Televised TV debates have been the norm in many countries for decades.

From the first televised US presidential debate between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy in 1960, through to the first UK General Election leaders’ debate between Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg in 2010, they have become par for the course in election campaigns.

In recent years, they have also become a source of contention, with different leaders ducking and diving them and smaller parties calling for equal treatment.

On the latter point, this Senedd campaign seems no different.

Last week, BBC Wales announced its leaders’ debate would be made up of the traditional four ‘major parties’ of Labour, the Tories, Plaid Cymru and the Lib Dems.

The BBC has since extended an additional invitation to the Abolish Party, following protests from the party pointing to polling that suggests they are on course to pick up more seats than the Lib Dems.

That inclusion has since prompted the Greens to call for their inclusion.

Both Plaid and the Tories, who will be involved regardless, have made their feelings clear on the matter.

Last week, Adam Price wrote to other party leaders calling for Abolish to be uninvited, accusing them of toxifying the public discourse in Wales.

On Monday, Tory leader Andrew RT Davies called the BBC’s line-up ‘peculiar’ and the decision not to invite the Greens ‘absurd’.

ITV Wales will also host its election debate on Sunday, April 11, although its line up has not yet been announced publicly.

There are as many as ten parties vying for inclusion this time around after a Senedd term that saw sitting MSs split and form several breakaway parties.

Setting independents to one side, the last Senedd ended with eight parties in possession of seats.

Several remedies to who should, or shouldn’t, be involved have surfaced.

They vary from including just parties that could feasibly form the next Government, through to including every party on the ballot paper.

In 2016, the Electoral Reform Society (ERS) called for six parties to be included in Wales’ televised debates.

This time, with even more parties vying for coverage, ERS are calling for an independent commission to be established on the issue.

Jess Blair, director at ERS Cymru, told The National: “TV debates have become a normal part of an election.

“It is where people see election coverage and where they may make their decision, so they have become part of Wales’ democratic framework.

“It isn’t for politicians to decide who takes part, but it also isn’t really for the broadcasters.

“There should be a commission making these decisions and setting out the criteria for involvement.

“I think it is in the public interest for that process to be as transparent as possible.”

The National Wales: The originals, Nixon and Kennedy set the benchmark for TV debates in 1960 Source: US National ArchivesThe originals, Nixon and Kennedy set the benchmark for TV debates in 1960 Source: US National Archives

Debate commissions have already been established in several countries.

The Commission on Presidential Debates was created in the United States in 1987 and is co-funded by the Democratic and Republican parties.

It is from Canada however, where Wales can perhaps learn the most.

Excluding independents, the Canadian house of commons currently consists of five different political parties, while its political debates are often conducted in both English and French.

In 2015, following decades of fragmentation in Canada’s political and media landscapes, then prime minister, Stephen Harper, decided not to take part in the debates.

Canadians bemoaned the fact that the election debates became the story of the election.

The country’s independent Leaders’ Debates Commission was established to organise debates between party leaders during the 2019 federal election.

It was deemed a success, with the country’s parties and media outlets reaching an agreement.

Among the commission’s accepted recommendations were that a party must have at least one elected MP, candidates running in at least 90 per cent of constituencies, and have obtained at least four per cent of the vote at the previous election.

The focus was subsequently shifted away from the distractions about the format of the debates, with attention instead turning to what politicians were actually saying in them.

A debates commission will not be established in Wales before this election, but if it continues to cause a headache for broadcasters and parties alike, they may find solace in passing the buck to somebody else to make the decision.

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