27 February 2007
From daily The Morning Star in Britain:
Media ignore public opinion
Thursday 15th January 2015
Such considerations won’t have passed through the Prime Minister’s mind when looking for an excuse to dodge taking part in the four-part disharmony proposed by the broadcasters.
Ed Miliband’s insistence that party leaders should accept the broadcasters’ scenario, leaving the Greens out in the cold, is understandable but wrong.
He fears being outflanked on the left, as happens regularly in Parliament when, for instance, Caroline Lucas berated Ed Balls on Tuesday for “feeble and inconsistent” opposition to the conservative coalition’s cuts agenda.
Miliband’s only concern in a debate on economics with Cameron, Farage and Nick Clegg would be hearing them accuse Labour of planning to tax and spend rather than prioritising deficit reduction.
Unfortunately, under the influence of Balls, that is not what is foreseen in office by Labour.
Green Party leader Natalie Bennett has offered a way to break the logjam by asking Miliband to back the proposal that the Green Party be included.
Similarly, excluding SNP and Plaid because they, for obvious reasons, don’t stand outside their own countries ignores the fact that the TV debates will be shown across Britain, giving the other parties greater exposure and putting the nationalists at a disadvantage.
Broadcasters argue that it is necessary to restrict leader numbers to keep the events manageable.
But what would be so wrong with a programme that exposed people and opinions at variance with the usual Establishment fare?
How can it be right, in a society where many voters — a majority in some instances — back public ownership of railways and utilities, reject the austerity agenda, want an end to academies and free schools in England, oppose overseas wars and want to save the billions wasted on nuclear-armed submarines, that the main party leaders are united in dismissing these proposals as fanciful?
Establishment TV stations that host and set the parameters for “debates” based on non-political criteria to be judged US-style on supposed gaffes, omissions and personal characteristics confer authority on observers and commentators rather than citizens.
Working people and campaigners — even representatives of mass organisations such as trade unions — are largely absent from agenda-setting news programmes.
They are replaced by talking heads from think tanks, polling firms and City economic analysis teams — the same “experts” who didn’t notice the 2008 financial crisis creeping up on us before pronouncing that it was due to excessive public spending instead of greedy bankers’ speculation.
Voters are short-changed by politicians and the media over political debate.
That will remain the case until the straitjacket of convention is loosened to admit a greater variety of representatives and political ideas to the airwaves.