Belfast Telegraph

How dare they ask David Cameron to take part in a debate, don't they know who he is?

By Mark Steel

I wonder what David Cameron thinks will happen if he turns up to the TV debates. Maybe he's seen so much television he thinks he'll have to perform a polka in a dance-off against Nigel Farage, or crawl through a tunnel of centipedes collecting stars to earn dinner for him and Nicola Sturgeon. Because he's invented some impressive reasons for not taking part.

 To start with, he wouldn't go on because the Green Party hadn't been invited - in keeping with his lifelong commitment to the Greens.

But when they were allowed on, after all, he demanded that the DUP must be there as well. Next he'll say: "Yes, but what about my Great Uncle Reg? He fought in the Korean War and doesn't get out much. It would make a mockery of democracy not to let him on."

Then he'll insist that the leader of Islamic State must be included, which might even save money if we use their excellent filmmaking facilities. Then he'll demand a place for the Whigs, and for parties from the future that will live under the sea, and for tigers who have every right to put the case for mauling David Dimbleby.

Then he'll insist that as there are 650 people in the debate there are no time for words so each person should only be allowed to make one quick noise.

And if the television companies agree to all that he'll not turn up, because he's got a tummy ache.

Maybe it's the choice of channel that upsets him. Instead of boring BBC and overly dramatic Sky, he wants the debates on the Shopping Channel, so the first question is: "Can all the leaders explain how important it is to own a nine-piece set of fully forged, stainless-steel, beautifully crafted kitchen knives at unbelievable value? Let's start with you, Natalie Bennett."

Cameron keeps saying he's tried as hard as he can to "unblock the logjam" so the debates can take place. But all the other leaders keep obstructing things by agreeing to everything, which must be exasperating.

Cameron is wasted as prime minister. He should host a show that's the opposite of Jeremy Kyle's. His guests would be families having no arguments at all, while he set fire to the studio and tried to sell them crack. Then he could say: "I've tried all I can to sort out the logjam this family's in but some people just won't help themselves. Goodbye."

There might be one way out of the logjam, which is that he'll agree to the debate, but only if no other person can hear it. So as long as it's in a desert during a sandstorm, or on the floor of a bottling plant, or in Gaza while an air raid siren's blaring, it's on.

The argument about these debates may have revealed more than attitudes about the debate itself. When Ed Miliband raised the issue this week, Cameron yelled: "He wants to talk about a television programme, I want to talk about running the country."

That would be a reasonable point, if Ed Miliband had said: "Mr Speaker, would the Prime Minister inform the house if he knows of any obscure films starring Tom Hanks, as this is the question just posed on the current episode of Pointless."

Or if Ed Miliband's question was even more ridiculous, such as: "Having remarked that he has no time to discuss television programmes, does the Prime Minister have any plans to go straight to a TV studio to defend the presenter of Top Gear?"

But the TV debates aren't just a television programme; they're a debate about who we should vote for in the election. In effect, he's saying, "It's all very well you mucking about with this childish election tomfoolery, but I've got a country to run."

And this is what Cameron seems to be revealing as the election approaches, a sense that it's a bloody impertinence he should have to take part in the election at all. One example of this is the demand that Labour must "rule out in advance" talking to the SNP after the election. But if the SNP has 40 MPs and no party has a majority, someone will have to talk to them, won't they?

I suppose you can see Cameron's point of view, that it's grossly unfair for someone to become prime minister when they haven't won a majority, by doing some sort of a deal with another party. That's why it must be especially horrifying to imagine the SNP having some sort of influence in parliament, when they've cheated by exploiting the "get more votes than the other parties" loophole

Then the SNP plan to vote - that's right, vote - in a parliament they've been elected to and which Cameron spent a year demanding they had to carry on being governed by.

The next set of posters should make his point even clearer and say: "Vote Labour and wake up being dragged by horses to Arbroath by marauding Highlanders who lock you and your children in a dungeon while they stand above you laughing and eating raw squirrels." Because Cameron has every right to be angry that he has to go through the rigmarole of an election, when surely a chap of his standing is due a little bit of entitlement.

Belfast Telegraph


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