Monday, August 24, 2009

Possibly the most rude, pointless and patronising political interview ever

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.


James Valentine said...

"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."

Well obviously you don't like the question but does this make it "rude, pointless and patronising?" Sarah Woolaston perhaps has a higher media profile than you so that's why she gets asked more challenging questions. You had better get used to it - your opponent certainly is.

So what's your answer to the Ashcroft question, then?

Antony said...

As I write back to you James I am doing my constituency correspondance. I am writing letters about (in no particular order, just the way they come off the pile)

Crime in Norwich
Domestic Violence
Council Tax
Fishing Quotas
MPs expenses
Vocational Training
Education Reforms
The N&N (our local NHS hospital)

As I said not a single mention of Ashcroft at all; nor does he show up on polls of people's most important interested.

I will win this election if I focus on what people really care about.

James Valentine said...

As you suspect, I would prefer your opponent to win the election. But I think you might stand a slightly better chance if you got accustomed to answering questions. If you imply that certain themes are illegitimate because they don't pass an arbitrary popularity test then it implies disrespect for the questioner - expect a rough ride closer to the election!

Your list of issues certainly reflects popular "postbag" concerns in that, for example the environment/climate change aren't mentioned. But does that mean that you don't need to express a view about this important subject?

And just for the record, what's your personal take on Ashcroft/Conservative party funding?

Antony said...

Thanks for recongising that James - the Ashcroft issue is a big issue for people that will never or even consider voting Conservative. Hence why I think Tory candidate ought to stick to issues that affect floating voters. As you probably know the list wasn't exhaustive, just a weeks worth of post, and I will be speaking out on issues that people raise both now and in the future. Interestingly I am in the process of writing a blog post on the issue of choosing subject matter for political litertaure you may be interested in. Hopefully should do that later in the week.

Are you really saying that Aschroft is the or even in the top 10/20 issues facing the nation? I just think that the Indy should have focused slightly more on what Gordon, Dave and Nick would call "the issues that matter".

On the subject of Ashcroft I have no personal knowledge of the in's and out's of this but he should comply fully with UK laws on the issue. Are you saying he isn't? I have no problem with businessmen funding parties, like I have no problems with Trades Unions doing it either. I would prefer, Obama style, a situation where lots of people contribute smaller amounts because this is better for democracy. Either way, Ashcroft or Unite still prevent the cost of democracy from falling on the taxpayer (which I see as a good thing).

Either way I'd still prefer to be answering questions about other things that will impact the future of the country. With respect, Ashcroft et al are "activists issues".

James Valentine said...

Sarah Woolaston is already a media star because of the unusual way in which she was selected whereas you are an “ordinary” PPC and the media and general public are not particularly interested in you -- yet. But when the campaign finally comes around that will change, and one or two people may indeed try to “trip you up” – isn’t that just part of politics? Though I looked again at the supposedly “rude” questions selected for Ms Woolaston and I do not find questions such as, who is the most fanciable MP or what does she have on her iPod as being so devastating. You seem quite sensitive about what looks to me like a gentle canter through some political issues.

I have only met Charles Clarke briefly but he is obviously the sort of guy who doesn't run away from answering any question, any time. It should be an interesting contest!

Antony said...

Actually I do think that being asked which Tory frontbenchers she fancied is rude; it is being asked because she is a woman. Could you imagine a male PPC being asked tht question (except Lembit perhaps!) The iPod question is fine - I am asked all the time what car I drive, where I shop, where my children go to school and even what religion I am. But never who do I fancy - Justine Greening or Chloe Smith??

As for Mr Clarke, I admire him as a politican but on many, many occassions I have seen him duck and not answer questions.

We'll have to agree to disagree - but I look forward to an honest campaign even if I do get into trouble for being too honest!!