The Election Debates and the Northern Ireland ‘Difference’

Nick Robinson: inclusion of NI politicians in the election debates a step too far?  Pic: Tom Page

Nick Robinson: inclusion of NI politicians in the election debates a step too far? Pic: Tom Page

Northern Ireland is politically different from the rest of the UK, according to the BBC’s Nick Robinson. That’s why, he argued this morning on the Today Programme, broadcasters are confused by the Prime Minister’s insistence that if the Scots/Welsh Nats are including in the proposed television election debates, Northern Irish parties should be included too. Northern Ireland has always been separated from GB at election time, he argued.

This ‘difference’ argument is one that’s used a lot by politicians and pundits who would prefer the convenience of ignoring Northern Ireland in the context of a UK general election.  Air time for Northern Ireland candidates means less time to discuss much more interesting issues facing the GB electorate.

There is, of course, good reason for excluding and ignoring the NI parties if one lives in Britain. None of the Northern Ireland parties competes for votes with the national parties. Political parties here merely compete with other local parties that have no aspiration to govern the UK.  Ours are the pygmy parties of parochialism.

However, that’s not exactly the case. For one thing, it appears almost certain that no one political party will win an overall majority in the upcoming UK general election – thereby making the DUP important. For another, it’s also the case that some local parties claim to be manifestations of sister parties in GB.

John Alderdice, now Baron Alderdice, is the Alliance Party’s former leader and now sits as a Liberal Democrat Peer in the House of Lords. He is also the former President of Liberal International. David Trimble, former leader of the UUP, is now a Conservative Peer. And, of course, when men and women from Northern Ireland relocate to Great Britain, and get involved in politics, they find a home very easily in the GB party-political system. Belfast man Brian Mawhinney was a Conservative MP from 1979 to 2005 and was in a Conservative Cabinet from 1994 to 1997. There are many Northern Irish (and Irish) men and women in local, devolved and national party politics across the UK.

Therefore the reason we are considered different is nothing whatsoever to do with our ability to participate in political discussions that relate to UK-wide issues (when our people are resident elsewhere in the UK). Rather, it’s much more to do with our ridiculous and pointless party-political system that is defined and underwritten by religion and so-called cultural identity.

While the Alliance Party claims to be the manifestation of the Lib Dems in Northern Ireland – it clearly isn’t. Instead it obsesses about ‘shared future’ arguments and the institutional embedding of tribalism. The so-called Unionist party spokespeople quickly get out of their ideological depth if the debate gets too far beyond the standard frame of reference for political discussions here: ‘them and us’. Sinn Fein’s obsession is perpetuating debates around the trivial: the protection of the Irish language (a language most of their supporters ignore); the flying of flags; blaming the Brits for everything. So, yes, our politics are different, and not in a good way.

But should the DUP and Sinn Fein be included in the debates? If they are, the debates will be even more unmanageable and absurd. If Sinn Fein is included their appointed debater might show-up for the debate but will have no plans to take his or her seat on the Westminster benches, if elected. Meanwhile the DUP’s inclusion may confuse many in GB who had no idea that Northern Ireland was part of the UK.

Cameron’s reason for suggesting that NI should be represented is, no doubt, the same reason as he had suggested that the Greens be included. It’s a wrecking tactic. And there’s no better way to wreck a debate than to have those crazies involved.

Follow me on Twitter

  • Korhomme

    “many in GB who had no idea that Northern Ireland was part of the UK.”

    We once got a parcel from the south of England. It had a green customs declaration on it.

  • Practically_Family

    That happens to me on an occasional basis, I wouldn’t say quite “regular”, but it’s certainly not a shock anymore.

  • Ernekid

    Certain Unionists might still think that Northern Ireland is a British as Finchley but it’s totally evident that we’re not. Northern Ireland for better or worse has had a totally unique political culture since the creation of the state in 1921. It’s arguable that Irish politics has always been distinct from British politics since before 1801.

    People in Britain are generally totally ignorant of the nature of Northern Irish politics as it is totally removed from mainstream British politics. I’m not exactly sure what the DUP would hope to contribute to British political debate

  • mjh

    You’re right. The broadcasters did not think this through properly and have allowed Cameron to outsmart them. Nick Robinson’s comments illustrate that they have no solid ground beneath their feet.

