Saturday, 19 February 2011

A V Referendum I

The Six O'clock News on Radio 4 yesterday reported that David Cameron and Nick Clegg had "traded blows" in the issue of the referendum A V . I admit that I haven't listened to both speeches in their entirety, but the clips I've heard from both exuded calmness, reasonableness and rationality (though naturally I placed Clegg's speech higher on the rationality scale that Cameron's). Of "blows" there was no sign. Why oh why does political debate in Britain have to be described in terms of gladiatorial combat?

Sometimes the seating arrangements of the House of Commons are blamed, but this debate will now be heard largely outside parliament, so that's no excuse. I am sorry to see the BBC creating sensationalism where none exists. Surely we can leave that to the red-tops. We rightly deplore the bear garden backbiting that characterises so many parliamentary exchanges, particularly in Questions to the Prime Minister, but why pretend that this childishness happens when politicians are behaving for once in a reasonably grown-up fashion?

Sir Ernest Barker defined democracy as "government by discussion." Let us for goodness sake have a reasonable discussion, even a "big conversation" if ex-Blairites prefer the term, based on relevant facts rather than wild imaginings, about this vital next stage in the development of our democratic machinery.

Incidentally, I suspect the BBC may have caved in to pressure form the "No" campaign and no longer refers to the referendum as being about electoral reform. This is obvious nonsense, since various far more highly debatable proposals are routinely refereed to as "reforms" without the blink of an eyelid: NHS Reform, Education Reform, Reform of the Welfare system, to name but three. If you have not yet sent a protest to the BBC Director General on this issue please do so as a matter of urgency.

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