Wednesday, 27 May 2009

We need to get out from under the establishment and fast

A couple of weeks ago, I blogged in anger about Ming's apperance on Question Time in the wake of the Expensegate scandal breaking. I may have misdirected some of that anger towards the party (although not all of it by a long chalk I'd venture!) and was verily slapped down by the great and the good. (although I note with interest that Alex Wilcox had also posed the same question)

It was pointed out to me that we have to work within the establishment straight-jacket of Question Time (and I suppose just sit idly by whilst David Dimbleby mocks and belittles us and cuts us off).

In the same way that we should have played within the rules of "the game" with respect to the speaker?

Well done Nick for calling on him to go and getting the result!!

Unfortunately, I'm worried we're now falling into the trap (being set for us) of coming across as too much like Westminster politicians.

The "impartial" BBC news introduced the item on the speaker with something like:

"After days of suffering allegation against themselves, MPs have now turned on one of their own"

which nicely sets up the context for Nick to be seen as just one of them.

The establishment is closing ranks to protect themselves and preserve the status quo.

For years we have fought for the media to say "the main 3 parties" instead of "both main parties". Well now they are! And you can bet your bottom dollar that once this "little local difficulty" has been successfully smoothed over it'll be back to how it was. In fact, I have notice several occasions when the phrase "both main parties" is back and used in relation to parliamentary reform proposals! Arrggh!

Apparently "all politicians"/"all party leaders" are now trying to out do themselves with reform proposals. Some in the media have even commented how it's strange that only now they seem to want to know. Excuse me! Over here! Hello!

A few times now on the 6 O'Clock News, the main report has had "both main parties" represented in the main story at 6:02 and then two sentences from Nick is shoved in apropo nothing just before Nick Robinson emotes across the screen at 6:25 (when most people have been bored senseless by the news and turned over surely).

Cameron is being allowed to be seen as the great reforming politician bestriding the UK stage cleaning up the system (Moat, what moat? All forgotten old boy). Last night, Huw Edwards said the main headline was "David Cameron has proposed massive reforms"! When he introduced the actual item he said the reforms were:

"Massive, sweeping and radical"

which must be true as newsreaders only read news, they don't give opinions right?

We know his proposals don't amount to a hill of beans but you wouldn't know it from the news. Do you remember when the news reported news not just opinion as fact? Or am I nostalgic for a past that never existed?

I know it is hard for us to battle against the establishment flow (or is that a BBC finally smelling the coffee and trying to suck up to the incoming Tory government?), but battle we must.

We should have been the first to call for a General Election (yes, I agree with Nick's arguments for reform first but calling for a GE is always win-win as Brown will never call one and if he does he was going to anyway and at least you can claim some kind of victory).

We should have called for all MPs who have been caught flipping or avoiding capital gains tax to be sacked safe in the knowledge that none of our MPs are quite that dubious! If someone calls us on this and says "you're only saying this because none of your MPs are affected" then good in that it brings out that fact which everyone (including us it seems!) is trying to sweep under the carpet.

In response to Cameron's weak "reform" proposals, Nick has been doing the rounds giving eminently sensible interviews. Here is Nick on GMTV.

However, I think he is being too reasonable, He always starts by saying something like "whilst I welcome David Cameron's proposals they don't go far enough" (Warning! Warning! Westimister politician alert! They're all the same). Stop welcoming them! Blogger Jamie Saddler, I would argue makes the same mis-step.

Whilst I understand that we have to be careful not to turn people off by being less than reasonable, I think we should be more explicit and say something like "David Cameron/Labour and the Tories isn't/aren't interested in meaningful reform. They just want to tinker round the edges as their quite happy to continue with the same broken system".

When Nick quite rightly makes the case that we've been going on about reform for a century and the times we have voted the right way in the teeth of establishment opposition maybe he should be a bit more feisty and say something like "it's a shame you/the media have never seen fit to cover it until now".

Ed Davey on The Today programme yesterday finished up his interview by saying:

"I'm glad you're now beginning to take them [serious European issues] up on the Today programme"

I see that another Tory/Labour deal opposed by only us to limit transparency is on the cards. We should be going ape about this all over the media. If this cannot get traction now it never will. This is our narrative calling!

Also why not bring history into it. Why not say "We Liberals first tried to reform the House of Lords in 1911" (or whenever).

On the news earlier in the day in response to Cameron's proposals we got Nick saying "Where are the recalls, where are the Lords reforms and where is the electoral reform". In later reports, his third point was cut off. We can't be seen to be tinkering like the others, we need to make the point that the whole system is broken, the others want to keep it and we want to change it and we need to make it strongly.

Make no mistake the establishment fix is now in, the powers that be think they have navigated through the worst parts of expensegate (notwithstanding the blip of the upcoming Euro elections which can be easily packaged off as a story about minor parties and then forgotten) and they can see clear blue reform-free two-party waters ahead.

I not saying I know exactly how we should act, but we need to act now and fast, that window of opportunity is closing fast...

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