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Showing posts with label Question Time. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Question Time. Show all posts

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Questions time for Question Time

In the almost certainly vain hope that some objective thinking may prevail on the issues raised by this week’s Question Time at Inverness, let me set out my understanding.

On Monday, a number of tweets complained about the Question Time panel that had been announced online by the BBC – and various television schedules programmes – for the Inverness Question Time this Thursday. The first announcement on the BBC programmes website showed this -

David Dimbleby chairs Question Time from Inverness. On the panel, Liberal Democrat Danny Alexander MP, Labour's leader in Scotland Johann Lamont MSP, Conservative former Secretary of State for Scotland Lord Forsyth, Daily Mail columnist Melanie Phillips and the actor Alan Cumming.

Today it shows this -

David Dimbleby chairs Question Time from Inverness. On the panel, Deputy First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon MSP, former leader of the Liberal Democrats Charles Kennedy MP, Labour's leader in Scotland Johann Lamont MSP, Conservative former Secretary of State for Scotland Lord Forsyth, Daily Mail columnist Melanie Phillips and the actor Alan Cumming.

Quite how this came about is still unclear. Today the Herald carries this report Nationalists accuse BBC of imbalance

It includes this quote from Kenneth Gibson, SNP MSP -

SNP senior backbencher Kenneth Gibson said: "It is inevitable that independence will be discussed on this week's Question Time, and it would be in the best interests of a fair and measured debate if the BBC invited equal numbers of panellists from both the Yes and No campaigns.

Monday morning’s tweeting included two tweets from SNP Westminster MPs Pete Wishart and Angus MacNeill complaining about the alleged imbalance.

Responding to a blog comment, I gave this off the cuff response -

Question Time is produced by an independent production company, and David Dimbleby is not an employee of the BBC. The programmes remit is to reflect the political spectrum of the UK and UK-wide issues, even when it comes from a regional centre. The questions submitted by the audience are selected on this basis.
The panel is meant to reflect that UK diversity of political views, not single issues, which is what Scotland's independence is, albeit a fundamental one. I am surprised that no member of the Scottish Government is on the programme, but since I am unaware of any protest from the Scottish Government or the SNP at the moment about the constitution of the panel, I assume that they were either invited and declined, or that they are happy for Alan Cumming to reflect the nationalist viewpoint.
Having said all that, I do find it a surprising omission. Maybe the SNP would like to comment, but I'm not holding my breath, since I can't remember the last time the SNP ever made a comment on my blogs.

I pursued this seem in various Twitter exchanges, trying to make the point that one of the following things must have happened -

1. The SNP/ScottishGovernment was not consulted about the composition of the panel.

2. The SNP/ScottishGovernment was consulted, and found it acceptable, with the possibility that they had nominated Alan Cumming (unlikely).

3. The SNP/ScottishGovernment was consulted, and did not find it acceptable, and had registered a protest.

4. The SNP/ScottishGovernment was invited to nominate a panel member from the Scottish Government, but were either unable of offer anyone or could not reach agreement on a nominee with the BBC.

Note my uneasy bracketing of the SNP with the Scottish Government. This reflects the fact that while the SNP, a political party,  is unequivocally committed to independence, The Scottish Government, elected on a platform of independence and the commitment to hold a referendum, is now the government of all the Scottish people (including a proportion of the electorate who voted for them but not for independence) and is therefore committed to the voice of all the Scottish people being heard in the debate on independence.

I made the further point on Twitter that Pete Wishart and Angus MacNeill’s tweets could not be seen as revealing the SNP or the Scottish Government’s exact position on the issue, but that an official statement could rapidly clear things up.

To my knowledge, no such official statement appeared yesterday (I may be wrong in that) but later in the day, a tweet appeared from Alan Cumming saying he looked forward to joining Nicola Sturgeon on the panel, a tweet to which Nicola promptly responded confirming this. (The Twitterati were presumably meant to take this as an official SNP or even Scottish Government announcement.)

QUESTION TIME

Question Time is produced by an independent production company, Mentorn, for the BBC.

David Dimbleby is not an employee of the BBC. The programme is commissioned by the BBC and all their rules and guidelines over political balance apply.

The programme is not a political programme – it is a topical debate programme, the questions are chosen exclusively from questions submitted by the invited studio audience, and can cover any topic, including but not confined to political topics. The questions chosen usually reflect the main political, social and sometimes trivial issues of the moment.

The usual programme panel is three representatives of the three largest parties, Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrats plus (my words and view) one left-wing artist, entertainer or journalist and one right-wing equivalent, making a panel of five. However, this format is not inflexible – other parties can be represented, e.g. UKIP, SNP and on one notable occasion, the BNP. Thursday night’s programme from Inverness has belatedly recognised this by a panel of six in addition to the chairman.

The show addresses UK-wide issues in various locations throughout the UK. When it is in a region of England, in Wales, in Northern Ireland and in Scotland, the questions understandably often relate to issues in that country or region and the panel representation usually reflects that in the political party members invited. However, that does not make the programme Welsh Question Time, or Northern Ireland Question Time or Scottish Question Time or, say, North East of England Question Time – it remains just Question Time, a programme with a UK-wide remit.