    There can be no genuine debate with 11 or 12 participants each of whom would have a few seconds to answer each question. All we would get would be sound-bites and platitudes.

    It would be television at its least informative and most boring. The biggest turnoff of the Election and bad for democracy.

  • Neil

    I imagine the Shinners actually getting a podium, getting a chance to stand in front of the UK electorate and explain to the growing contingent of English Nationalists what we cost, how we respond to the generosity of the English taxpayer, and how they would be better off without us. If Indyref taught us anything it is that the threat to the Union doesn’t necessarily come from NI these days.

  • Dan

    If the broadcasters are determined to help Cameron and Miliband avoid the real debate which the public wants to see, with UKIP……then the NI parties are as entitled to take part in the resulting farce as any of the other parties, simple as that.
    Much as I have little time for any of them, each is more than capable of holding its own against the likes of Sturgeon, Wood or the appalling Bennett.

  • Pete

    Labour have also said that it’s illogical to exclude NI.

    There has been support from across the political spectrum for including the NI parties, given the SNP and PC are invited.

    Personally, I don’t think any regional parties should be on the national debates.

  • Morpheus

    So an English debate, a Welsh debate, a Scottish debate and a NI debate?

  • Kevin Breslin

    The broadcasters are the idiots who employ Nick Robinson though.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I open my mouth here, everyone thinks I went to school with David Cameron, but in England I’m given the impression everyone sees me as a sort of gutteral Brendan Behan. Its feels as schitzo as Jon Kenny’s performance as the compère in “Father Ted/A Song for Europe”

    At least I’ve not been asked for my passport recently travelling between the two…..

  • Kevin Breslin

    Jeff is the epitome of Churchill’s words

    “We have always found the Irish a bit odd. They refuse to be English.”

    Let me clear things up. We can’t be English, we don’t live in England we don’t meet people from Kent, and Surrey and Essex and Tyne and Weir on a regular basis. We meet people from Donegal, Louth, Sligo, Leitrim, Cavan, Monaghan and Dublin a lot more regularly.

    Ireland had 20% of the population of the UK and had 2 (unelected) prime ministers in 200 years. Are you really surprised Northern Ireland with 2% of the population of the UK doesn’t have prime ministers in waiting or do you have the patience to wait 20,000 years for one?

  • Barneyt

    There are many facets for recognising and supporting a language. I was disappointed to read your words on that subject.

    This entire issue (The debates) only brings home to roost the daft nature and construction of the Union. I largely agree that NI is different. I can’t see what the Alliance would have to offer, nor any other neo-full unionist party, unless descending into local NI issues is going to capture the wider UK imagination. The SDLP? Again they will present as redundant, so those parties I have mentioned would loosely be represented politically by the Liberals, Tories and Labour respectively.

    This all started when the BBC, understandably incorporated the UKIP into the sessions. For me this was done due to the threat they now posed to the Tories and to some extent, Labour. Indications were and are that they might have a greater influence on who forms the next government, and are as relevant as the Liberals and certainly can outpunch the Greens and Cymru for relevancy in England. The other thing that seems to be overlooked is the prospect of better TV. A four-way debate is manageable and UKIP in the mix with the three parties they most threaten, validates the initial aim to have a four way debate.

    I do believe Cameron is crying foul for disingenuous reasons. He has no interest in the Greens. Its not like he’s courting them for any Tory benefit.

    The only other party that could make things interesting from a NI perspective is SF, for the reasons mentioned in the main article, however this won’t happen.

    If this is based on numbers and we accept there is a wider UK, then all parties over a particular threshold should be included. There are two main jurisdictions that really matter in the UK Election, and they are Scotland and England. The SNP and UKIP this time will have a greater impact, so their case for inclusion is strengthened. I see no case to include Cymru, Greens, SDLP, Alliance or UUP. So, on the basis that Wales is a principality of England, I would include the DUP and SF to ensure wider and more comprehensive UK representation.

    I would have three debates:

    Round 1:

    Tories
    Labour
    Liberals
    UKIP
    SNP
    DUP
    SF

    Round 2

    Tories
    Labour
    Liberals
    UKIP
    SNP

    Round 3

    Tories
    Labour
    Liberals

  • Brian Walker

    The reason for not including the NI parties is entirely coherent, that they do not compete for votes with the main UK parties. To have even 7 parties never mind 11 in a single debate makes real exchange impossible. They will at best get 2 sound bites each in a 2 hour session. But I agree, it feels faintly undemocratic to exclude them.

