If you want to BNP to be ‘shown up’, Question Time isn’t the right format to get the results you want to see

22 October 2009

There’s been a lot of discussion recently about the appearance tonight of the British National Party on BBC Question Time. When it was announced that the BBC intended to invite Nick Griffin, BNP leader and recently elected (by the British public) Member of the European Parliament, on to Question Time there were mixed responses. Some political parties thought it was the wrong thing to do because it would give them legitimacy as a political party. Other parties were refusing to put up pannelists – refused to appear on the same stage – but as some parties agreed to participate so they all did.

Now, Im not going to express a view on the legitimacy or not of the BNP, but I do have a concern about their appearance tonight. And that’s about the format of the programme on which they’re to appear.

Let’s just think about Question Time for a minute. Five pannelists, usually three politicians, one academic or similarly opinionated person, and one more populist person (a columnist perhaps), chaired by David Dimbleby. Members of the audience ask questions and the pannelists opine and respond one by one. Perhaps there’s some more pointed questioning from the chair trying to get a response to the question.

And this is the point i’m making. It’s not the kind of format where a party like the BNP will really get probed on their policies. There’s no Paxman (not that he succeeded in the past) or Frost really making them uncomfortable, getting to the bottom of what they really mean, and what they imply. It’s a question, an answer, some political responses and questioning from other pannelists (they have their own point to make, and Question Time is about the audience questions, not politicians asking each others views), and moving on to the next point.

On Twitter this morning there’s been some debate about the show tonight. I don’t disagree that primetime TV is the place to point out to the UK what the party actually thinks – but I do think that this format is not the best one, particularly not for those people who really think the party will be shown up on tgeir views. I’m also not a person that thinks gagging works. I’m not apathetic to watching or disengaged from democracy, whether I’ve made up my own mind about them or not. Surely it’s better to let people hear what they think – some may argue to give them enough rope to hang themselves with.

Taken an example about road congestion in our cities. The BNP answers – “road congestion in our cities is a terrible problem, something must be done about it”. What do the other party members do? Disagree vocally with the BNP point of view, or sit there and nod along, agreeing with Nick Griffin? What will this type of questioning and response do for those people who are already of a mindset that could be persuaded by the other arguments they make? A similar appearance by France’s far right political party in the 1980s saw their membership soar and could so well do, or already has, for the BNP.

Question Time is a format that is about swift answers, soundbites, not detailed probing and questioning on what the politicans really mean, what the real implications of their policies are. After my recent posts on undercurrents of hate and what these legitimise, is this really the platform people really think it is to try and show the politics of this party in a truer light? I don’t think it is. Now I may be wrong, and I hope that there is real opportunity for their policies and views to be probed in depth, but I’d just like to end with a thought from Ken Livingstone on Nick Griffin: :”He comes on, says his bit, but for the angry racist, it’s the trigger that turns into an attack.”

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I have an addiction

22 August 2009

I have an addiction. I’m not ashamed to admit that I have one. I’m addicted to my iPhone.

I’ve had it about a month now and I’m constantly checking my Twitter, emails, facebook (every now and again)… I’m even writing this on my iPhone.

I’m particularly impressed with the fact that the iPhone not only sends data over the mobile network but will hook up to available wifi networks. Right now I’m travelling on a high speed X2000 train from Copenhagen to Stockholm and rather than running up ridiculous roaming charges I’m hooked up to the train’s wifi.

I know that my iPhone addiction takes my eyes off the “real world” (and I have to exercise a degree of self-control to make sure my constant staring at the screen, tapping and sliding doesn’t detract from friendships, relationships etc), but it also creates amazing opportunities. Want to know more about Hässleholm for example (the town we just passed through), I can lol it up. Want to gloat about first class treatment, I can tweet it. Want to arrange meeting my friends in Stockholm, I can facebook them. I can even email my mum.

So is my addiction necesarilly a bad thing?


Tweet Tweet

24 January 2009

I recently discovered that London tweets more than any other city… The ‘micro-blogging’ phenomenon which lets you tell people what you’re doing in 140 characters or less has become well known in media-circles and was utilised by Barack Obama in the run up to the US election, by British stars such as Stephen Fry (whose tweets are particularly amusing) and even by 10 Downing Street, Boris Johnson (from a boat, no less)… and me… (a friend of mine has more twitter background here if you’re interested). It’s a way to tell people what you’re doing, where you are and can be used to post to this blog, if I wanted, or update my Facebook status (for example) by sending a text message/SMS without actually having to be online…

It’s also become – like Facebook – a social networking tool which is used by companies, such as Aleksander Orlov from CompareTheMeerkat.com (are we getting a little too off the wall here? The Meerkat founder of a website allegedly oft-confused with a famous insurance comparison website CompareTheMarket.com sending tweets?). He even sent me a personal message saying “Many thank yous for kind follow.I spend long time finding best meerkat and hope you enjoy website.I look forward to internet speakings!Aleks” (who on earth has the job of doing that?!)…

It’s also a source of news itself – or at least news breaking – sending an SMS/text message update while seeing a plane crashing into a river, or the like, will always announce what happened to the world faster than any news wire could ever be. And when it’s not a source of news it’s providing comments on it, such as the concern over Huw Edwards freezing during the Presidential Inauguration this week.

Long live twitter!


Twits!

15 August 2008

I had no idea Twitter had removed it’s SMS updates – I had noticed things had changed – until I read this. It’s a shame that they cannot manage this service successfully – SMS updating was the real advantage Twitter had over any other social networking facility (together with it’s ability to link in to other services)… I think I’m likely to use it less now – not out of choice, but because it’s usefullness to me is diminished.


Germaine Greer, you can do better than this!

29 July 2008

She has a good point she finally gets to in her rant about new housing:

The British, like other timid mammals, are neophobic – that is, irrationally terrified of the new. Eco-housing will have to work differently without looking different.

…but her argument is terrible. She bemoans the destruction of romantic but inadequate Irish cottages – most of which disappeared with the potato famine and has no concept of housing’s role in creating, and reaction to economic forces, demographics and lifestyles… to suggest that unless you live in a hemp-built wind turbine clad in solar panels over a tube station you’re not really eco is just plain stupid..

Although I quite like her argument that “Houses grew uglier as the proportion of architects in the population and their share of the new-build budget grew”… St George’s Wharf is a good example of a building designed for maximum river views (and thus maximum profitability) – but will it not always been thus? In a world of commercial developers, and a country country obsessed with home ownership, design isn’t going to be based on what looks good from the outside. And look where functional designs have got us in the past. How does this all compare to her house?

Come on Germaine – you have some great points to make but sadly your argument let you down.


iGoogle

9 June 2008

I have recently discovered the joys of iGoogle… being an avid Gmail user I am usually logged in to what they like to call my Google Account. I have, however, always been bemused by RSS feeds so clicking randomly on them I realised I could add feeds to a ‘Google Homepage’. I now have three pages (I am sure I will get more) one with my gmail and blogs I read quite regularly for personal or work reasons, feeds from newspapers or work journals and even my gmail and TfL updates… I no longer need to search through multiple websites each day, I get it all in one place!

I haven’t worked out yet, though, whether that means it’s time saving or whether sitting in front of it as I listen to Radio 4 with my coffee in the mornings means I’m wasting time when I should really be heading to work!


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