There is no doubt that the impending independence referendum has placed a new complexion on the programme format, especially when it is located in Scotland, and to some degree neither the production company, Mentorn, nor David Dimbleby, nor the BBC have quite got their heads round the magnitude of this for the UK, and the implications for the programme format. (Kenneth Gibson’s comment reflects this.)

One thing should be borne in mind – a Question Time located in Scotland is not a single issue programme, devoted to the single topic of Scottish independence. There is a place for such programmes and they have been mounted, both at UK level and in Scotland in the past by the BBC, and will continue to be. Panels cannot therefore reflect that alignment alone.

The stark facts that the SNP and the BBC have to deal with are these -

Independence is a Scottish issue, but one that affects the entire UK.

A substantial minority of Scots voters support independence. A substantial minority of Scots voters oppose independence. A minority of Scots voters are undecided and a minority of Scots voters support more devolution within the UK.

Of the five political parties represented in the Scottish Parliament, three support the Union and two support independence.

At Westminster, i.e. UK level, the Coalition Government is opposed to independence, Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition are opposed to independence and the SNP supports independence.

It is probably too much to ask that sector of SNP support who believe the BBC is institutionally biased to sympathise with the BBC and Question Time in their difficulties in dealing equitably with this situation.

It would however, display the political maturity we expect of those who support an independent Scotland to at least understand  those difficulties.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Afghanistan on Question Time - Humza Yousaf, Willie Rennie and audience comments

As is almost always the case on Question Time, the audience has the heart of the question. Janet Street Porter was irrelevant, Ruth Davidson was - well, a Tory - and Frank Field was stuck with the Blair/Brown/Labour legacy.

The insidious and contemptible argument that we should stay to justify the 404 British service death and 5000 injured was trotted out, as it always is. Kill more in an unwinnable 'war' to 'justify' the needless, criminal sacrifice of the past.

The wife of the serving officer said it all, lucidly and with calm dignity and deep regret - we are achieving nothing in Afghanistan.

And what exactly did Willie Rennie mean by  his "Even Humza agrees it was the right thing to do at the start" remark. Even Humza?



MY COMMENTS (incorporating material from a 2009 blog)

America and Britain’s original case for invading Afghanistan was to remove the Taliban and the training camps for terrorists. That was achieved in the first year.

Although most commentators and political parties supported the initial invasion and its rationale, I argued - and still do - that we are there, as Obama is there, as the 43 countries of the coalition are there, because of a profoundly mistaken instinct by a right-wing group of American Republicans and their puppet, George W. Bush, to lash out at something after the tragedy of 9/11 and the appalling loss of life and blow to American prestige.

After that first year, the UK’s rationale for remaining rested on a lie - that we are there to prevent terrorism threatening Britain. It still rests on that lie. The Afghanistan war brought terrorism to Britain – it politicised a whole generation of young Asians. The locus of terror has long shifted to Pakistan.

We are there because enormous profits are yielded to armaments manufacturers, and to contractors of services to the military, and because a shadowy enemy, a perpetual threat, and inducing paranoia in the population have always been a prime recourse of failing regimes.

Britain is there, and the coalition is there because Europe does not yet have the cohesion to stand up to a flawed American foreign policy on the Middle East and the Israel/Palestine question.

We are there because Pakistan worries us deeply, because it is an unstable ally with a nuclear capacity, with a religion and a culture the West has never begun to understand, and it, together with Israel, forces us to recognise the weaknesses of the West's self-serving nuclear policy - committed to retaining its own weapons of mass destruction while engaged in a vain attempt to stop others from following the same route.

The vacuum at the heart of the UK position was starkly exposed by the threat to pull out if the Karzai regime did not root out corruption. Leaving aside the inconvenient fact that a significant proportion of the corruption is induced by the activities of foreign contractors, something made clear in an aside by a commentator from the region last night, what this says in effect is this -

We are are here to prevent Afghanistan from being a seed bed for attacks on Britain, but if you - the 'democratic' puppet government that we have put in place - don't behave, we will abandon the whole misconceived enterprise and let the region revert to where it was before, thereby allowing the threat to Britain re-establish its potency.”

The UK’s behaviour over Afghanistan reminds me of the behaviour of directors and senior managers in a private company or large public enterprise who have mistakenly committed themselves to a project or policy that is manifestly going to fail. A marked distaste for re-examining the fundamental premises of the enterprise emerges, and a growing hostility to critics however rational.

The old accountant's motto, that sunk costs are irrelevant in reviewing a flawed project, is speedily abandoned, and the accrued costs to date, i.e. the tragic deaths and serious injuries, are used as a justification for continuing.

It's like the gambler's fallacy at roulette - that if you keep doubling your bets, you must win eventually, a fallacy that ignores the sum of what has already been lost, ignores the possibility to long runs of bad luck, and and ignores the exponential growth in losses of doubling up.

Those opposed to the lunatic project are increasingly characterised as enemies, not as loyal employees trying to pull their company back from disaster.