    The question of which main party the minor parties might support if there is no clear majority will loom larger in the debate but the answers will be unreliable. The topic of how to cover post- election positions will probably be a matter of further negotiation, along with timing of the events.

    Whether our four parties elected to Westminster are included or not, the two main parties Cameron will get what he wants which is to limit the exposure of UKIP. Miliband will not be sorry that the SNP re similarly reduced although the real election debates in Scotland – as in Northern Ireland and Wales – will take place on the local networks. In that sense UKIP will be uniquely disadvantaged as there is no all England TV region.

    The main party leaders and I suspect the UK audience will be relieved if the final debate is solely between the two who are bidding to become prime minister.

  • > None of the Northern Ireland parties competes for votes with the national parties.

    They successfully compete with the Tories – in 2010 wiping out the Tories in their UCUNF “vehicle” and the Conservatives took part in 2014’s European elections …

    Unless I’ve missed the Tories ruling themselves out of standing candidates this May, they’re alive and well (and small) and competing with the DUP and SF and SDLP et al.

  • Nothing to prevent picking some smaller leaders to be in either BBC or ITV debate, or be proportionally allowed to contribute to a smaller number of Qs in the debate.

  • mjh

    The Conservatives are standing in NI. They recently announced the selection of a candidate for East Belfast. Given that, I would expect them to have at least 3 or 4 other candidates. The national party may wish to have candidates in all UK constituencies.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Totally agree, Irish nationalism is missing a trick rather than debate the UK leaders why not follow TP O’Connor’s example and put an Irish nationalist candidate up in England, say Liverpool nearly 100 years after he was elected there.

    Plaid Cymru compete in Monmouthshire.

    The SNP are considering standing in Berwick

    Surely the SDLP and Sinn Féin might consider trying to win seats in England themselves.

    If Farage wants to try to claim partners of his views in the Republic, I don’t see anything stopping UKIP members registering to stand in the Republic, better yet why not stand in Callais.

  • Alan N/Ards

    You are right Ernekid. Northern Ireland is not as British as Finchley. At the same time we are not the same as the republic. There is little interest in GB, or the republic, for what happens here.

  • Nordie Northsider

    Of course the North is different. It’s not like any other part of the UK has about 40% of the population wanting to break away. Er, allow me to rephrase that…

  • Kevin Breslin

    That’s the only thing that makes sense. If these debates are broadcast across the UK, English voters will have a better sense of who their future kingmakers can be.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Given its distance from the island of Britain, including Northern Ireland in the UK debates would be as ridiculous as including the Mayor of Callais.

    Then again a ridiculous idea like including the Mayor of Callais to this fiasco would make fantastic television.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Northern Ireland might be kingmakers in the UK, and king-breakers in the Republic of Ireland.

  • Jeffrey Peel

    Hi Alan – as you are aware I was involved in the Conservatives in NI at one time 🙂 However, technically speaking the NI Conservatives are, unlike the Conservatives in NI before them, separate and distinct from the Conservative Party in GB. However, that point would be lost on the electorate – most of whom are probably unaware that the Conservative Party is even “organised” here, in whatever guise. UCUNF was an electoral disaster.

  • OneNI

    You clearly dont live in Northern Ireland anymore Brian or you would know that Conservatives and UKIP stan din NI elections so local parties DO compete with the main UK parties

  • Kevin Breslin

    As they do with parties based in the Republic of Ireland.

  • Kevin Breslin

    You mention that the UK excludes Northern Ireland due to “our ridiculous and pointless party-political system that is defined and underwritten by religion and so-called cultural identity.”

    Yet to me looking at British or rather English politics is equally sectarian when it comes to Jews and Muslims and equally nationalistic when it comes to Immigrants and the EU.

    So rather than putting on the Tudor Rose tinted glasses, could you concede that the real difference between the UK and Northern Ireland is not the difference but the distance?

