Carwyn, the PM and the First Ministers Should Debate ONTV; Last Week's Seven-Way Election Debate Was Riveting Viewing but How about an Event That Would Bring Together the Prime Minister and the First Ministers of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland? There Is No Shortage of Subjects for Discussion

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), April 7, 2015 | Go to article overview

Carwyn, the PM and the First Ministers Should Debate ONTV; Last Week's Seven-Way Election Debate Was Riveting Viewing but How about an Event That Would Bring Together the Prime Minister and the First Ministers of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland? There Is No Shortage of Subjects for Discussion


Byline: DAVID WILLIAMSON COLUMNIST

THE time has come for a televised debate between the first ministers of the different nations of the United Kingdom and the Prime Minister and one should be scheduled as soon as possible after the general election.

Last week's leaders' debates gave millions of viewers an unprecedented glimpse of the democratic diversity within the UK. We watched the SNP's Nicola Sturgeon cross swords with David Cameron while Plaid Cymru's Leanne Wood took Ed Miliband to task; we saw the leaders of Ukip and the Greens give radically different visions for Britain's future - this was not politics as usual.

But the establishment of governments in Cardiff, Belfast and Edinburgh is even more significant than the arrival of new parties in Westminster politics. We should not miss the chance for a debate between the leaders of these administrations.

We need a public event which brings together the Prime Minister (and possibly the deputy prime minister if there is a coalition) with his counterparts from Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. There is much to talk about.

Each of these people is charged with incredible responsibility for the wellbeing of millions of citizens. They will have firm views on how decisions taken by other governments affect conditions in their nation.

A debate would recognise that sovereignty and responsibility for the UK's future has been dispersed well beyond Westminster. If the UK is going to thrive and survive there needs to be cooperation between the individual governments of the UK as different administrations seek to tackle common challenges.

Just as last week's election debate graphically demonstrated the extent to which two-party politics has broken down, an event bringing together the PM and FMs would show viewers around the world how the UK has changed as a result of the devolution revolution.

Today, too many discussions are held behind tightly closed doors. The leaders occasionally gather in Downing St for a meeting of the Joint Ministerial Committee but, in the words of a scathing House of Lords committee investigation, its communiques are "bland and uninformative" and greater transparency is needed.

The leaders of the different administrations have vital constitutional roles yet it is an irony that in this supposedly united kingdom there is no public forum where their common stewardship of the UK's future is recognised and scrutinised.

A debate - with questions from people from across the different nations - would give elected leaders an opportunity to describe their hopes for their nations and for the UK as a whole.

They could describe how decisions made in other parts of this multination country affect those aspirations.

There is an important discussion to be had about the best way to "rebalance" the UK's economy so that former industrial regions are revived and the country's economic fortunes are not dependent upon the southeast's housing market and the City of London. …

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Carwyn, the PM and the First Ministers Should Debate ONTV; Last Week's Seven-Way Election Debate Was Riveting Viewing but How about an Event That Would Bring Together the Prime Minister and the First Ministers of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland? There Is No Shortage of Subjects for Discussion
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