Friday, 16 April 2010

The TV Debates

The TV debates have made the media complicit in the greatest change to the UK's constitution - turning the UK's constituency, parliamentary electoral system into the largest electoral college in the world. This semi-codifies the UK's elected dictatorship. That suits party politicians down to the ground, of course, as it maintains the status quo, and will encourage the next government to believe they have an even stronger mandate to force through whatever measures their party machine will roll over and comply with.

The electorate are being confused into believing that their vote is for a leader, when in fact on May 6th they will be voting for a constituency MP.

The expenses scandal and all previous parliamentary conduct scandals in the UK have demonstrated the importance of assessing the character of individual constituency candidates - one of the reasons all applicants for endorsement by the Independent Network are assessed against The Bell Principles. If the electorate continue to be encouraged to vote on the basis of the media performance of a party leader, the colour of their ties, their corporate brand, the dumming down of politics in the UK will be complete.

The task has become even harder for independents, who must remind voters that they're voting for a constituency MP. Gaining share of the media's attention has become even more difficult. National media will always be a challenge, but the even sharper focus on the three main parties in the UK during this election means that candidates must look to local media. Call radio phone-ins, try to work constructively with local media - offer them good content and comment, campaign positively about your candidacy and reasons to vote for an independent, offer a different perspective. Make sure they know that independents are the only true alternative to party politics, no matter what the smaller political parties say.

Local hustings are also taking their steer from the national media's concentration on the three main parties, so organise a hustings of all the candidates excluded from local hustings. Invite the media to attend, maybe encourage a local radio presenter, Justice of the Peace or other impartial person to moderate the session. If the media won't show, record the session yourselves and place it on the internet so that you can distribute it and give the local electorate an opportunity to hear from all contenders in the election.

Televised debates in the UK are nothing new. Parliament has been televised for years and the electorate has seen the pitiful performance of the main parties and their leaders for some time. The TV debates of the 2010 General Election are simply symptomatic of the public's despair at the conduct of MPs - the Punch and Judy, yah-boo politics that show the UK's MPs behaving like a bunch of school children in a playground, teasing, bullying and caring more about gaining cheap shots than constructive discussion of the UK's problems and opportunities.

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