  • Sergiogiorgio

    I think we may be missing the comedic moment of the century if the DUP were to put up their in-house creationist […] Nelson or the ever dapper Edwin, he of the cowboy print shirt and “Paisley” tie. SF put up the likes of Gerry Kelly who glares shark like at the others and generally scares […] everyone in attendance. Gerry starts off in Oirish, with PC doing the welsh commentary and SNP having a bash in Ulster Scots. The interpreter is seen having a nervous breakdown at the bottom left of the screen……its the Father Ted of politics. I’d be watching for sure but probably for all the wrong reasons.

  • Pete

    Ludicrous point. It’s a UK parliament election. Distance from GB is irrelevant, as it is not a GB-only election.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Yes, but Calais has a political impact through social things like immigration and economic things like trade, arguably moreso than constituent part Northern Ireland

    The political union between GB and NI is a ridiculous concept, when people think about it.

  • Jeffrey Peel

    Kevin, Northern Ireland is very close to GB – just 12 miles from Britain at the closest point. GB is our most important trading partner, employer, and benefactor – we depend on over £10Bn a year to cover the cost of our deficit. Unlike people in Calais people here tend to speak the same language (sort of), read/watch British media, spend British pounds, pay British tax etc. We also have a legal system based on the British model and our MPs sit in a British parliament. The ridiculous thing is that we sit outside the British political system. Ours is the only region of any democracy in Western Europe where none of the political parties that seek to govern us seek a mandate to do so. Our politics is the problem – not our Britishness. Your assertion that our distance from GB explains our difference is simply wrong. We’re closer to mainland Britain than North Island New Zealand is to the South Island – yet both make New Zealand. We’re much closer to the UK than the Dodecanese islands are to mainland Greece (but that doesn’t make the Dodecanese any less Greek).

    Moreover most people who live here – including a majority of Catholics – want Northern Ireland to remain part of the UK even if they don’t vote for Unionist political parties. The issue is not about national identity any more. It’s about malfunctioning politics and our exclusion from mainstream political debates that affect us all.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Jeffrey, people in Nigeria speak English and people in Albania watch BBC World Service. People pay British taxes on exporting goods. People in Russia use US dollars and don’t consider themselves any degree American for it.

    I don’t think attachment with the average Joe in Kent comes from these things.

  • Jeffrey Peel

    Kevin you may not have any attachment but many of us do – just as we may have a very strong attachment and fondness for Ireland and Irishness. Most people who live here appreciate our closeness and affinity with our family of nations. Our differences are much less than many suggest. It’s why people like Graham Norton and Terry Wogan can become UK national treasures even when they aren’t British. Unlike you I consider the United Kingdom to be one of the greatest pluralist democracies on earth – but I also respect and admire Ireland, and enjoy its proximity. But when I arrive in London I often feel much more at home than I do here – precisely because it’s a cultural melting pot. I’d suggest you spend more time outside of Northern Ireland. I sense it would be good for you.

  • ted hagan

    It would be interesting to know if Finchley even regards itself as British these days with the rise in English nationalism.

  • Starviking

    Then again, go to Finchley and ask the residents what their nationality is. Odds are a significant number will answer “English” instead of “British”, – so in that respect (at least) Northern Ireland is as British as Finchley.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Jeffrey, forgive me, I don’t want to insult or even deny anyone’s attachment to Britain, England or elsewhere. If Norton, Wogan and Geldolf want to be British, Irish and or both who am I to judge what nations they love and what identity they identify with. Similarly Spike Milligan, Daniel Day Lewis, many English born people have every right to call themselves Irish, whatever Irish means to them. Likewise Ulster Scot, Northern Irish, Anglo-Celtic, European, Global citizen, they can be whoever they want to be.

    Several Irish citizens join the British Army and British people join the Irish Armed forces.

    There is undeniably social, economic and cultural connections between all parts of Britain and all parts of Ireland, several versions of them to various strengths and weaknesses but my emphasis was clearly on POLITICS, on self-determination, on political power and independence.

    What is Northern Ireland as political entity?

    What and where is the political union?

    How can you explain why Northern Ireland exists without going back to the “system that is defined and underwritten by religion and so-called cultural identity”, When you look at the naissance of Northern Ireland and the state of the union it has now doesn’t it deserve ridicule?

