Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Comment to the BBC on Jody McIntyre interview

Here is the comment I posted here in response to BBC News editor Kevin Bakhurst's defence of Ben Brown's aggressive and offensive interview with Jody McIntyre last night on BBC News, which can be viewed here.

I complained last night, immediately after watching the interview.

My objection is simply illustrated. Were Ben Brown to interview Charles and Camilla about having paint thrown at their car, would he repeatedly ask whether they were asking for it? Would he reference comments that Charles had previously made about other subjects to suggest they justified the attack? Would he ask whether Camilla had thrown anything at the protesters, and then, once she denied it, would he ask again?

The answer is of course no to all of those questions. The same respect should have been shown to Jody. This man did nothing wrong, was the subject of a documented assault by the police, and was treated to a hostile interview as if he were a government minister proposing a controversial new law.

It's not acceptable, it's not responsible and the BBC should sack Ben Brown for it. I'm sure he will find a welcoming home at Sky News, whose viewers are far more used to prejudice and ignorance being rewarded.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Letter to Nick, Vince and Danny

Dear Messrs Clegg, Cable and Alexander,

I am not a constituent of yours; I am not a student (it's been 20 years); I live in Scotland, where the tuition fees policy you are currently deciding upon will have no effect; in short, I have no dog in this hunt.

I know that you never expected to be in this position, from a number of perspectives. You didn't expect ever to be held to account for your tuition fees pledge. You didn't expect ever to be part of a coalition government with the Conservatives. And you didn't expect ever the immense, intense anger which this issue has generated among the British people.

But there are some things you did know. You knew in April, when you pledged to vote against fees increases, precisely what the financial situation in the country was, and the scale of cuts that were necessary. You knew in May, when you entered coalition government, that the decision to cut far deeper than necessity dictated was not what either you or the Conservatives had been given an electoral mandate to do. And you know now that you still genuinely have a choice here, despite the rhetoric, to meet your pledge.

You are hiding behind words like "coalition" and "deficit" to avoid facing the political reality, but really this situation is nothing new. A minister who finds himself at odds with government policy on a point of principle should leave the government and vote against it. It has happened many times before and it will happen many times again.

That is what you should do. It is what you must do if you are to remain credible.

I already know your answer.

Yours regretfully,

Duncan Hothersall

Fairer votes: the phoney war

Setting aside the arrogant London-centricity of the decision to hold the AV referendum on the same day as Scottish and Welsh general elections, there is something even more absurd about the debate over AV. The people fighting for AV, in the main, don't actually want it; and the people fighting against it are, in the main, actually united by their opposition to something entirely different.

I find myself in the former camp. I am a strong believer in proportional representation. In fact I think anyone who attempts to argue against proportionality in a democratic system has no leg to stand on, since the entire basis of democracy is proportionality. But AV won't deliver PR. AV is really a bolster to the first-past-the-post system, effectively including a run-off vote in every constituency to ensure that the winner gains more than 50% of the vote.

On the other side of the argument, if you scratch the surface of a vociferous opponent of AV you will really find a vociferous opponent of PR. They can see that even a small shift away from pure FPTP has the potential to open people's eyes to the attractiveness of full PR, and they want to make sure that doesn't happen. Oh, they are rehearsing the arguments against AV - Churchill has been wheeled out more than once despite his opposition to AV being based on his view that the public were too stupid to use it effectively - but they are really opposed to PR. Ask them. The honest ones will tell you.

So here we are in the middle of a phoney war. We're all fighting over a system in which none of us have any really interest, while the real prize - true proportionality in democracy - has been quite effectively hidden away by the entrenched beneficiaries of FPTP in Westminster. Even so, this is our best chance to open a chink in their armour. So I'll be voting Yes to AV in May, and I urge you to do the same.