We are still there because of US and UK fear of loss of face when we withdraw, and both countries are prepared to let soldiers and civilian non-combatants to die to save their political faces.


Tuesday, 17 January 2012

The YouTube debate - TAofMoridura

I have a YouTube channel, TAofMoridura. Since starting my new blog and channel after my medical problems (I took down the old blog and channel 2008-2009) I posted 460 video clips. All of them were live, and all of them attracted regular comments. I pre-moderate, so I have to make a decision on every comment post - to approve or delete, and whether or not to respond.

Roughly one third of all comments are so obscene, abusive, or obsessionally repetitive that I have to delete them and sometimes block the poster. I never delete comments or block them based on posters disagreeing with me in rational arguement, and I have deleted and blocked independence supporters for the same reasons as unionists. 

This involves so much work in addition to my blogging and capture and posting of videos that I could not sustain it. I was also having some minor hassle from YouTube over protected content. So I decided to take them all down and start afresh.

To give an idea of the work load involved - and the nature of comments (you can see them all on TAofMoridura) here is one video clip posted on 12th January 2012, with so far 2500 hits - high for my kind of clip. I have left a couple of nasties in (apologies, Nicola!) to give a flavour of the abusive nature of some who claim to be British and unionist, and sometimes Scots.


Douglas Alexander and Dimbleby gang up on Nicola Sturgeon

They dont like it up em Mr Mainwaring. The nasty SNP on the back foot what a turn up.
JohnnyNorfolk

I wish she knew about Tom Harris MP at this time!
Next time!
FranklyLate

RIP - SNP
SNP maybe biggest party but Scotland we Scots (majority) don't want to be Independent. We have our own government, we have the best of both worlds we make our own decisions but are part of the UK getting billions extra each year.
Scotland could survive on its own but we would have to pay more tax, no British army, likely have to join the Euro in long-term. No more Royal family, no more free education, Scotland would take debt burden and we wouldn't control all the oil in North sea!
51wins

HA HA HA it was great to see the little mongrel get her yap SHUT
CHANNELOMD

What's with the griping - she didnt answer a simple question
Nats r very well trained in the art of badgering. Ms Sturgeon was as evasive and as slippery as a Salmond. It really wasnt a hard time. Ok she didnt get protected by the tv people we have up here. Who r cowered by belligerent nats who smear people as anti scottish.
I am Scottish with no political affilations. The twin threats to a proper open informative debate is the wee scots gerrymandering and daft english comments
random2862

I agree that Nicola Sturgeon was treated badly and I felt uncomfortable watching it. She comes across as a very nice genuine person. (Don't trust Salmond!)
I also thought Kelvin Makenzie was a little "Londoner" arsehole.
I'm English and I support the Uk but this is no way to debate such an important issue.
If this type of discourse continues for another 2 years then the SNP will have independence in the bag!
The Unionists have to make a far more mature case and accept Devo-Max FTW.
garysgreat

Shes like a chattering rat.
CarolineRaRaRa

Douglas Alexander, weak, spineless, glass jawed. abour R.I.P
bhoywunder

What an odious little wanker Douglas Alexander is, let the woman bloody talk instead of being so childish and badgering her.
This is appalling behaviour from an MP supposedly an adult during a live televised discussion.
McDuff73

Douglas Alexander is disgraceful
turkeylad

get used to it folks. there's worse to come. bear in mind Alexander and the rest are fighting for their political careers. independence means no membership of westminster club.
pokerkid99

I watched this live and was amazed at the lack of respect to Scotlands Deputy First Minister. This will probably be the same on all debates from now until the Independence Referendum in 2014. 5 against 1 is hardly fair.
Let us have a grown up Debate with fairness and equal air space.
FireiskLtd

I thought nats liked being oppressed - it gives them a sense of purpose. Maybe they just don't like being oppressed by fellow scots, of questionable patriotism
KMcPsentia

This is a mugging by dimblebore and douglas alexander. BBC has been swamped with complaints.
sionnyn

  Yep how awful to question the commitment of those Labour members of the * Scottish * parliament who take their instructions - verbatim! - from the Westminster Tories.
jistaface

Classic! Typically editing a quote and taking it out of context. It was the democratic point that the Unionists never wanted a referendum and therefore Westminster should not impose conditions on the referendum that should be coordinated by the Scottish Parliament.
ramboice

This kind of thing is all the unionists are good for - being as those who actually watched the full 2 and a half hour long debate from holyrood (and therefore are aware of the context) will be few and far between. To deny the Scottish electorate the right to have their voice according to the timescale of their own democratically elected government IS anti-Scottish, but the phrase is too easily taken out of context, and Joan McAlpine should have known better.
  jack834834

Out of context. Sentence was clipped! Original quote was longer.
Here is the abridged quote confidently delivered by Alexander: "I absolutely make no apology for saying that the liberals, the labour party and the Tories are anti-Scottish."