    Separating Religious groups to stop a civil war is largely responsible for Ireland’s partition, yet no church in Ireland, including all the small Protestant fringes that dominate the DUP is governed under the boundaries of this political border based on an unwanted sectarian apartheid.

    Political privilege did exist on a faith based level and that would have defined the sectarian problem. Class warfare, economic freedoms, human rights, suffrage, land provision, agrarian policy, international relations, labour relations, employment these did play a role in people following nationalism, unionism, loyalism or republicanism.

    This new Northern Ireland is redefined by the Principle of Consent with the Freedom to Dissent against that, if the UK is the pluralistic democracy you say it is both those forces have the equal right to exist, like it or not.

    It also has 3 strands for regional, all-island, and cross-island politics to manifest political desires in NI, across Ireland, and with the regions of Britain and the Crown Dependencies.

    Going back to the political union, you mentioned how people moving over to Britain have no problem in Britain’s politics. That’s not what a union is. A political union is a connection between the region’s political ecosystems, not the political life forms. Moving over and adapting does nothing to change where you came from, that’s not to say you cannot change anything in that place from there. It’s not about cultures and camouflage, it is the impact of a family committed to working long distance routes

    Political Union means regular people across lands having a political connection while taking political actions in the lands they live in. Does any political action or initiatives within Northern Ireland have a direct impact in Kent and vice versa? (There are certainly ones between Northern Ireland and the Republic,)

    Your argument does not address that element of the political structure or political network that is part of real politics of political connections between the average Joe or Joanna in Northern Ireland and in Kent.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Could be worse we could have Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage, Frankie Boyle, Russel Brand, Rhod Gilbert, and err Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband.

  • Quite so, mjh, And that is exactly what Cameron and the Tories want. No awkward questions with plenty of time given to them for answers.

    He’s a Primed Minister and no leader, and that’s the naked truth.

  • ted hagan

    New Zealand and Greece are not an amalgam of several different countries so your examples don’t fit.

  • Jeffrey Peel

    There are different regional prefectures in Greece. The United Kingdom is one sovereign state with several devolved regions.

  • ted hagan

    No, the UK may be one sovereign state but Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland are not devolved regions, they are countries.

  • Jeffrey Peel

    Countries that form part of the United Kingdom – just as States make up the United States of America.

  • ted hagan

    So you admit they are countries not devolved states? And please stop censoring comments

  • Jeffrey Peel

    I haven’t censored any comments and your point about “countries” is pointless. They may be countries in name but try getting a passport for Northern Ireland or Wales or Crete.

  • ted hagan

    Well so much for the independence of the Slugger O’Toole website when authors get to neuter comments. There should be an independent moderator. Farewell.

  • David McCann

    Just to confirm Jeffrey has no moderation status on this site in comments. Hence he did not change your comments

  • Kevin Breslin

    The issue is not just the distance but the border with the Republic. Northern Ireland is 0 miles from the Republic of Ireland, 12 miles from England. Economically linked to the Republic, Socially linked to the Republic of Ireland, even largely effected by the fiscal decisions taking in Dáil Éirrean than those made by the nearest local government in England. These can be non-issues from doughy eyed Ulster born person in London, who merely wants Northern Ireland to conform with England not in its own self-interest but because they are ones who feel alienated, they are the ones who over the years have seen so many Conservative-Unionist pacts fall by the wayside and haven’t learned any lessons.

    And it is hypocritical Jeffrey Peel for a once Conservative to ask Unionists to become Conservative again, only so to govern and have power, while the Conservatives don’t follow that logic themselves and join the European People’s Party in the European Parliament, only so they could steer that bloc away from Angela Merkel’s German right-wing party (parties actually, they share a coalition with Bavarian partners) and her agenda to try govern Europe according to the Tory’s agenda, even forcing a Britexit if they wanted it.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    It’s a UK general election, Kevin

  • Kevin Breslin

    No it’s a UK General Election debate, if people want to talk immigration surely they need to hear the other side of the story.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    that doesn’t make a lot of sense

  • Kevin Breslin

    A debate without the other side of the story does not make sense?

    How much the French are paying to secure these refugee camps in Callais, what do UKIP want from Callais? How much are UKIP prepared to pay to stop English refugees and criminals going the other way?

    UKIP are big on problems, big on blame not big on solutions and not big on coming face to face with the people they blame for everything.

