Monday, 8 March 2010

Henley's Hustings - #rdgwest

#rdgpol - Hustings are part of the time-honoured tradition of election campaigning and a mere 50 years after they were first adopted televised leadership debates have been one of the enlivening themes of 2010.

That's not to say Charlie Brooker has gone all weak at the knees in prospect of a revolution in the mind of the public. Repeat: Charlie Brooker has not gone all weak at the knees.

For him "TV still fascinates and horrifies politicians in equal measure." He says it is a 'magic amulet' that has the potential to hypnotise and beguile, or, equally, to explode in your hand at any moment. The problem being that TV has a "laser-like ability to magnify physical flaws or tonal cock-ups... no matter how eloquent you are."

Well, he's the expert.

Nevertheless he seems to be undecided whether there's a fine line or a massive gulf between pure entertainment and meaningful engagement.

But Prime Ministerial debates aside, the competitive debate has long been an eagerly anticipated event among provincial candidates and activists as a rare occasion to leave their mark. And so it proved when the three main contenders for the Reading West seat went head-to-head on the regional slot of the BBC's Sunday political magazine, The Politics Show.

Cllr Richard Willis, Charles Hindhaugh and John McGarvey were on standby to advertise proceedings.

BBC South's political editor, Ian Paul also provides a handy (and detailed) overview as an appetite whetter.

Reading is described as a 'yo-yo town' where support for political parties swings. Reading University's Dr Philips Giddings describes Reading as typical of the south of England, as an area which is constantly growing and changing - which makes for constant political challenges.

You can watch it all again as Peter Henley grills Cllr Daisy Benson, Naz Sarkar and Alok Sharma on iPlayer for the next week (from 27.30-47.30).

Cllr Willis didn't feel 20 live and unedited minutes was enough to get into the issues affecting one constituency - so we can assume he doesn't think 3x90 minute debates among the Prime Ministerial candidates will barely scrape the surface of the nations 650-odd seats either.

But it seems the main problem was the unproductive 'bickering' between Labour and Conservative candidates which ate up so much of the time and sapped the energy from the debate.

Sarah Sharpe and Josh Harsant agreed with Cllr Benson that the issues should be more important than the egos involved.

Reading's Member of the UK Youth Parliament, Josh Harsant, went into more detail on his own blog. He argues people don't want representatives to claim endless credit for themselves, but to represent them. He asks:
"do people want to vote for people who bicker and get nowhere? No; they want someone who identifies the issues, responds and does something about it!
Green party candidate Adrian Windisch disagrees. He seems to want to turn the debate into a discussion on his pet ideas. He obviously felt somewhat aggreived for being excluded from the debate, but hemakes up for it by giving a short recap of the three main topics (health, education and housing).

Meanwhile LibDem Cllr Warren Swaine goes hunting for some evidence of his opponent's mistakes and finds a prime example where what was said on air was the opposite of what is being said on the ground.

And finally, West Berkshire's ever diplomatic communications officer Phil Spray provides judgement - he calls the result of the debate a score draw.

But then it's not all or just about winning, is it?


Oranjepan asks:
What are the big issues for you?

Have your say in the comments - you never know, there's always someone reading!

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Update: Jane Griffiths is more concerned about where the interview was held.

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More from on the election trail

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