The full quote:
"I absolutely make no apology for saying that the liberals, the labour party and the Tories are anti-Scottish in coming together to defy the will of the Scottish people, the democratic mandate."
Bit different.
Hirunite

I guess we're going to seean awful lot more of these types of tactics in the coming couple of years, and it's only going to get worse. It's going to be down to those who support independence yet have know real or tangible link to political parties and the SNP in particular to rebuke such underhand political tactics.
weejimmykranky

Lord Ashdown made a considered contribution but I found him comparing his painting of independence elsewhere in the world, which had been brought about through war, conflict and genocide, to be an unfair comparison with the likely aftermath of Scottish independence.
Don't know what happened to Kelvin MacKenzie last night. The Levinson jab must be starting to work :-).
grumblingtummy

I thought Wee Duggie was actually being quite rude in his continued barracking of the Deputy First Minister as she tried to make her point. David Dimbleby really should have intervened as Chairman to stop this rude behaviour and then ensure Nicola responded to the "question" from DA.... and we wonder why common courtesy is disappearing from society!
grumblingtummy
 
Apologize for what?! You fools are not patriotic, you do not love your country as Scotland, because your country is the United Kingdom and there's where your allegiance lies. You belittle it all the time, your policies do no good for Scotland, you gang up on, and ignore the significant (and growing daily) population of Scots that favor independence, but yet, you present no positive points for Scotland to stay in the Union, only negativity about us leaving. You are indeed a disgrace to Scotland.
MSfeller

Friday, 13 January 2012

Douglas Alexander and Dimbleby gang up on Nicola Sturgeon on Question Time

Douglas Alexander rejects "A politics of grudge and grievance." Judge for yourselves from this clip who is engaged in such a policy, entirely representative of the entire programme, where all the panellists, including the Chairman, David Dimbleby, were ranged against Nicola Sturgeon, Deputy First Minister of Scotland, who acquitted herself with dignity in spite of the contemptible and bullying tone of the programme..

Lord Ashdown was the epitome of grandiose and vacuous British imperial pomposity, and was therefore given extended licence to pontificate by Dimbleby. It is deeply ironic, yet highly significant that the only member of the panel who was seen to extend reasonable courtesy to the lone representative - yes, I repeat, the lone representative of Scotland's interests, was Kelvin McKenzie.

For the benefit of Douglas Alexander, I repeat and endorse Joan McAlpine's comments - the behaviour of the three opposition parties, on full display at the Commons debate on the referendum, was a shameful example of Parliamentary bullying, and their opposition to the Scottish Government being allowed to carry out its mandate to call a referendum and hear the voice of the Scottish people is an attack on Scotland's interests and does betray a lack of concern for Scotland.

To my surprise, Michael Moore was the only member of the combined Tory, LibDem and Labour parties to come out of that debate with some credibility. I actually think he was embarrassed by the behaviour of his allies in their mob tactics against the Scottish nationalist group.




Friday, 12 August 2011

The London riots - the Commons debate and the media

When events go wrong in a country, the government feels under pressure. If it is a natural disaster, like Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans in 2005, the government cannot be held responsible for the hurricane, but they are responsible for dealing with it, and not only their actions in handling the crisis can be called into question, but also their foresight - or lack of it - in preparing for it, not only in the period when it was known to be imminent, but in previous long-term preparations for ‘known unknowns’, the knowledge that there will be hurricanes and floods, although the exact timing cannot be predicted far  in advance.

When things go wrong that seem to be clearly linked to either the action or the inaction of government, for example the failure of an economic or social policy or programme - or the lack of one - or a diplomatic or defence initiative, or the lack of one, governments are subject to even greater direct criticism. To take an example that is half a century old - currently being dramatised in The Hour on BBC - Prime Minister Anthony Eden was criticised by the United States and the USSR for supporting Israel by bombing Egypt in the Suez crisis (The Tripartite Aggression) in 1956, and he resigned in January 1957. He would also have come under heavy criticism from allies France and Israel and from some sections of his own party had he not acted.

(The posture of the US and President Eisenhower and John Foster Dulles was highly ambivalent, as revealed by subsequent unguarded remarks by Dulles.)

The measure of a government, a politician, or an industrialist - or indeed any man or woman - may be gauged by their willingness to take unpopular decisions, either to act or refrain from action. But refraining from action as a conscious choice is not inaction - the failure to act out of cowardice, political expediency or lack of imagination or vision most certainly is inaction.

GOVERNMENT DEFENSIVE ARGUMENTS

They can be summarised as -

No one could have foreseen this - it was totally unexpected.

This is caused by global factors beyond our control.

This was caused by the actions of the last government (when it wasn’t us) or, in the event that we were the last government, by the irresponsibility of our political opponents.

This is not representative - it was one rogue individual, company or group.

This is a failure of personal morality, family, schools, academics, i.e. anybody or anything but us, the government. Government policies and actions never lead to bad outcomes, except when our opponents are in government.

This was an act of nature - or God - and we now must deal with it.

