If you feel the need to cringe this morning I suggest that you read this interview with Dr Sarah Woolaston, the Tory candidate chosen by Open Primary in Totnes, organised by The Independent newspaper. Clearly its name has got nothing to do with the political outlook of the paper and I feel very ashamed having previously credited the paper with being a decent read after seeing this. I don't know if it tell us more about the people who email questions in (possibly the odd Labour stooge there somewhere) or the Independent team for publishing them.
Look at the questions; are these really the best they recieved? Some show little or no attempt at balance or even trying to get an important or interesting answer. Of course not all of the questions were awful - Norua Jamenez rightly asks about the experience of the Open Primary, Stephen Casey asks about the political philosophy behind Dr Woolaston's 3 year membership of the party and Craig Sotherton, Anil Joshi and Niall Simpson all asked valid questions on the NHS.
But there were others...
Jeff Gilchrist asked Dr Woolaston to justify the way the Conservative Parliamentary Party voted in the 1945 parliament; what on earth is he going on about? Do we ask the LibDems about David Lloyd-George or ask Gordon Brown to jusift the actions of Ramsay MacDonald? I am sorry Jeff but that is a very bizarre question - and unbelievably the Independent chose it to publish!
Frances Chaudrey asks about the role of Michael Ashcroft in funding Tory campaigns - OK I grant you its an issue within political circles but I am on doorsteps day-in-day-out year round and not a single person here in Norwich has ever raised it. It may be a big deal to Frances, I am not taking anything away from that, but does it really rate amongst the 10 biggest issues raised with The Indy?
Tim Vole offers the chance for Dr Woolaston to single out the most offensive thing that Anthony Steen has ever said; this question is offensive in itself (given its probably intent just to embarrass Dr Woolaston and/or Mr Steen) and Dr Woolaston's repsonse that most people have moved on is correct. This is negative politics at its worst; not tell what you want to change about the country but tell me what you hate the most about a man who is months from leaving office.
Verity Matthews asks about the expense claims of the "Tory squirearchy" - seemingly forgeting that the claims and possible illegal activites of our MPs covered all parties including the governing one - and the response of Dr Woolaston to remind them of LibDem candidate April Pond's moat was brilliant.
I don' t have a problem with challenging questions or the topics here, but I do question the judgement of the editorial team in choosing them for publication to a future legaislator. Are we really short of questions on crime, education, foreign affairs or the economy? I understand a GP getting a lot of questions on the NHS (including the fair one on Hannan's comments) but is this really the remit of her role? Or has the Independent just pandered to its own prejudices and allowed anti-Tory readers to have their day in the sun? This whole exercise is designed to trip up and embarrass not to probe, search and find her views. Where is the vision and the positive view of what Dr Wollaston can help to achieve in government?
Come on Independent, I was almost a regular reader - until this.