We all like a bit of TV drama.
But the debate about this year’s televised leadership debate (so meta) has become so entangled and peculiar that you’d be forgiven for suspecting that Armando Iannucci might have secretly orchestrated the whole of 2015 for his own amusement.
Of course, you’ll already know that the line-up was looking like Labour, the Lib Dems and UKIP, with David Cameron declaring he would only take part if the Greens could come along.
So we were facing three parties, sans Conservatives, or five with the Greens in too.
And then there were seven… or was it eight?
We are now up to seven potential parties partaking: the Conservatives, Labour, Lib Dems, Greens, UKIP, SNP and Plaid Cymru (because, well, why not?).
That’s according to the most recent proposals expected from broadcasters in the wake of Greens-gate (or Cameron-abdication-gate, depending on how you look at it).
But hang on, there’s another party that now feels snubbed and says it should be included.
Because what about the Democratic Unionist Party?
After all, it is the fourth largest political party by number of MPs.
Peter Robinson, DUP leader and Northern Ireland’s first minister, has accordingly called the new seven-party plan a “farce” for excluding the DUP.
He has said he’ll write to the BBC and ITV to ask why the DUP has not been included.
So could we even see eight parties taking to eight podiums to share their eight opinions on how the country should be run?
Or potentially even more?
But when you look at it that way, Sinn Fein has more MPs than Plaid Cymru.
Alliance and Respect both have one MP, like the Greens.
And the Social Democratic & Labour Party has racked up three MPs, let’s not forget.
Here’s the breakdown of the number of MPs by party:
|Social Democratic & Labour Party||3|
|UK Independence Party||2|
But hang on – the three main parties have almost all the seats!
Looking at those figures, you might wonder why any other party than the “main three” feels it has a right to take part in the TV debates, since all the smaller parties have a piddling fraction of the number of MPs.
But here’s the thing.
Party membership numbers tell a very different story.
Around 2,000 members are joining the Greens every day.
And membership of the main parties is dwindling.
As of September, only 1% of the UK electorate was a member of one of the three main political parties – an historic low.
That compares with 3.8% in 1983.
Parliament’s website says it all: “The UK’s political party system is at a time of considerable change.”
So how many parties will we see in the TV debates?
Seven, as currently proposed? Eight, including the DUP?
Could we even see 12 parties present, to ensure that all parties with an equal or higher number of MPs then the Greens are inclued?
Almost anything is possible in this entirely uncertain, electric election.