THE WESTMINSTER RESPONSE

The Westminster response, from the headless chicken initial response of Cameron, Clegg and the Coalition  to the response of Parliament in the debate yesterday, with the political solidarity characteristic of a threat of war rather than an outbreak of civil unrest, contained elements of almost all of the above defences with the exception of global factors, and they would have thrown that into the  excuse pot if they could have got away with it.

The consensus analysis seems to be, in a classic exercise in doublethink, that the riots just happened, could not have been predicted, had no contributory causes that in any way could be attributed to government policies or actions, past or present, but nevertheless were the entirely predictable result of a long-term decline in family values, loss of parental control, marriage, personal morality, a failure of discipline at all levels, the Human Rights Act, social media - the list goes on.

I watched the first hour and a half of the debate, gave up in disgust, recorded the rest and sampled it. Here are a few of my increasingly exasperated tweets as the debate droned on.

TWITTER 11th August 2011 @moridura

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

It's the gangs - but why did young people join gangs? Always the same reasons: failure of government to provide jobs, hope, and purpose

It's all about crime and criminals - blame the culture, the parents, social media - everything and everybody except Government

Cameron/riots: Will the de-masking deal with religious masking?

Cameron catalogues what he will do - concentrating on compensation for damages

Police may remove face coverings - I agree with that - no one should be allowed to go masked in public - no one

Cameron/riots. What does a government do when public order fails as a result of their policies - attack human rights. And there will be more

Cameron: "The riots are not in any way representative of our country" Not representative but symptomatic...

 

Ed Miliband - usual preamble - true face of Britain, etc. Wait for the beef ... Where's the beef?

Get past the clichés, Ed - say something for god's sake ...

Ed M. Go out and listen to the people. Explain how their voices will be heard. Independent commission of enquiry - reaching out ...

Ed M: Deeper reasons - "To seek to explain is not to seek to excuse" Good one, Ed ...

Ed M: Will there be a cap on help fund?

The PM and the police cuts - will he think again? Swifter justice system - capacity of courts? Tough sentence deserved and expected.

Ed M: The Army? Funding of operational costs? Increased police presence? How long?

Ed M: Questions of hope and aspiration. Not about any one government. You're right there, Ed - it's about the 13years of Labour too

 

Cameron: Cosy regards to Ed - all sweetness and light - for the moment ...

DC: Tear up the manual of public order

DC: Not about resources - about deep moral issues. (Growls from House)

House starts to growl and mutter at police cuts. DC begins to face the flak

DC: Vague rabbiting on. Gets to operational costs - vague, evasive answers. Police budgets - cash reductions over 4 years - 6%!

 

Pompous old Scots git Malcolm Rifkind -

DC: Stonewall on police numbers - but it won't wash, David ...

Jack Straw: PMs repetition of Treasury lines about numbers not good enough

David Lammy: Lost homes -where were the police? PM must speak to Tottenham victims. Public enquiry - skirmishes led chaos

David Davis: Ethnic tension over young Asian deaths. Measures?

Wee Hazel Blears. Criminality, etc. Like the criminality of MPs over expenses? Where were the polis then, Hazel?

They're all sliding away from reality into denial of accountability of any government, any UK policy. I've had enough - lunch!

Oh, God! Nadine Dorris - water cannon, tear gas - the whole right-wing repression, dangerous crap. Go ahead, UK - attack the people!

Now more than 1.5 hrs into 'debate' - a cosy consensus between the parties - it was Blackberries, crooks, parents, morality, etc.

(At this point, the tedious sequence of predictable, formulaic contributions led me to produce a few stereotypes -)

Fragrant Tory babe Penny: "No moral compass, positive role models." e.g. Sir RS Likr, XBE, YBE, ZBE

Sir RS Liker,XBE, RBE, ZBE (etc), failed Scots Tory: "May I - etc. etc." Oh, God ...

Tory Babe: May I welcome - congratulate the PM - praise police - blame parents and Blackberries - demand the police are set free ...

Sir RightWing Nutter, KBE: Give the police flame throwers, grenades, napalm etc. These teenagers must be dealt with. Rule Brittannia!

 

Making political capital out of the riots. It is political, stupid - it's the bloody UK in operation

DC: Admiration for Strathclyde police. They'll be even better when Scotland is free of the UK - and you, Dave -

No real debate - Commons is the UK in denial and complacent conspiracy of silence. Why? Because the three main parties are culpable.

RW F.Luent Tory: Thugs, hooligans, etc. Compensate businesses.

Speaker reprimands Cameron!

SNP leader Angus Roberston is told PM not aware of any conversations with Scottish gov on riots, but Cameron praises police co-operation.

(At this point, I gave up in disgust, and went for lunch.)

THE MEDIA

A special edition of Question Time was scheduled. I looked forward to it eagerly - I should have known better. Essentially it mirrored the vacuity of Westminster, but with some flashes of real insight from Fraser Nelson, whose politics I don’t share, and whose persona is that of one of the kind of Establishment Scots that I can’t stand. But he does talk some very hard sense at times, and I delighted in his demolition of the increasingly ridiculous John Prescott, who lathered up with synthetic indignation in his plain-spoken, man-of-the people Lord Something or Other style, seemingly unaware that he was part of the group who are supposed to be governing the country.

