Wednesday, 1 January 2014

New Year's Resolution: Improve Political Debate

Wouldn't it be nice if all politicians made a new year's resolution to improve the standard of political debate. To paraphrase a Monty Python sketch, I believe that the vast majority of right-thinking people are sick and tired of being sick and tired with the level of political debate. I certainly am, and I'm sick and tired of being told that I'm not.

Political speeches are ripe for parody as there is so much that is said which is, at best, meaningless. More often it is simple insult which commonly results in a round of applause. Even the people who purport to be interested in politics will descend into insult. In Facebook terms this results in clicks on 'like', and this makes me concerned for the future of our democracy. The public are turned away from politics for many reasons but this includes politicians insulting each other and each of them giving their own 'facts'. More importantly, insults become a regular occurrence and debate is often meaningless.

When politicians talk about lines that must never be crossed then they are cheered. In practice lines are notoriously difficult to find in politics. When figures are discussed like unemployment or debt  then these figures are never perfect. There has to be a degree of error with figures even if it is just rounding them up or down. They will change on a daily basis and if anyone wishes to quote figures there has to be a reference point. This would be my main concern with the recent posting on my Facebook timeline which I wrote about on  Tory Lies or Labour Cluelessness except that a greater concern for me is the vitriol that results from misinformation.

Marge Simpson stood for public office and soon discovered that voters want to hear meaningless slogans. Those who use them will defend their honour with vigour. There is nothing wrong with supporting families, the nation, patriotism etc and anyone who doesn't agree deserves derision. A friend put it succinctly. "It's terrorism ... think of the children ... it's climate change ... asylum seekers ... British tradition ... the previous Government ... the economy ... etc etc etc."

Change the world


  1. I agree but do you. I believe that free debate of the issues is a necessary and perhaps even sufficient requirement for true democracy. Our state owned media appear to agree because they do not allow debate (the BBC definition of debate being politicians and comedians agreeing with each other with only occasionally 1 out of 6 voices on the other side - ie Question Time).

    Any real debate on global warming, recession, the EU, windmills, immigration, fracking, nuclear power, war crimes or almost anything of importance is simply censored.

    And not just by the state owned broadcaster. Some time ago every single MSP from all parties refused to enter a public debate about alleged catastrophic global warming with UKIP. In the same way Charles Kennedy, immediately after saying the LDs should be eager to debate the case for the EU, decided to refuse to do so. And of course almost all LD blogs censor commenters in any "debate" to ensure real "debate" with LDs is impossible.

    You must know that. Are you going to answer or censor this?

  2. Thanks for your comment Neil. My point was about the civility of debate, rather than any alleged censorship or limitation of its scope. I can only speak for myself, but I do believe that most Liberal Democrats would agree with me that debate should be free and open, and it should also take place in a civilised manner.

    You raise quite a few points, more than I could sensibly deal with in a single reply, especially since they aren't really about the topic of this post. However, I notice that these are key points on your own blog ( If I went into them in depth here, then this might turn into your blog.

    For now, as you can see I have published your comment, and even given your blog some publicity. I hope this goes some way to address your concerns about ‘LD censorship’.