Third-round KO for parliamentary democracy

IN REFUSING the Scottish National Party's attempt to halt the final prime ministerial debate of the UK election the judge identified the central weakness of the Nationalists' case. Lady Smith said there had been no satisfactory explanation of why the party did not take action before the first debate.

Although the judge herself did not put it so crudely, the clear implication of her finding against the SNP's bid to secure an interdict to stop tonight's exchanges was that it had more to do with an attempt to keep the Nationalists in the limelight, than being a serious legal action.

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Using a rather colourful analogy, Lady Smith compared the debates to three rounds of a boxing bout, a three-course meal, or a play in three acts and said that failing to carry on to the final round (should that be course, or perhaps act?) would leave the public with an incomplete picture.

In coming to this conclusion, the judge was undoubtedly correct but, having said that, we are still left with the fact that the SNP did have a reasonable case that it had not been fairly treated as it has been sidelined in the coverage of the debates.

Beyond that, there is an even more important and unresolved issue, to which we referred in this space yesterday: the debates, gripping at they have been, have moved the UK further towards a presidential system of politics whilst we remain, formally at least, a parliamentary democracy.