Newsnight Scotland again was a deep disappointment - what can I say that I haven’t already said? They also missed the point completely on the Jimmy Reid Foundation and the Scottish Left, who apparently feel left oot!

Friday, 15 April 2011

Alex Salmond exposes the hypocrisy of the three UK parties on Question Time


The Three UK Stooges - Gray, Goldie and Scott - in Scotland got agitated about the First Minister appearing on Question Time, and two of the Labour Party's press mouthpieces, 'The Record' and 'The Herald', were clearly unhappy too.

Well, they had good reason to be worried - Alex Salmond cleaned the floor with Peter Hain (Labour), Chris Huhne (LibDem) and Michael Howard (Tory) - on the NHS and on the Libya/Megrahi/Gadaffii/Moussa Koussa issues.

He received a rapturous reception from the Liverpool audience, who recognised straight talking from a politician when they heard it for once. Alex Salmond, with his characteristic good humour, also gave insights on the AV referendum and the Cable/Cameron spat over immigration.

Hain, Huhne and Howard - The Three UK Hs - are high up in the power structures of their unionist respective parties, and they were feeble in their responses, and squabbled amongst each other embarrassingly. (Scotland has their three unionist puppets to contend with, who have infinitely less ability.)

God help England!

People of England - you need your own Parliament for your great nation to recover its self-respect and hold its head up again in the world and speak its name proudly, as Scots do.

But Scotland has a choice on May 5th. Vote for your ain folk, Scots - and vote for the man who towered over these UK politicians last night - a statesman with only Scotland's interests at heart.


Friday, 4 February 2011

Question Time, Melanie Phillips and political labels

Question Time last night wasn’t half bad. I did some live tweeting, with the usual results - premature judgements, misspellings, etc.

The right-wing raver slot - which the BBC feels must be part of the panel, in the interests of ‘balance’ - was occupied by Melanie Phillips this week, a regular in this chair. There is no real slot for a left-wing raver because the genuine article is hard to find these days - we have to be satisfied with the likes of George Galloway, who now occupies a political planet entirely of his own creation, a planet - or maybe a rogue asteroid - that now hovers dangerously near to the Scottish Parliament

Bob Crow is sometimes meant to fill the slot, but the format  and  the chairman usually attempt to contain him within the stereotype of trade union militant. Since Crow is anything but a raver, with a much broader political view that just his union, always displaying an icy, objective calmness in all that he says, and refusing to be contained by anyone, this fails, and the programme comes to life, to the discomfiture of the party and media hacks on the panel, the spluttering indignation of the right wing raver, the impotence of David Dimbleby and the delight of the audience -and me. The Question Time panel is not a place for real people. They are supposed to be confined to the audience.

Melanie, however, is entirely predictable, and has been for many years now, so there were no surprises when the question about Egypt’s revolution came up. On any international issue, anything Melanie says has to be decoded in the light of the foreign policy of Israel and its view of Muslims and international terrorism, which to ultra Zionists are one and the same.

There was a certain irony in the fact that the programme was recorded at  the same time - or probably before - the transmission of Louis Theroux’s BBC2 documentary, The Ultra Zionists, at 9.00 p.m. last night.

On other topics, she gives evidence of the penetrating intelligence and incisive comment that once graced the pages of - incredibly - The Guardian. (I remember her from those days, and mourn the loss of the Melanie-that-was.) She is now flits between her two natural journalistic homes, The Spectator and The Daily Mail. Penetrating intelligence and incisiveness are, however, no guarantors of wisdom, clear vision or objectivity, as history - and Melanie - abundantly demonstrate.

My comments on her performance led to a tweeted response from a supporter of Melanie, to the effect that she always spoke the truth, thus enraging ‘the lefties’,  among whose number I am delighted to be included. (Such commentators never think of themselves as righties). Indeed, I count it a badge of honour to be described as a leftist separatist, which appellation happily combines my basic political orientation with my Scottish nationalism. My critic also referred to ‘mad’ lefties, and I had to remind him that in my recollection, this epithet had only been applied before to Mad Mitch of Aden and to a political columnist, panellist and journalist whose name escapes me for the moment.

I was once asked to put my political philosophy in a nutshell, and came up with Left is right and Right is wrong, and that still just about describes my position. Of course, if I wanted to take a more anodyne position, I would describe myself as a social democrat, but many on the right of the political spectrum think of themselves as such, so I am wary of that label.

I visited Melanie's website to update myself on her written views, and found the title of her book The World Turned Upside Down - The Global Battle over God, Truth and Power, a suitably apocalpytic title. I reproduce a paragraph from her plug for her book.

The loss of religious belief has meant the West has replaced reason and truth with ideology and prejudice, which it enforces in the manner of a secular inquisition. The result has been a kind of mass derangement, as truth and lies, right and wrong, victim and aggressor are all turned upside down. In medieval-style witch- hunts, scientists who are skeptical of global warming are hounded from their posts; Israel is ferociously demonized; and the United States is vilified over the war on terror-all on the basis of falsehoods and propaganda that are believed as truth.

