Voters complain that they hear from would-be politicians only at election time.
The fact is that most voters don’t want to hear from would-be politicians at any time, but only from those who are already in power, or likely to be helped by their political party to gain power.
The same is true of the BBC. Whenever a minor political party is interviewed on air the BBC does so simply because electoral law requires it.
Even then, the BBC does not allow these parties to put across what they stand for, but the few minutes of broadcast time is taken up by puerile nit-picking of some alleged error found by BBC researchers. When it is demonstrated to be wrong, it has wasted time and listeners are none the wiser what the party actually stands for, but they remember the supposed error. This is the state of BBC interviewing of minor parties, masquerading as ‘holding politicians to account’ instead of providing a service to the nation by informing the public what these parties stand for. This nit-picking is a feature of secular puritanism and demonstrates an unwillingness to let people speak for themselves, which is no surprise in a no platforming society. The BBC interviewer does the donkey-work for major politicians, protecting them from their political opponents. This donkey does not progress political debate.
Whither election hustings?
The role of public hustings at elections is declining.
It is noticable that would-be politicians in the major parties are guided away from hustings until they learn the ropes, and even well-known politicians say as little as possible lest they are caught out by saying something inappropriate. This was Boris Johnson’s strategy to win the Tory leadership and political pundits say he is doing the same in the current General Election campaign.
Candidates for local or national political office pick and choose the hustings they will attend, to such an extent that hustings are cancelled and slowly their number and utility are declining. Social media and the broadcasting media are the few remaining opportunities to raise one’s voice.
Similarly, even political party leaders must stage some stunt in order to draw the attention of the mainstream media. Just as bankers used to assess risk but are now salesmen, so journalists and media personnel cannot assess the quality of political contribution but they simply find some factoid with which to spin out the statutory time they must give to minor political parties, contributing to the fallacy that truth lies with the majority.
The Scottish Christian Party has often called for regular annual hustings or a local equivalent at which sitting politicians and even local government officials can be held to account by the public. Of course, sitting politicians and local officials don’t want this. It is bad enough for them to be questioned by journalists and the media, so why should they involve the public?
27 Nov 2019: Ian Dale of LBC radio has a similar issue even with senior politicians. He is not alone. Good Morning Britain has complained about the inability to interview Boris Johnson. What about involving minor parties to fill up the available vacant time and broaden the debate instead of focusing on the narrowing campaign agenda?
28 Nov 2019: on BBC Question Time tonight, Fiona Bruce more than once appealed to Panel members that week after week we hear the public complain that they do not believe politicians, are disenfranchised, and don’t want to vote, and politics is degraded. She asked: “Are you proud of yourselves?” I ask: Are the BBC and the mainstream media proud of closing down minor political parties and starving them of the oxygen of publicity? Are they unable to find people who speak the truth? Is the BBC is unable to find alternative and more believable voices?
30 Nov 2019: the Scottish Christian Party Leader has been no platformed by BBC Scotland for its hustings in Dingwall next week. Although he is a candidate in this constituency, although he has been leader of a Scottish political party for almost a decade, has written manifestos for Holyrood and Westminster and has been active in his local community council, yet the BBC has debarred him from being present at this hustings because he is not a member of a major political party. The hustings is part of the “Scottish Leaders Debate [and] Radio Scotland hustings debate near you”, but it appears that the BBC is happy to by-pass the opportunity to have a Scottish Leader at its hustings. Although he is the SCP Leader and a candidate, not only is he denied the opportunity to be on the platform but neither is he allowed to apply to be a member of the audience! So much for the BBC’s sense of proportion, its capacity to create informed debate but in particular its ability to be fair to minor parties, contradicting the spirit and possibly the letter of Section 3(2)(f)(i) of the Communications Act 2003. On its Good Morning Scotland programme on 26/11/2019 held in Dingwall, the co-leader of the Scottish Greens was interviewed although there was no Green candidate in this constituency and the Brexit candidate in this constituency “was not able to join us”.
The BBC told me that it was confusing to listen to seven candidates on a radio broadcast. However, there is no proof that seven candidates will turn up at the hustings as the Brexit candidate is nowhere to be seen and never appeared on the BBC Good Morning Scotland interviews. Additionally, I took part in a similar Radio Scotland broadcast from Eden Court, Inverness, on 22 April 2015, so what is the difference on this occasion? I had a similar tussle with the Federation of Small Businesses in 2015 but I succeeded on that occasion and my opening remarks at its Aviemore hustings along with Danny Alexander, who had been Chief Secretary to the Treasury, can be heard here. I have been no platformed by the Inverness Chamber of Commerce, which has a Christian as its chief executive, and so the battle goes on for a Christian Voice in the public arena.
3 Dec 2019: on my way to the Dingwall hustings, I learned from the BBC producer that Kate Brownlie, the Brexit candidate, had been added to the platform to make five candidates. There is no information on the Brexit Party website and next to nothing is available publicly about the candidate except that she is domiciled in Lancashire. I handed out my leaflets in the cold outside Dingwall Academy. However, it seems that I and SFP candidate were not the only ones kept out “in the cold” tonight! The Brexit Party candidate arrived and said that she would mention that we had been denied access to the husting; in the event, she did not, for whatever reason. She works in Lancashire but once lived in Lochaber. Ian Blackford, the leader of the SNP group in the Westminster Parliament arrived and brushed aside my greeting as he strode purposefully into the Academy. So this leader and representative of ‘the friendly SNP’ who assert that all immigrants are welcome in Scotland, who complain that Brexit is toxic for Scotland, has so little civility that he cannot greet another candidate. It seems that I am not alone as this tweet suggests [22 Feb 2021: I wonder why this tweet has been removed!]. I may say that the other candidates have been friendly and engaged with me in discussion. Blackford has arranged his own meetings all over the constituency but he will not engage in debate at a hustings that I attend. He will not attend the Dingwall Community Council hustings on Thursday 5/12/2019 in Dingwall, although the candidates were offered six possible dates. This is democracy at work in the UK at present. Yet the BBC would publicise some ridiculous stunt if I would offer it to them. It would be ‘good copy’ to show Christians in a ridiculous light.
4 Dec 2019: the BBC Dingwall hustings went ahead without two candidates, who were present but standing outside in the cold as they were not allowed into the building along with the rest of the public.
11 Dec 2019: the BBC informed me the hustings would be broadcast the next day at 5 p.m. but it was not on Radio Scotland. The BBC did not inform me where to find the broadcast hustings and eventually I found it online here with no explanation for my absence although I asked the producer to do so. A biographical profile was given for each of the panel candidates, but none for the other two candidates. This makes it appear to the listening public that the SCP candidate would not appear. This is the treatment that smaller political parties face. The media are the opinion-makers, but they are accountable only to themselves.
13 Dec 2019: on BBC Question Time Election Special tonight, Drew Henry, SNP MP, said “you can’t ignore people”, applied to the Tories and Labour towards the SNP, but the three SNP MPs at the Election Count in Inverness, including Drew Hendry, are quite capable of ignoring people as I witnessed last night towards another candidate.
14 Oct 2022: the Scottish Christian Party’s programme for public accountability.
28 Oct 2022: George Galloway received the same treatment from the BBC here. He handled it with his usual aplomb.