Thursday, 30 October 2014

Ending all-male panels - version two


New Pledgebank pledge now live. Please consider signing if you can.

Yesterday I wrote a blog post about ending all-male TV panels.

As part of it, I set up a PledgeBank pledge to try to gain support for collective action. Huge thanks to Paul Cairney, Malcolm Harvey, Gerry Hassan and James Mackenzie for quickly signing up.

However, I also had some constructive conversations with other folk who, while sharing the aim, felt unable to sign the pledge as written for a number of different reasons.
  1. Broadcasters often change the line-up at the last minute, so meeting the pledge may simply be beyond an individual's control.
  2. The definition of a "TV panel" is not immediately obvious.
  3. Restricting the pledge to the TV isn't really necessary.
  4. Even if representation were truly equal, there is a reasonable likelihood that occasionally all-male panels would occur, so they shouldn't be stopped from happening.
I'm going to dismiss the fourth argument. The point of this sort of exercise is to redress the balance and end the status quo. So our aim here is to stop all-male panels from happening until the status quo is fair.

The first three arguments do seem fair. So here's a proposal to deal with them. The pledge becomes:
  • I will refuse to participate in all-male political discussion panels, and make that clear to organisers up-front when asked.
  • If last-minute changes mean I end up on an all-male panel, I will call attention to that fact during the discussion, and make reference to this pledge.
  • A political discussion panel is defined as two or more people plus an interviewer/chair discussing politics or current affairs at a public meeting or on a broadcast network. 
  • The all-male test applies to those participants there to express opinions, not to an interviewer/chair who is not contributing opinion.
That final point is designed to make clear that two men being interviewed by a woman is still an all-male panel.

So, your feedback is requested. Let's try to tweak this into a proposal more men can agree to. Once we've done that, I'll set up a new pledgebank pledge with the new construction, and we'll see if we can make this a reality.

Comments below please, or find me on Twitter at @dhothersall to give your thoughts. Thanks very much.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Ending all-male TV panels


It happened again.

Last night I was on Scotland Tonight as part of a panel discussion and everyone involved in the conversation was male.

Men make up a minority of the Scottish population, but a majority of the talking heads we see on TV. And too often that majority is 100%.

Friends of mine rightly challenged this, and while I explained that I didn't know who was going to be on the panel beforehand, that doesn't help solve this problem. There are things that can.

At the 2013 Lib Dem conference, Mark Pack and Mark Thompson cooked up an idea for a simple pledge for their party colleagues. At 2013 Labour conference, Kirstin Hay called for a boycott of all-male fringe events. And earlier this year, Caron Lindsay called for Scottish political commentators to refuse to participate in all-male TV panels. Some folk, including Gerry Hassan, did so.

I think this can help, but it isn't the whole picture. We need a strategy that includes signing folk up to a pledge, but goes further.
  • Parties need to encourage and support women to participate, and if possible help to maintain lists of women participants so that those who are refusing a request are able to suggest an alternative.
  • Broadcasters need to find a way to balance their absolute right to choose their preferred person for the job with the undeniable fact that unless they do improve women's representation they are failing a majority of their audience.
But at this point there is something I can do, and I should have done it already. So I'm doing it now.

"I will refuse to participate in all-male TV panels but only if 20 other Scottish political pundits will do the same."

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Three things

Johann Lamont deserves the gratitude of the whole of the Labour Party for her work as leader in Scotland since 2011. She will be missed.

Her attempt in 2012 to ignite a debate around how limited funds can best be spent to focus on those who need the most help was the right thing to do. Our subsequent collective failure to follow through on that lead with concrete action turned it from an opportunity for us into an opportunity for our opponents. It is clear that we have significant work to do to overhaul our policy and communications functions.

I'd like to see three things happen now.

  • First, the Scottish Executive Committee of the Labour Party, meeting this afternoon, should define and run the process which will select a new leadership team for Scottish Labour. Such a process should be open to all parts of the party, with MPs and MSPs equally able to make their case to be part of the party's leadership. Should she decide to run, I would strongly support Kezia Dugdale MSP as Deputy Leader.
  • Second, we need to radically overhaul our party's central campaigning and communication function. It needs to start afresh, be based where our Parliament sits in Edinburgh, and be under the complete control of the Scottish leadership.
  • Third, we need to rapidly move to a relentless focus on policy. There is no party better placed to deliver what we know the Scottish people want - social and economic justice within the strength of the United Kingdom. Let the SNP get mired in attempts to re-run the referendum. We have the right policy platform, from fair pay, to fair energy prices, to fair taxation. Let's deliver it.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Seriously, the referendum was about independence

There are many fault lines running through Scottish politics in the aftermath of the independence referendum debate. There is still a great deal of anger, mistrust and dogmatic assertion flying around. It is perhaps still too early to make sense of much of it.

But one theme keeps recurring, and it is the notion that the referendum was about a lot more than independence. And I think this betrays a genuine misunderstanding, indeed schism, between those on the left of Scottish politics, half of whom supported independence as a method of delivering social justice, and half of whom supported remaining part of the UK as a method of delivering social justice.

Here's the thing: the referendum vote was only about independence.

Of course both campaigns predicted different outcomes from their preferred votes. Of course the No campaign believed that the economic problems a Yes would have caused would have damaged the most vulnerable. Of course the Yes campaign believed the economic opportunities a Yes would have offered would have improved life for the poorest. And of course these were factors in people's decision-making when it came to the vote.

But the vote was still an answer to the single question "Should Scotland be an independent country?" And that was all it was.

This isn't me misunderstanding the fact that the Yes campaign galvanised a coalition of people who were and are genuinely working to improve lives. It's me pointing out that the No campaign wasn't against those outcomes. It was against independence. That is all.

I have a feeling that some people won't be able to move on from demanding more and more referenda until they have understood this. The No campaign was against independence. So, it turns out, were the majority of Scottish voters.

We still can, and must, make and win the argument that government policies should deliver for those who most need help. But if we're going to do that together we need to recognise where we disagreed. It was about independence.