Since I disagree with every line and every word of that, and believe that it is Melanie, fundamentalist religion, Israel and US foreign policy that have turned the world upside down, risking a return to the Dark Ages, I offer as an antidote another book - Allies for Armageddon by Victoria Clark, which explores with chilling forensic skill, the destructive links between right-wing, American Rapture fundamentalist Christians, the ultra zionists and the Bush/Cheney regime that dragged the world, and the UK under Blair into the present lethal instability of global politics and two disastrous wars.

And that’s about all I have to say for today. Have a good weekend …


Friday, 29 October 2010

David Dimbleby fails to recognise or understand the Scottish voice–again …


Question Time, under the chairmanship of David Dimbleby, is uneven in its standards as a prime political discussion forum on a public service broadcasting channel, the BBC, and its failing are particularly evident in its treatment of Scottish affairs and Scottish nationalist viewpoints.

The composition of its panel – one supposedly objective panellist, e.g. an academic, someone from the Arts, the occasional comedian, one representative of the governing party, two representatives of opposition parties, and one right-wing ranter, often a tabloid journalist, but occasionally a businessman/woman – is supposed to provide both political balance and entertainment. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

David Dimbleby himself is supposed to be an impartial chairman, above party politics – which he usually is – but he in nonetheless rooted in the establishment values of monarchy, empire and the UK. He is the son of the broadcaster who epitomised these values, Richard Dimbleby, and he is very much his father’s son. (The other brother, Jonathan, has a much more liberal and questioning approach to British and world affairs.)

Last night’s Question Time exhibited all of the vices and few of the virtues of the QT format, and was, to put it mildly, partial and sometimes unfair in relation to Nicola Sturgeon and to Scottish affairs in general.

The historian was Simon Schama, now government guru on how to best inculcate an historical perspective in our children that will best reflect Establishment views and keep the Union together. Of course, Simon Schama would not recognise such a description of his role, and would not have accepted the poisoned chalice if he had – he is an honourable, likeable man. But he too, is imbued with deeply rooted Establishment values, as his endorsement of the simplistic viewpoint (Hugh Hendry) that terrorists were evil demonstrated.

Terrorist do things in pursuit of what they believe in that have appalling consequences, and are often young, idealistic, and shockingly - as we now know from Wikileaks - sometimes even mentally subnormal or disturbed individuals. The people who manipulate their ideals and send them to their deaths can fairly be described as evil, but we should remember that powerful states such as the US, the UK and Israel wreak even greater devastation, including the mass murder of innocent people, men, women and children, under a cloak of so-called democratic values.

Neither evil justifies the other – they feed on each other, and are locked in a deadly embrace that may destroy our society and even our planet.

But since this Question Time was in Glasgow, let’s come back to local matters and the state of the economy. David Dimbleby is fond of pointing out that Question Time is a national, i.e. UK-wide programme and addresses  the whole of the UK. While this is true, it is also a fact that when it is located in a city, region, or devolved state of the UK, it recognises the special interests of its host population.

Last week in Middlesbrough, it rightly and properly gave prominence to local issues, such as the fate of steel works and industry in general in the North East, and at no point were panellists restricted in addressing these issues. When Question Time is in Wales, or Northern Ireland, Dimbleby has no qualms or compunction over allowing local issues to dominate, indeed, he would be eaten alive in Northern Ireland if he were rash enough to attempt to do so.

But not so in Scotland, because as every diehard unionist knows, the real threat to the survival of the UK - in its present enfeebled form as the rump of a faded empire, attempting vainly to prosecute wars in foreign parts and strut its stuff on a global stage when it is unable to run its own economy successfully, and the poor, vulnerable and powerless are about to pay the price of the shambles created by Labour and now being compounded by the ConLib coalition - comes from Scotland, governed by a party that was elected by the people, the Scottish National Party.

The British Establishment has a visceral distrust, hatred and fear of the Scots, especially of their internationalist and humanitarian values, and because the drums of empire no longer resonate in this small but proud and profoundly European country, a country that has punched above its weight throughout its long history, intellectually, scientifically and economically.

Dimbleby therefore allowed the coalition spokesperson, Ed Davey, a minister, unlimited licence to speak without interruption, yet interrupt others, but radically curtailed Nicola Sturgeon every time she tried to address specifically Scottish matters. This did not stop him from quite gratuitously introducing the question of the Megrahi release decision, a topic on which he allowed others to offer their verdicts on a decision that politically and constitutionally was solely Scotland’s and frankly, none of their damned business, although Nicola was too polite to put it quite like that.

As best I could, I timed the total discussion contribution of the panellists, a tedious task in which it was difficult to be precise, because of interruptions. Here is my analysis.

Out of 43 minutes panellist discussion time, Nicola Sturgeon was allowed to speak for just under six minutes, that is, just under 14% of the time. The remaining five averaged well over eight minutes, with Ed Davey, for the ConLib government, allowed over nine minutes and the hedge fund manager, Hugh Hendry, allowed well over ten minutes.

