Friday, March 26, 2010

Question Time sensation : Liam Byrne thinks Gordon Brown should be banned from the "Prime Ministerial" Debates

Labour's Liam Byrne on Question Time tonight : "these debates are for the parties that are standing in every single seat in the United Kingdom".

Labour are standing in only 631 seats out of 650. By Mr Byrne's standard - which was absolutely crystal-clear, leaving no conceivable room for misunderstandings - Gordon Brown, remarkably, does not qualify for inclusion in the Prime Ministerial (sic) Debates.

The Liberal Democrats' Julia Goldsworthy on Question Time tonight : "these debates are for the parties standing in every part of the United Kingdom".

The Liberal Democrats are not standing anywhere in Northern Ireland. As Northern Ireland is indisputably one of the four constituent parts of the United Kingdom, Ms Goldsworthy has just added Nick Clegg to the list of those automatically disqualified from the Prime Ministerial (sic) Debates.

The slightly depressing thing is that these politicians probably aren't even consciously engaging in sophistry here - they're so Anglo-centric that they genuinely believe that standing in every area of England automatically equates to standing in every area of the United Kingdom. And as superbly as Alex Salmond performed tonight (demonstrating what an asset he would be to the leaders' debates, even leaving aside all questions of fairness), the one thing that slightly disappointed me was that he didn't draw attention to these blatant own goals from Byrne and Goldsworthy. To be fair, of course, he was too busy trying to cram in all the other innumerable reasons why the SNP's total exclusion from the debates is such an affront to the principles of a free and fair election. And he wasn't even given the opportunity to point out why Goldsworthy's predictable jibe of "you're not even a candidate in this election" is such an idiotic red herring - what has Alex Salmond's status as an individual got to do with the SNP's case as a party to be included in the debates? As I've pointed out many times, I'm quite sure the SNP don't really give a monkey's whether they're represented in the debates by Salmond or by their Westminster leader Angus Robertson, who is also an excellent debater.

Salmond did, fortunately, have a chance to show up Sayeeda Warsi when she resorted to one of the other standard red herrings.

Warsi : "Much as I like Alex Salmond, he is not going to be Prime Minister after this election, and therefore shouldn't be in the Prime Ministerial (sic) Debates."
Salmond : "Is Nick Clegg going to be Prime Minister?"
Warsi : "Well...maybe Julia can answer that."

As weak responses go, that one really is in a league of its own. We're in truly Alice in Wonderland territory if a Tory can't even bring herself to dismiss the Liberal Democrat leader's prospects of becoming Prime Minister, when given an open initation to do so!

Even more bizarre was David Dimbleby's own jibe, when Salmond suggested that the SNP and Plaid could put up candidates in England, if that was supposedly all that was required to qualify them for the debates -

"You'd better be careful, people in England might vote for you, because they want Scottish independence".

Hmmm. I'm starting to wonder if Mr Dimbleby has entirely grasped the basics of the SNP's aims and objectives.


  1. Ezio Auditore da FirenzeMarch 26, 2010 at 1:42 AM

    I missed QT tonight (as I do every Thursday) because I cannot stand a)the audience questions and b)the London machine politician's non-answers.

    But was the Salmond masterclass enough to warrant a wee viewing on the Iplayer would you say, James?

  2. Could well be, Ezio - although I should probably warn you that he wasn't in full barnstorming mode, it was the more measured Salmond we saw in the 2007 Holyrood debates. I also got the distinct impression that he wasn't given as much time to speak as the other panellists, although that may just be my paranoia!

    He gave an excellent answer on the Israeli passport scandal, suggesting that the expulsion of one Israeli diplomat was nowhere near strong enough as a response.

  3. Ezio Auditore da Firenze - Florence Needs ChampionsMarch 26, 2010 at 2:06 AM

    Of course he wasn't given as much time to speak, James. This is a BBC debating show and he's Alex Salmond...he should be thankful just to be allowed into the building!

  4. strange panel Salmond was the only Scot, would never happen anywhere else in ukandia

  5. I'll stick up for the BBC here (to an extent) - I wouldn't say Alex was afforded any less time than most panellists get. The Labour panellist always gets by far the most time, although in fairness they also tend to get a more thorough probing by Dimbleby. Then again, they're also the only ones that get to make long, detailed statements about stuff, but I suppose it's fair enough that the governing party gets to clarify their situation.

    Salmond was certainly in fine form, though, and it was great to hear that guy Sorrell - who has absolutely no reason to be biased towards the SNP and was the only non-partisan panellist - categorically state that the SNP's omission from the debates is an affront to democracy. I also loved his comment about how the key to the debates would be who makes the least mistakes, and Salmond's presence would throw a spanner into that as he'd bring much more detail to the debates.

  6. I just watched QT on iplayer and agree with James that Alex Salmond could have drawn attention to these own goals from Byrne and Goldsworthy.
    Highlight of the show for me was when Scottish Labour (sic) deployed their secret weapon, the angry scheming hairdresser from River City to berate Salmond about his ego. Poor Eck nearly taken out under a hail of industrial strength hair gel and unionist indignation.