Wednesday, January 12, 2005

A mark against them

So far I’ve caught both programmes of the pseudo-Pop Idol Vote for Me TV show, where contestants put themselves forward to the general public to be selected as a candidate in this year’s General Election. Normally I wouldn’t watch these things, but as it’s about politics and touches on something I did last year (running as an unsuccessful candidate, remember?), I felt honour bound to make an effort.

And deeply troubling it is too. Of the seven contestants to choose from only two can be classed as liberal; the rest are all tough, hang ‘em and flog ‘em types. If this is a reflection of Britain today, I’m worried.

One, Rodney (about the only one whose name I can remember), has some truly repellent views. He wants to stop all immigration. Now. No more. He’s against Turkey entering the EU and for making Britain ‘great’ again. On top of that he’s a convicted fraudster – and then he had the sheer gall to compare himself to Nelson Mandela!

Sounds to me if he gets booted off the show UKIP will be beating a rush to his door. I’m slightly worried though that given two of the judges – John Sergeant and Lorraine Kelly – have both set themselves against him, he might actually win support from the public.

One woman also talked about asylum seekers and was clearly confused. She argued that we should only take asylum seekers who make a request to come to this country before they leave their own. Sorry? Excuse me? That’s precisely why they’re leaving: to seek asylum. As if that was enough asylum seekers should only be allowed here if they can be shown to contribute to the economy. If nothing else, her confused logic just shows the influence that the Daily Mail has had on a whole generation of people.

There’s another woman who is quite clearly a single-issue candidate, railing about phone masts. When challenged about the lack of evidence to support her belief that phone masts caused her breast cancer, she did little to respond. In other words, having an infirmity or suffering an illness means you can’t question her beliefs.

Then there’s the tokenism that I find a little worrying: a wheelchair bound lecturer, a young Asian doctor (both of them the most liberal of the bunch), and a working class single mum…

To be fair, of the three, I think the last has what it takes. They were shown canvassing on the doorstep last night and she was the most natural. Unlike the others she didn’t enter into an argument with the punters and simply asked them what their concerns were, tailoring her response accordingly. She’s also got a good central idea: ensuring that one or two civil servants are directed responsible for an estate so the buck stops with them. In some respects it’s rather like the neighbourhood idea which some Lib Dem councils pioneered in the 1980s, including Tower Hamlets. I suspect she might be a good community campaigner.

As for the judges, as much as I find Kelvin McKenzie the most offensive of the lot, at least he calls things as he seems them. I disagree with most of what he says, but I suspect that many viewers will probably agree with him.

As they probably do with the more illiberal candidates.


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