Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Grown up political debate

'Please let me speak. I was quiet when you were speaking'. This is something you often hear during public debates. This is demeaning for the person to whom it is directed and it may even get them to be quiet. Generally I would say that the person who makes this kind of comment is the one who interrupts others, but maybe not in the previous minute. If they were a humble person, as they are trying to make out, then they would not be saying this kind of thing.

When you watch the debates on television look out for who is allowed to speak. On occasions people get to speak if they heckle. Many years ago I was in the audience of a Friday night debate programme on Granada called 'Up Front'. It was hosted by Tony Wilson and Lucy Meacock. It was at the time of the poll tax and the person sat next to me shouted out at least half a dozen times 'what about the poll tax? It wasn't in your (Conservative) manifesto' Eventually he got to ask his question and received the simple answer that he should have looked under community charge, but he was one of the few who managed to ask a question. I heard a story that Terry Christian, who now hosts debates like this, got his break in television because he kept shouting out from the audience.

There is a need for grown up politics and the media have its share of the blame for the way that debates are conducted. Beware the next time you hear 'I was quiet for you'.

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