It is outrageous that the DUP are being excluded from the election leadership debates whilst SNP, Plaid Cymru, the Green party, Ukip are included.
Quite apart from everything else, it is an affront to the electors of Northern Ireland. But it also has implications for us all, throughout the United Kingdom.
It also has foreign policy implications. The UK cannot criticise the conduct of elections elsewhere in the world, wherever there is comparable discrimination against a significant political party and/or an entire province.
I have some sympathy for other Northern Ireland parties who are excluded, but of course the DUP has an overwhelming ,compelling and legitimate case above all others based upon their ‘volume’ of existing MPs and their attendance at the House of Commons.
They could of course determine who forms the next UK government and who enters Downing Street.
The case for the other part is in Northern Ireland is less strong. Sinn Fein, through their own choice, cannot determine the shape of the United Kingdom government, due to their policy choice of ‘abstention’.
The SDLP are political allies of the Labour party, and the Alliance Party are linked to the Liberal Democrats.
Arguably therefore, they are represented in the Leaders’ debate.
For 13 years I was one of the United Kingdom parliament’s representatives on the OSCE (Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe) Parliamentary Assembly. In this capacity I used to monitor election procedures across Europe.
We as observers and monitors of elections would have severely criticised any election debate or process, anywhere in Europe, that discriminated against an entire province, and a party as significant as the DUP; as is precisely happening under this so-called ‘ agreement’ announced on Saturday.
How can it possibly be justified that the SNP, Plaid, Ukip and the Greens are represented in the debates (and yet have far fewer members of parliament than the DUP).
If this discrimination happened in a central or Eastern European election, the Foreign Office would publicly criticise it; as would the UK’s broadcasting media BBC, Sky, Channel 4, etc
I do hope for democracy and for Northern Ireland, the DUP challenge this in the highest courts in the land.
Former Labour MP, Thurrock