Friday, November 5, 2010

Britain a democracy in 1867?

Nothing on Question Time tonight to match last week's extraordinary scenes, although I did form the distinct impression that David Dimbleby couldn't have listened to a word of Jeremy Browne's response on prisoners' voting rights. Dimbleby started challenging the Liberal Democrat minister on why all prisoners had to be given the vote just seconds after Browne had made fairly clear that wouldn't actually be the case. And a couple of other points that raised my eyebrows...

Jack Straw lambasting the Lib Dems over their "deceit" on tuition fees. He's quite right, of course, but is he really ideally placed to be making that point? He was, after all, a senior member of a government that was re-elected in 2001 on a manifesto pledge that "we will not introduce top-up fees and have legislated to prevent them".

Secondly, David Davis asking if the European Court of Human Rights didn't realise that Britain had a democracy in 1867 when the ban on prisoners voting was first introduced. Hmmm. If we had 1867 levels of enfranchisment today, I think a great many more people than just Strasbourg judges would be startled to learn that it apparently constitutes democracy - not least women.


Going back to last week, I've just caught up with the response that was sent to BellgroveBelle after she complained about Dimbleby's handling of the programme in Glasgow. It goes without saying that it's totally unsatisfactory and airily dismissive of the very serious concerns that were raised - and the fact that the producers couldn't understand that what happened was indefensible even after a period of reflection is in many ways more troubling than the initial incident. But what leapt out at me most was the very careful usage of the words "anti-Scottish bias". Now, it wouldn't be quite fair to call that a straw man argument, because the claim of anti-Scottishness certainly has been made by some - but it's nevertheless a very convenient one to latch onto. Implicitly asserting that David Dimbleby is not some kind of anti-Scottish bigot is rather easier territory on which to fight than trying to rationally explain away the breathtaking contradiction of an editorial policy that demands Scottish guests and audience members must address "UK-wide" issues at all times, but which somehow permits the first quarter of tonight's show to be largely taken up with a discussion of a tuition fees policy that does not apply in Scotland. (You know, that well-known part of the United Kingdom.)

Rule of thumb - if you wait for an answer to an unanswerable question, you'll generally wait in vain.

1 comment:

  1. I think perhaps a letter pointing out the fact that English tuition fees have nothing to do with Scotland, and that Mr Dimbleby should have, in the interests of fairness, pulled up the speakers who adressed that issue... or maybe the question should not have been allowed in teh first place.

    Most of what is talked about on that programme must hold very little interest for the Northern Ireland population...which is also a part of teh UK, whether they like it or not.

    But possibly your last line is the answer to the unanswerable question, and no other answer will be forthcoming...