The Corbyn vs Johnson debate: the others don’t matter

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Image courtesy of ITV

The ITV debate between Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn back in November highlighted how Brexit has consumed British politics.

If the Corbyn-Johnson debate proved one thing, it’s that Johnson managed to squeeze Brexit into every section and theme of the debate. The NHS might be privatised? Brexit. The economy is growing weaker and weaker? Brexit. The climate question is in the hands of a 16-year-old Swedish girl? Brexit. Johnson has made clear the focus of his campaign. This is not necessarily a bad policy. The country is tired of the struggle to leave the EU and this election will likely be decided by who has the best plans for article 50. Therefore, Johnson is being tactical and focusing on winning the election and leaving Europe before his domestic policies can come into play.

Corbyn, however, is planning for the long term, and his manifesto has everything, as long as the country finds its ‘magic money tree’. The problem with Corbyn and the Labour Party is that many find him too extreme and the allegations of anti-Semitism have damaged their political standing. The problem with Johnson and the Conservatives is that people don’t trust them to deal with Brexit and the Irish backstop.

So, what about our other options? According to ITV, there aren’t any. The Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National Party were left out of the debate, despite the Liberal Democrats being involved in 2010 debates under Nick Clegg. But contrary to popular opinion, this is legal. Most were hailing it as a failure of democracy, but as Lord Justice Davis concluded in the court case brought against ITV, “This format was a matter for the editorial judgment of ITV’”. ITV likely concluded that, realistically, this election is going to end with Labour or Conservatives in power.

This is likely to be the most important election for our generation, and by limiting the debate to the two largest parties, who have monopolised power for almost a century, it allows the facts to be set straight between their two leaders for the electorate. True, leaving the Lib Dems out was denying Britain of their choices and excluding the SNP was basically putting two fingers up to Scotland. But the reality is this; this next step in our country’s future will likely be decided by Corbyn or Johnson, unless Nicola Sturgeon decides to invade England, which is highly unlikely. The Lib Dems are no longer a major party who cannot play a stand-alone role after this election, but will either be a part of a coalition government or a members of the opposition.

It was unusual to deny the British people a debate with all their options, but this is an unusual election. The choice to have a debate solely between Corbyn and Johnson is justified. ITV are a private company and so control their own debates and schedule. It is important to be realistic in understanding the major players in this election. Without offence to the other parties, the country’s eyes are set on Corbyn and Johnson for the final leg of the race to Number 10.