Most voters want UKIP leader Nigel Farage included – and, if he is, nearly as many want the Green party leader included as well
Plans to include UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage in a TV debate with the three other main party leaders has rankled leaders from the Green party, SNP and Plaid Cymru, who say they have been unfairly excluded. Citing “changes in the political landscape” broadcasters are proposing a change from the debate format during the 2010 general election, which only included leaders from the three main parties. In the new format, there would be three debates, one including only David Cameron and Ed Miliband; one including Cameron, Miliband and Nick Clegg; and another including the three main party leaders plus Nigel Farage.
YouGov’s latest polling on the issue, conducted for Times Red Box, finds that voters tend to think including Farage is a good idea. But they also tend want the leader of the Green party, who already have one MP in the House of Commons, to be allowed to participate.
To determine which sort of format respondents preferred, YouGov gave them three options to choose from: (A) the recently proposed format (described above); (B) three debates, all including Cameron, Miliband, Clegg and Farage; three debates including only Cameron, Miliband and Clegg; or three debates including only Cameron and Miliband.
The most popular option was B (35%), and combined with the support for A (21%), the majority of the public picked an option that includes Farage in at least one debate. Only 14% would prefer to see the debates follow the 2010 format, including only the Tory, Labour and Liberal Democrat leaders and just 6% want Clegg to also be excluded. Another 24% don’t know which they would like to see.
Public support for Farage’s inclusion extends across party lines – majorities of voters from the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, Labour and, of course, UKIP, preferred one of the options that includes the UKIP leader.
The announcement comes just days after Tory defector Douglas Carswell became UKIP's first elected MP, following a by-election in his home constituency of Clacton.
Voters were also asked in the poll whether, if the debates do go ahead as proposed, the debate that includes Nigel Farage should also include the Green party leader Natalie Bennett. By 47% in favour of including Bennett to 32% against, the public tend to say she should also be included.
On this question, opinions followed voting intentions more closely. Most of those intending to vote for Labour or the Lib Dems want Bennett included, while most of those heading to the Tories do not. UKIP voters are split almost evenly, with 41% in favour of including Bennett and 45% against.
The view taken by the majority of Conservative voters clashes with the position taken by the prime minister, who has called for a format that includes the Green party leader.
Cameron recently said of a format that includes UKIP but not the Green party: “I can’t see how you can have a party in that has an MP in parliament, but not another party.”