There are two “truths” retailed today by the media about the debates that need to be challenged.
The first is that politics has changed irrevocably to a multi party model, because we saw 7 leaders in the debate! Current polls suggest that the 2 main parties now command a better combined share of the vote than they did in 2010 – around 70% compared to 65%.They also suggest that 3 of the 7 parties are likely to win just a single figure number of seats between them, as they did in 2010. The party likely to come third, the SNP, will not attract a single vote let alone win a single seat outside Scotland which has just 9% of the seats on offer. The UK does not suddenly become a multi party democracy because of a single tv programme. The voters will decide if they want several parties involved in a government, and in recent weeks the polls have been moving more in favour of the 2 largest parties.We have had a Parliament for the last 5 years where neither major party had a majority.
The second media myth is that the leaders of the Greens, Plaid and the SNP did a great job challenging the “austerity politics” of Labour, Conservative and Lib Dem. This is a bizarre distortion of the debate. The 3 main parties of the 2010 Parliament all clearly want more jobs, higher living standards and a bigger UK economy. The debate is about the politics of growth, and how you best speed and secure it. Based on Labour’s crash of 2008 and other past experience, all 3 parties agree that excessive public sector debts and deficits can create recession and force spending cuts. Labour, Lib Dem and the Conservatives are having a debate about the speed of deficit reduction, and the affordability and priorities for spending as they are all persuaded that it would not be a good idea to go the Greek route of spending and borrowing beyond your credit worthiness. They speak for most people in taking this view. All 3 parties wish to boost spending on the NHS.
Plaid, SNP and the Greens may well want to spend more of other people’s money, and want to borrow more. They were not put under any serious pressure last night to explain why countries that run up excessive debts usually get into serious financial trouble and end up forced to make spending cuts we have no wish to make. Nor were the parties of the left last night willing to share any work on figures which might have exposed the huge gap between what they think they can raise in extra taxes on the rich and what they wish to spend. The fact that some Labour voters prefer the Leader of the SNPto their own leader, and some Lib Dems prefer what the Greens said last night, is not going to make much difference come election day. The former group cannot vote SNP even if they wanted to, and the Lib Dem vote fell off a cliff in the polls a long time ago.