Another way of putting is that, under the impartial chairmanship of Dimbleby, the Deputy First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon - in Glasgow - was allowed to speak for only 60% of the time given to an unelected businessman, a Scot, based in London.

(If you want to challenge these timings, get your stop watch out and do your own sums – you’re welcome to it.)

Hugh Hendry is the Glasgow-born, London-based, manager of “a multi-million pound hedge fund that makes its money from failing businesses”, as Dimbleby described him. He is a very rich man.

A hedge fund is a fund that is usually open only to a limited range of professional and very wealthy investors. They trade in derivatives, dealing often with high yield rating and distressed debt. The packaging of debts, such as excessive loans to people who manifestly could not afford to repay them, in the US and the UK by hedge funds led directly to the near collapse of the world’s banking systems. In the UK, such loans and investments led to the near-collapse of Northern Rock and the UK’s first run on the banks in generations. (I was one of the investors queuing apprehensively outside Northern Rock in Edinburgh on that fateful first day.)

I have no idea of the nature of Hugh Hendry’s fund, Eclectica Asset Management, nor of his or its ethical base. What I do know is that Hugh fancies himself as a deep political thinker and commentator, but is a little sensitive about the public’s view of him.

A quote from Hugh, speaking in The Telegraph -

Hugh Hendry: 'We Hedge Fund Managers Are On Your Side'

You don't know me; we've never met. But I fear you are being encouraged to dislike me. Let me explain: I'm a speculator. I manage a hedge fund. Apparently I profit from your misery. Accordingly, our political leaders are keen to see the back of me.

Well, that about sums up my view, Hugh. But now that I know a little more about you, from your Question Time performance, I’m even less inclined to like you or respect your views, which appear to include a distrust of all politicians, Europe, Scottish nationalists and a willingness to defend torture by “our boys” in pursuit of those you see as the bad guys.

Your view point, to me, is startlingly unoriginal, and can be heard in any saloon bar from right-wing Tories. I would guess that when relaxing with friends from the finance industry, your favourite song is My Way, that maudlin anthem beloved by complacent, middle-aged, self-made men who think they have achieved something in their life, and confuse material success with a real contribution to the society of which they are a part.

But I was painfully aware that some of the Glasgow audience appeared to like you, and found your views acceptable. I’m sure if a British Tea Party ever gets going, you can rally the British equivalents of Sarah Palin and Christine O’Donnell to your cause.

However, in the interest of true democratic fairness and balance, I have clipped and grouped some of your statements on the Question Time panel, so that others may judge. You make me want to vomit, Hugh, but doubtless I would have the same effect on you. But I do it my way and you do it your way…


Monday, 26 July 2010

Bob Crow - RMT

I have recently expressed admiration for Bob Crow and for his plain speaking on Question Time, but I should make it clear that I do not share his party politics. I am a centre-leftist – he is an extreme leftist. He is Eurosceptic – I most emphatically am not.

I still feel that he is prepared to say many things that need saying on the media, and that an independent England will need men like him, but I hope when that day comes he is part of a centre left government and England is a committed member of the European Union, as Scotland will undoubtedly be.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Bob Crow, RMT, talks hard sense on Megrahi Release on Question Time

My respect for Bob Crow grows by the week, and I find I have much more in common with this man than most of the Scots who comprise the opposition in Holyrood. He is one of the very few Question Time panellists on whom I can rely to say the things I wish the panellists would say – even when I don’t agree with them – rather than the obfuscations, evasions and establishment cant that often characterises the usual contributions.

Among the select few who do say what has to be said, in addition to Bob Crow, I include George Galloway, Ken Clarke, Shami Chakrabarti and Salma Yaqoob, not to mention Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon.

Bob Crow is the kind of Englishman I would like to see in government once England rediscovers itself as a great nation after it abandons its faded dreams of Empire, i.e. after Scotland secures its independence, closely followed by Wales and Northern Ireland.

I was most struck by the point he made when asked if Alex Salmond and Kenny MacAskill would present themselves in response to the ‘invitation’, i.e. peremptory summons to appear before a Senate Committee and account for their decision to release Megrahi.

I quote Bob Crow -

But however, I want to say this --- the American Government has got some cheek to talk about some of the things that has happened over here, when it has got itself involved illegal wars all over the world, dropped chemical on people, tortured people and the scenario in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba – and five Cubans languish in jail in America at this moment in time who went to America to tell the American government – previous government, I would accept – about terrorist attacks that was taking place. So, there’s to be a fair playing field, let’s just not talk about Lockerbie, let’s talk about what America does throughout the world as well.”

The Hartlepool audience greeted this with enthusiastic and prolonged applause, and so did I from my sofa. This – the authentic voice of the people - used to be the voice of the people and the People’s Party before New Labour and the deadly trio of Blair, Brown and Mandelson got their hands around its throat.

But why lament? We have the authentic voice of the Scottish people in government in Holyrood at the moment, and I hope that the people recognise it and reinforce it by returning a Scottish Nationalist Government with an increased majority in May 2011.