    Given a lot more English people are concerned with neighbouring Calais than people moving from the island of Ireland or Scotland or Wales in almost every sphere of politics, society and economics, that region of France being absent from the debate would simply justify a biased commentary.

    In the name of English diplomacy having someone from Northern coast of France would be useful.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    we do talk to the French about Calais. But the discussion on here was about the UK general election.

    You said: “Given its distance from the island of Britain, including Northern Ireland in the UK debates would be as ridiculous as including the Mayor of Callais.”

    It’s not about distance though is it? It’s a UK general election. It happens in the UK and it doesn’t happen outside the UK. The Shetlands are closer to Norway than London, but so what? They are in the UK. Vancouver is closer to LA than Ottawa, but it’s in Canada. Countries are where they are. Having other countries close by, as nearly all countries do, does not mean those neighbours should participate in national elections. Perhaps the UK should get to vote in elections in the Republic by that token – we’re pretty darned close.

    So excluding NI on the basis of distance makes no sense. Distance from what? London? The country isn’t a disc with London in the middle. And geometrically, dividing up the world into a series of circles that did not overlap would be impossible.

    Northern Ireland is as much a part of the UK as London, Devon, Orkney, Dundee or anywhere else, in terms of current sovereignty. It may change in future – I hope not – but in the meantime it’s a full part of the country and has the same right to be included in general elections and in general election debates as any other part.

    Oh and btw, the main island of the UK is actually called ‘Great Britain’. ‘Britain’ on its own is a wider term usually used as a synonym for the UK, which when used in that way includes Northern Ireland as well as the other parts of the country that are not on the main island, such as Anglesey, the Isle of Wight, the Hebrides etc.

    And finally, it’s ‘Calais’.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Ordinary English voters are more concerned about Calais than NI or Ireland in general, likewise all those islands you mention. The generalisation of the UK debate will focus solely on the island of Britian, at the exclusion of all surrounding islands of Britian and Northern Ireland. Isle of Wight is that going to be represented? No, unless there is an English debate, Anglesey i.e. Ynys Môn? No … Not outside of a Welsh debate. Shetlands? No … Not outside of a Scottish debate, likewise the Heberdies and Orkneys or Na h-Eileanan an Iar, as is the case every other surrounding island. People from the Isle of Wight should be entitled to 2 MPs but get only one, they are so overlooked, even in comparison to the other island groups.

    If these regions are mentioned it’ll be why people in Britian would mention the likes of Tajikistan, to acknowledge its existence and little else, as they know little about these places.

    Secondly, Britian means Great Britian means the main island of the UK, the UK is not Britian or Great Britian, the only reason why Britian is an accepted synonym is because people ignore the existance of Northern Ireland or its position within the United Kingdom.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I’m still struggling to see your logic. Elections to the UK parliament are for the people of the UK, surely? Or what alternative system are you suggesting?

    On ‘Britain’, here’s how the wikipedia entry starts:
    “The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain, is a sovereign state in Europe.”

    It goes on:
    “The term Britain is often used as synonym for the United Kingdom. The term Great Britain, by contrast, refers conventionally to the island of Great Britain, or politically to England, Scotland and Wales in combination. However, it is sometimes used as a loose synonym for the United Kingdom as a whole. GB and GBR are the standard country codes for the United Kingdom and are consequently used by international organisations to refer to the United Kingdom. Additionally, the United Kingdom’s Olympic team competes under the name “Great Britain” or “Team GB”.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Kingdom

    I trust this clarifies it for you.

  • Kevin Breslin

    These debates are not going to come down to the constituency level, and perhaps that’s the great weakness in them. They ignore the main strength of a parliamentary democracy is that the power goes from the regional upwards not in the reverse through a trickle down. National debates will not mean much on a constituency basis. Personally I would be concerned about my local MP or TD does at a hustings than a parliamentary leader who I have no capacity to elect or remove. I don’t live in Mayo so I cannot pass a verdict on Kenny, any more than not living in Sheffield denies me the chance to pass a verdict on Clegg.

