. They were allowed to go ahead with the broadcast in the rest of the UK, but not in parts of Northern Ireland and northern England where there was a danger of transmission carrying into Scotland. Then a few years later, a court gave retrospective relief after ITV broadcast an "Ask the Prime Minister" special featuring Tony Blair in the middle of a Scottish parliamentary by-election campaign. STV were ordered to broadcast a similar programme giving time to the other party leaders.
On the other hand, the SNP's challenge to the 2010 general election debates featuring only Brown, Cameron and Clegg did fail entirely. But two things have changed since then - a) the SNP are now the third largest party in the UK Parliament, and b) there is a clear precedent for the SNP being included in UK debates on an equal basis. If it was appropriate for the SNP to be included in 2015, when they were going into the election with just six seats, it's very hard to understand why it's appropriate to exclude them now, when they're going into an election with thirty-five seats.
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I have constituency previews for Edinburgh West and Edinburgh South-West in The National today - you can read them HERE and HERE. And you can also take a sneak peek at my monthly column in iScot magazine HERE.