Local candidates react to PM’s debate stance

David Cameron, centre,  during a televised debate ahead of the 2010 General Election.
David Cameron, centre, during a televised debate ahead of the 2010 General Election.

The Green Party and Ukip in the Berwick constituency have reacted to the Prime Minister’s stance over the TV election debates.

David Cameron has said he will not take part in the televised party leaders’ debates under the current format, which would see Ukip’s Nigel Farage take part, but not Green leader Natalie Bennett.

It follows Ofcom declaring that the Greens do not have sufficient support to qualify for ‘major party status’.

Coun Rachael Roberts, of the newly-formed Berwick-upon-Tweed Constituency Green Party, said: “David Cameron obviously has his own political reasons for taking his stance on the televised leaders’ debates, but he should be given credit for recognising the public expectation that Natalie Bennett, Green Party leader, is included.

“In an ICM poll conducted in December, 79 per cent of respondents felt that the Green Party should be represented.

“This has created discussion about the public’s faith in democracy, especially among younger voters. YouGov recently found 22 per cent of under 25s support the Green Party.

“On a local level, we look forward to working with the Northumberland Gazette and (our sister paper) the Berwick Advertiser, as well as other media outlets, so that local people have a good understanding of Green Party policies nationally and locally and can compare us with the other parties in the area.

“At the beginning of February, we should be in a position to announce our candidate for the constituency.”

Ukip parliamentary candidate for Berwick, Nigel Coghill-Marshall, said: “The leaders’ debates are becoming an established part of our political process, affording an opportunity for the electorate to see, hear and compare those who seek to become Prime Minister in situations that they cannot control.

“So it is disappointing to learn that David Cameron, once a strong advocate of such debates, is now attempting to avoid taking part.

“His supposed reason, that the Green Party will not be invited to participate, contradicts his earlier attempts to exclude Ukip. He conveniently ignores the fact that the decision to exclude the Greens, has been upheld by an independent body with no political agenda of its own.

“We can only surmise the real reason, and at the same time ponder, whether, if he won’t stand up for his own party in a TV debate, he is capable of standing up for his country in any EU renegotiations.

“The debates should continue without him. Volumes will be spoken by his absence and the empty chair on which he would have sat. The electorate will draw its own conclusions.”