    The UK is incorrectly known as Britian in the same way as The Republic of Ireland is incorrectly known as Ireland. No one goes from Monaghan north to Britian, or Armagh south to Ireland. I am fairly clear of that. Republic of Ireland to the United Kingdom, perhaps, but not Britian to Ireland. As far as I am aware Britian and Great Britian are effectively the same thing, if wiki called Ireland Great Hibernian I would not be inclined to believe that either.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    as long as you’re “fairly clear” on that Kevin 😉
    So you’re basically saying you’re sticking with your own nomenclature. Fine, it’s a free country.

    People get a democratic say on their own leaders, but not (for what I had assumed were quite obvious reasons) on the leaders of other countries. Are you now saying we need to revise this?

    Maybe we should all vote in the Spanish election. Seems to be more than a bit flawed to me though, democratically. The old link between taxation and representation for starters …

  • Kevin Breslin

    Both the UK and the Republic of Ireland are parliamentary democracies. Only one constituency is going to vote for the head of government, whoever they may be. If the UK became the UR and had an election for a single head of government/head of state role like the United States then the debates matter, likewise the equally pointless debates in the Republic of Ireland.

    Why not have issue debates with party spokespeople? That would make much more sense.

    2 million British people can vote in the Spanish elections, just to let you know.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    they have residency

  • Kevin Breslin

    And having residency outside your OWN country obliterates this argument –

    People get a democratic say on their OWN leaders, but not (for what I had assumed were quite obvious reasons) on the leaders of other countries. Are you now saying we need to revise this?

    To those 2 million British people, David Cameron rather than Mariano Rajoy is THEIR Prime Minister.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    you’re talking about people living in Spain, voting in Spain – no problem. And they may hail from the Uk and regard Cameron as ‘their’ PM – also fine. Whether they get a vote in the UK should depend surely on whether they live and pay taxes here for enough days of the year. So far so obvious. But what you were suggesting was people NOT living in the UK at all actually having a vote in the UK. Which seems quite different.

    It’s reasonable surely to vote in the country where you live. But you were suggesting people should be able to vote in countries where they don’t live now, nor have ever lived (e.g. people in Calais being as relevant to a UK election as people in part of the UK itself). I get that we’re all affected by other countries, but getting to vote in their national elections does seem to open the door for all sorts of electoral chaos.

  • Kevin Breslin

    You’ve completely missed the point I was making about a Parliamentary democracy such as the UK and the Republic of Ireland (of which a significantly large population of the Slugger O’Toole readership belong to, pay taxes in and a vote in) that these debates are a joke anyway.

    Personally I would be concerned about my local MP or TD does at a hustings than a parliamentary leader who I have no capacity to elect or remove. I don’t live in Mayo so I cannot pass a verdict on Kenny, any more than not living in Sheffield denies me the chance to pass a verdict on Clegg.

    Clearly what I was saying is that the vast majority of the UK population do not have a say in this debate. Do the mathematics:

    Only 78,220 people can vote for or against David Cameron in Witney. Only 67,970 people can vote for or against Nigel Farage in South Thanet. Only 72,855 people can vote for or against Ed Miliband in Doncaster North. Only 70,032 people can vote for or against Nick Clegg in Sheffield Hallam. Only 73,420 can vote for or against Alex Salmond in Gordon. Only 45,006 can vote for or against Elfyn Llwyd in Dwyfor Meirionnydd. Only 85,243 can vote for or against Natalie Bennett in Holborn and St Pancras.

    That’s a total of 492746 people, roughly 1% of the UK electorate, and nearly 20% of that is from Holborne and St Pancras where only around 1% of the electorate voted for Natalie Bennett the last time out.

    I may add if you were to talk about the Irish leadership debates by comparison, due to PR-STV around 400000 people will in fact vote in the constituencies of Kenny, Martin, Burton and Adams. In both cases the vast majority of the electorate have little to no say.

    Leader’s debates take party politics out of the equation, they ignore the vast majority of where power in held not just in a government but where a party is too, and that is a bit silly in a parliamentary democracy where the parliament and the government rather than the head of government hold most of the power. As even Churchill once said “the enemy is behind you”

    Why did you get so offended about saying “I don’t live in Mayo so I cannot pass a verdict on Kenny” … I would like to know what was SO offensive about someone from Northern Ireland choosing to live and vote in Mayo to you?

    As it happens I live in Foyle, and yet one of my MLA’s is a Donegal man … Maurice Devenney.