The GSD, in the form of Isobel Ellul-Hammond, has raised its concerns that the Liberal Party may be allowed a separate voice in GBC debates such as on Parliamentary Reform. Her point being that as the Liberals are in coalition with the GSLP her party would in effect be having to debate with the government from two angles.
I see her point but it very much depends on how the debate is constituted. If GBC has asked a Government Minister and the GSD Shadow to debate an issue such as broadcasting then of course it should be on a one to one basis. However if the debate is amongst political parties then the Liberals are as entitled to their say as the GSD or the GSLP.
The fact that the GSLP and the Liberals have been in coalition in opposition and now government over a long period is neither here nor there. They are two independent parties, with their own organizations, leaders and members. They may have found a way over the years to work closely together but I suspect if you discussed politics with a member of the Liberal Party and a member of the GSLP, although they would have a joint centre left approach, they equally would have a very different take on any given issue.
Both parties are also very distinctive in the GSLP being a sister party of Labour whilst the Liberals are closely linked to both Liberal International and the Lib Dems.
If we take the UK as an example if there is a TV or radio debate on a key political issue it is not unusual to see a Conservative MP pitted against a Lib Dem MP with a Labour MP thrown in. The difference comes when the subject for debate is one of government and there the Minister will take part, who may be Conservative or Lib Dem, with a Labour Opposition spokesperson giving their party’s view.
So Isobel Ellul-Hammond would be right if GBC was creating a debate on a government issue. Then obviously only the minister should be involved, regardless of his or her party, and likewise the opposition spokesperson would speak for the GSD. However if the debate is between parties then our Liberals have as much right to be heard as the GSLP or GSD.
Indeed if it is a party debate then the PDP should also be included. They have earned the right to be heard for in two general elections they have fielded a full slate of candidates. The fact that none of them were elected is neither here nor there. People still voted for them.
If the PDP was included and as it sprang from the GSD then the two parties’ views on an issue could well be in alignment. So would it be fair for the GSLP and Liberals only to have one voice when those of the PDP and GSD were ranged against it in a party debate? I would say not.
These issues are far more complex than a sound bite but I can’t blame Isobel Ellul-Hammond for trying. Being a believer in democracy over all else I would defend any party’s right to be heard: that goes for the GSLP and the GSD; it certainly goes for the Liberals and yes the PDP too. The PDP may not have any MPs but they did win votes and the people who voted PDP have the right for their party’s views to be aired alongside those of the other elected parties in public debate.