Monday, 24 May 2010

Over the Rainbow?

What was more important to the British public: David Cameron winning the general election or Danielle getting the role of Dorothy? As the Green Party candidate for Richmond at the last general election, my feeling is that as contests, there was little to choose between them.

The general election was dominated by TV debates focused on three grey men in suits. The Over the Rainbow TV show focused on twenty pretty girls in gingham, so perhaps was the more interesting! There were similarities in that it was youth that won out over experience in both cases. However, unlike Dorothy, in the general election the contestants were not treated equally. All of the smaller parties were excluded from the main debates, with the Green Party and UKIP particularly disadvantaged. At least the Nationalist Parties had separate debates in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, but neither the Green Party or UKIP were invited onto the panels and their vote was squeezed as a result. In my own case the BBC refused to talk to me as candidate for Richmond throughout the election campaign, unlike the Tory, Labour and Lib Dem candidates. My complaint of bias to the BBC Trust goes unanswered after two weeks, contrary to their own rules.

Yes, the Green Party won in Brighton, which was down to an excellent candidate in Caroline Lucas and a lot of hard work over many years. But think how much better those TV debates would have been with the wit and wisdom of a woman like Caroline Lucas to contrast with the sameness of the three grey men in suits? That is something that this coalition has shown us. The difference between the three grey men was in style not substance. Their policies are interchangeable, as is demonstrated by Nick Clegg’s endorsement of the Tories’ Big Society idea. Tory, Liberal and Labour agree on Afghanistan, nuclear weapons, nuclear energy and punishing the public for the mistakes of politicians and banks. To cover up their MPs’ expenses scandal they have set up yet another quango full of over paid bureaucrats.

Why is it important that the smaller parties are heard? Well apart from the democratic principle of a level playing field, sometimes we get things right. For instance, on Afghanistan, the Tory defence secretary Liam Fox is quoting as saying last Friday that Britain was not a “global policeman” and he would like to see British troops return home “as soon as possible”. Well I hope William Hague, Foreign Secretary and the victor of Richmond, was listening. He may then recall that this was exactly what I said to him in the Richmond hustings at our last general election battle in 2005 (Richmond Zetland Centre 29/4/2005). Since then 282 British service personnel have died in Afghanistan and 104 in Iraq, along with thousands of civilians. If the Government and the people had heard the Green Party message then, perhaps those deaths might have been avoided?

Monday, 10 May 2010

BBC Bias?

Well, the election is over and as we speak, Nick Clegg and David Cameron (and possibly Gordon Brown?) are locked into negotiations as to who will form the Government. This is as it should be as all politics should be about compromise around the common good. No British Government since World War II has had the support of the majority of the British people (in terms of votes) and it is time that democracy, in terms of the will of the majority, be returned to the UK. After all coalitions were common in the UK after the rise of the Labour Party up to and including the war.

We in the Green Party had mixed fortunes. There was the astonishing win by Caroline Lucas to become the first Green MP in Britain and the very first in the world to be elected under a first past the post system. My congratulations go out to Caroline and her Brighton team.

In the rest of the country, however, the Green Party and to be fair ALL the smaller parties were punished by the polarisation of support brought about by the TV debates. Not just the Prime Ministerial debates, all the local and cabinet debates focused just on three grey men in suits from the Westminster parties. In Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales the nationalist parties were given a platform, but in England, TV viewers were told again and again that the race was between Tory, Labour and Liberal Democrat and other voices, including the Green Party were suppressed.

Here in the Richmond constituency, BBC North East steadfastly refused to talk to me as the Green Party candidate for Richmond. How many times did you see the Conservative candidate William Hague on the local news and debate programmes (Look North etc)?
Most blatantly, however, was a report by BBC Radio Tees (repeated on BBC Radio York) on Friday 28th April. I am told that BBC Radio Tees did a feature on the Richmond (Yorks) constituency. I am told that they interviewed the Labour, Tory and Liberal Democrat candidates. I am told, but not by the BBC, who did not have the courtesy to inform the Richmond Green Party that the programme was even being broadcast. The BBC editorial guidelines say that the BBC should be impartial in its election coverage. How is it impartial to interview just three out of the four candidates standing in the Richmond constituency? How is it impartial to give dozens of opportunities for other Richmond candidates to voice their views on the BBC during the campaign, but to block all attempts by the Richmond Green Party to get its views across?

Never again must local and national broadcast stations be allowed to manipulate public opinion in the way they did in this election. Never again should such blatant discrimination against the smaller parties be allowed to undermine democracy. Never again will we allow BBC bias to go un-reported. Watch this space!

Monday, 3 May 2010

Green Grand Tour

Still travelling around the constituency today (Monday). We continue to get a positive response from people in all parts of this, the largest constituency in England. Even got a new Green Party member.

Today’s swing through the Yorkshire Dales National Park included stops at East Witton, Middleham, Leyburn, Bainbridge, Gayle and Hawes. Whilst William Hague continues to make just brief appearances in the constituency, the Green Party is continuing to visit the parts other parties cannot reach.

Previously I have visited most parts of the constituency including Stokesley, Great Ayton, Osmotherley, Northallerton Bedale, Richmond, Catterick, Swaledale and Arkengarthdale and many points in between.

The Liberal Democrat is so committed to Richmond, his election leaflet has a photograph on the front with cars driving on the right hand side of the road, clearly taken on the continent. If you look closely there are other clues too: the driver sitting on the left of the car, the WHITE rear number plate, the number one on the wall that looks like a seven.

As Mr Meredith lives in Brussels, I guess he could not spare the time to visit Richmond for a photograph until the election was called. The likelihood of us seeing much of the Liberal Democrat after the election is remote.

Unlike the Tories and Liberal Democrats, I am fully committed to the Richmond constituency and not focused on my own political career like Messrs Hague and Meredith. As for Labour, well the Green Party got 50% more votes than Labour in the County Council seats we fought last year. For real change, you need the Green Party.

Freedom of the Press (not to turn up)

Great hustings on Friday night, if you, like the Darlington and Stockton Times, happened to miss it. I got the first round of applause and the first laugh. I even had William Hague promising to read the Green Party manifesto.

As reported, all the Richmond Candidates turned up, even William Hague who had said he was too busy. Then I got a letter pointing this out printed in the D&S Times and, hey presto, William appears! The Labour candidate tried hard, but was weak. The Liberal Democrat has been parachuted in from Brussels: clearly given a seat the Lib Dems can't win to serve his apprenticeship. His inexperience showed.

Not everything was perfect (you know how you think of something more pithy to say just after sitting down?), but all in all it was a good night for the Green Party. It was just a pity that BBC North East continues to refuse to talk to me and BBC York interviewed all the other candidates that morning, deliberately excluding the Green Party. As for the Darlington and Stockton Times they reported on the hustings, going into detail about William Hague. It was just a pity their report was printed the morning BEFORE the hustings took place!!!!