People used to laugh at Northern Ireland parties having talks about talks but our discussions were never as ridiculous as the debate about the election debate.
The real debate between the party leaders, if it ever happens, will never rival the shenanigans about who should be included.
This has included catcalls of ‘chicken’ across the floor of the House of Commons, Labour MPs clucking like hens in an attempt to drown out the PM at question time and the hilarious spectacle of a wee stout MP on the front row waving his arms like chicken wings whist nodding his head as if picking at corn.
A rational decision would be to have the three main national parties debate the issues which are going to dominate the next parliament since some combination of them is likely to form the government.
However, David Cameron in an attempt to avoid the debate altogether has made demands which have the broadcasters putting forward proposals that even make the nutters in the Green party appear sane.
Obviously BBC and ITV wanted Nigel Farage and David Cameron on the same stage. It was bound to push up viewing figures. Cunning Cameron then insisted on the Green Party being included.
Given their mad manifesto they were probably more suited to the programme on Radio Four ‘In the psychiatrist’s chair’, but in his desperation David Cameron wanted them elevated to the status of a serious national party, hoping broadcasters would never agree and call the whole thing off.
With one seat in the House of Commons, there was no reason why the Greens or indeed UKIP should be included in the national debates above the DUP, the Scottish National Party or Plaid Cymru.
However, the inclusion of two regional parties from Scotland and Wales, while excluding the DUP which has more seats than either of them, was not fair or defensible. Even the Prime Minister has accepted that. If pundits are correct, then smaller parties like the DUP could influence who governs the UK and as such our views on national issues are important.
Voters in Northern Ireland can ensure that the needs of this part of the UK receive maximum attention of the next government by ensuring that there are as many DUP MPs as possible elected in May, because the bigger the party block the greater the influence which Northern Ireland representatives will have. That being the case there is no justification for ignoring the DUP voice in the debate.
The DUP might be a regional party but so are the SNP and Plaid Cymru. The DUP might be a small party but we are the fourth largest at Westminster. The DUP will never form a government but could determine who will. For these reasons, if participation is to be widened, we cannot be ignored.
Having participated in scores of TV debates and discussions I know that an 8-10 way debate would be a debacle, but one which excludes the fourth largest party at Westminster would be an undemocratic debacle.
Northern Ireland is as much part of the UK as Scotland or Wales, so the voice of the major party should be heard. Whatever the outcome I suspect that the election debate will never live up to the six-week debate there has been about it.