The exclusion of the DUP from election debates on BBC and ITV is inconsistent, Gregory Campbell has claimed.
“There is a massive degree of inconsistency by broadcasters in the latest debates announcement. Either the TV channels open up the participants on a regional basis or they don’t, but they cannot have it both ways,” he said.
He made the remarks after neither the DUP nor Sinn Féin were asked to take part in BBC 1’s debate on Friday, November 29, or ITV’s on Sunday, December 1.
Plaid Cymru (4 seats), the Green Party (1 seat) and the Brexit Party (0 seats) have all been invited. Yet the DUP won 10 seats in the 2017 election, which was more than all of the above combined. Sinn Féin has seven MPs, almost twice that of Plaid Cymru.
A BBC spokesperson said: “The DUP have had a prominent role at Westminster recently - but when it comes to the actual ballot paper, they are competing not with Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrats, but primarily with Sinn Féin, the UUP, the SDLP and the Alliance Party. While they are all contesting seats for the same parliament, it remains a distinct electoral set-up, which means the NI parties should - and do - debate each other; it wouldn’t be fair for just one of them to get UK-wide prominence and including all of them would be disproportionate for the majority of viewers everywhere else in the UK.”
UTV said it holds a separate debate for the five main parties who compete with each other within NI.
But Mr. Campbell said it was unfair to invite Plaid and the SNP who only stand in Wales and Scotland respectively while excluding candidates from the North.
“If they decide to make the debates between the parties who are contesting hundreds of seats and therefore are in the frame for forming a Government that is one thing, but if they open up beyond that and include parties that operate on a regional basis then the DUP should be included.
“It’s one or the other and this is neither,” he said.