It sounds like such an obvious idea to have a televised debate with the leaders of the main parties before the next general election. Indeed, such a debate takes place in many, if not most, democratic countries.
However, as Alex Salmond has now pointed out, it’s not as simple as that.
In England, the three main parties are the Conservatives, Labour and the LibDems. Yes, there are other parties, e.g., UKIP and the Green Party, but they’re not standing in all constituencies, and it’s well-known that they don’t have a chance to gain more than a couple of seats.
However, in Scotland the largest party is the SNP, and of course they would feel disadvantaged if they were excluded from the main event in the election. However, including the SNP wouldn’t make much sense for viewers in the rest of the UK.
For Wales, something similar can be said about Plaid Cymru, except that they’re not the largest party.
And finally, in Northern Ireland none of the British parties contest the election, in which only by local parties take part. A debate between Clegg, Cameron and Brown would therefore not really put any parties at a disadvantage, it just would seem a bit irrelevant, perhaps.
Add to this mess that the subject matters that are devolved vary from nation to nation.
For instance, I’m sure English viewers would want to see the party leaders discuss schools, hospitals and policing, but all of that is devolved to the Scottish Parliament, so the debate on these areas would be of no interest to Scottish viewers.
Perhaps the best solution would be to have one debate about devolved subject matters including only the English party leaders, and broadcast this only in England, and another debate about reserved matters, such as the EU, Afghanistan and terrorism, and to include the SNP and Plaid Cymru in this one.