Keeping politicians in the dark may be enlightening for the rest of us. Presenting quotes shorn of attribution is a far superior method for catching out a politician.
Tee hee: Defence Secretary Michael Fallon was caught out by Krishnan Guru-Murthy last week. The politician assumed that the journalist had read out a Jeremy Corbyn quote, and so dutifully proceeded to attack the words spoken. But Guru-Murthy then revealed that the quote was actually something that Boris Johnson, a Conservative colleague of Mr Fallon, had written in 2005.
There has been much anger expressed by the Corbyn-supporting left this week, after the Labour leader made a gaffe in a BBC Radio 4 Women’s Hour interview. He could not remember the financial figures attached to a childcare policy. Many people (including myself) felt that Mr Corbyn was treated unfairly in subsequent media pile-on: its not as if he and his policy team have failed to publish any figures (which would be genuinely shocking) or that the figures they published did not add up. Rather, he simply did not remember the precise figure that the party had published. This kind of ‘gotcha’ journalism says nothing of interest about the man, the party or the policy. There, but for the grace of God, walk you and I. Continue reading “Blind Trials For Politicians and Journalists?”
The big political question is now What Kind of Brexit? Mrs May does not appear to have an answer to that question, so she was very lucky that Mr Paxman did not ask it.
It has been a long weekend of second halves for me. I only saw the second half of the FA Cup Final on Saturday and the second half of the Huddersfield v Reading playoff this afternoon. And tonight I only watched the second half of the Sky News programme May v Corbyn Live: The Battle for Number 10. Unlike the football matches, this piece of general election programming made me rather angry for a number reasons. Let me count the ways.
- First of all, it was in no way May vs Corbyn. They did not ‘square off’ in any sense. There was no ‘battle’ or any exchange of words between them. The programme was a misnomer.
- And that misnomer provided cover for Mrs May’s political cowardice. That neither Mrs May nor Mr Corbyn have taken part in the party leaders’ debate is, as broadcaster Robert Peston described it, pathetic. Politicians seeking to lead us should put themselves into challenging, unscripted situations with their opponents.
- My annoyance was not only semantic. The substance of the discussion was anger-inducing too. Because, while it was slightly amusing to watch Mr Paxman try to skewer Mrs May by asking her the same question over and over again, it was not at all enlightening.
Continue reading “The Battle For Number 10: A Few Angry Thoughts”
One reason why free speech is so important is that it ensures diversity of voices in our political discussion. When organisations limit media access, they limit that diversity and go against the spirit of free speech.
An odd story unfolded today: Buzzfeed News were disinvited from a Rochdale hustings event after the Labour candidate Simon Danczuk said he would refuse to attend if a BuzzFeed reporter was there. I was asked to comment on behalf of English PEN:
The move to ban BuzzFeed was also criticised by the freedom of expression group English PEN, which said: “One reason why free speech is so important to a democracy is that it ensures diversity of voices and opinion in our political discussion. When organisations limit media access, they limit that diversity and go against the spirit of free speech.” …
Robert Sharp, spokesperson for English PEN, the writers’ organisation that campaigns for freedom of expression, also criticised the decision to ban BuzzFeed News from the event.
“These reports are very worrying”, he said. “Political events should be open to all journalists, not just those who file positive stories about a candidate.
“It is odd that this should be happening during a general election, when the political parties are surely seeking to broadcast their message to as many people as possible.
“Candidates for political office need to reassure voters that they are open to scrutiny. Selectively refusing journalists access to events is not the way to build public trust.
He added: “If a politician thinks they have been unfairly treated by one outlet, then a better response would be to invite a greater range of journalists to cover future events.”
Continue reading “Quoted by BuzzFeed News condemning the barring of journalists from political events”
Crikey. I’m dismayed by the result of the general election.
First, I should note just how wrong my own perception of the election campaign turned out to be! After the leaders debates I said I expected Ed Miliband to be Prime Minister in May. That is clearly not going to happen. And earlier this week I said I perceived a decline in the influence of the mainstream media on election campaigns. After the apparent last minute shift in voters’ intentions, that appears to be incorrect.
However, my dismay comes not from the injury to my pride which results from making poor predictions. Rather, it’s the prospect of what comes next for our unions (yes, unions plural) and our rights as citizens.
First, the fact that David Cameron will attempt to govern alone with a minority government, or a slender majority, will mean that the more Euroskeptic elements to the the right of the Conservative party will be able to hold him to ransom—just as the SNP would have apparently held a Labour government hostage. The Conservatives have already promised that we will have a referendum on our membership of the European Union. We now face the prospect of leaving the EU, sundering and cauterising our cultural and economic links with the continent. This isolation will not be good for the UK.
A ‘Brexit’ will further strengthen the already jubilant Scottish National Party. Despite the slightly skewed results that our ‘first past the post’ system delivers I just do not see how another referendum on Scottish Independence can still be ‘off the table’. For goodness sake—all but three MPs in Scotland are from the SNP! If the UK leaves the EU, and with the other parties’ reduced political presence, another plebiscite on Independence would probably yield a ‘Yes’ vote. Bye bye Scotland.
Finally, the Conservatives have also promised to scrap the Human Rights Act, a pledge that lawyers think is ‘legally illiterate’. The so-called ‘British Bill of Rights’ will water down the rights that we currently enjoy. And since the Tories gutted legal aid provision and squeezed the judicial review process, it will be harder than ever for citizens to hold the government to account when it deploys discriminatory policies against us.
So by the time of the next general election in 2020, there is a very good chance that those of us living in rUK will have lost the political protections of the EU, will have lost the guarantee that out human rights will be protected, and will have lost a progressive political counter-weight to the Tories that may be found in Scotland. And the right-wing media will cheer it all.
Grim, grim grim.
On OpenDemocracy’s OurKingdom blog, Oliver Huitson draws attention to the way in which the right-wing media has shifted the focus of its attacks in recent days: from ad hominem assaults on Ed Miliband, to warning about the danger of SNP influence on a possible minority Labour administration. Continue reading “Constitutional coups and the decline of media influence”
Thursday evening saw another party leaders debate. This time it was a BBC production, hosted by David Dimbleby.
David Cameron, the Prime Minister, chose not to take part. One assumes that he and his strategists had good reasons for his decision. He has presided over many unpopular policies and would have been exposed to continual criticism. Perhaps he and his advisers felt that he could only lose.
But his absence felt odd. All the other participants were able to hammer the Coalition Government policies with impunity (Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat Leader and Deputy Prime Minister, was not there either). Ed Miliband was able to take up the Prime Ministerial mantle unopposed.
Of the five parties that did show up for the debate, four are clearly to the left of David Cameron’s Conservatives and one, UKIP, are very much to the right. Their closing statements were different and appealed to different demographics, but throughout all I could hear was the sound of the Comservatives hemorrhaging votes.
My hunch is that the nationalist parties will do very well on 7 May, and that UKIP will pick up votes that should otherwise have gone to the Tories. I think this will allow Labour to prevail in a few seats that they may not otherwise have won, and that Miliband’s offer will persuade enough other voters. Taken together, all these results will put Labour in a position to form their own minority or coalition government. Of course, the campaign still has a few weeks left to run… but right now, I think Ed Miliband will become Prime Minister in May.