Election gossip from from our village shop today is about an interesting question put to the local Tory candidate, David Heathcote-Amory while he was canvassing a farmer:
- Will the 2010 UK general election be the first one to leave us speechless?
- Televised debates about televised debates really would be worth watching
- Vince Cable shows how 'Yah-boo' politics can win victories for the LibDems
- Blair speaks and the BBC tells you what he says
- Before we watch the debates, has anyone seen or heard any proper speeches yet?
- The 76 rules of engagement for the TV debates: and a competition to keep you awake
- Did the TV debaters tell too many stories?
- What's wrong with a 'hung parliament' if that's what the electorate votes for?
- The problem for two opponents in three sided TV debates
- The UK general election of 2010: a play in three acts
- Silent speeches by party leaders: the wallpaper of television news coverage
- Will the first leader to break down the 'ban' on applause be declared the night's winner?
- Is the TV debate ban on applause holding firm because we're obsessed with following rules?
Two debates on and, to my amazement, none of the leaders has managed to break through the ban on applause. Gordon Brown came closest when he got a laugh by accusing the other two of squabbling like his two boys at bath time - as audience laughter often leads into a burst of applause.
As regular readers will know, I've been concerned for some time by the way that British media coverage of politics, aided and abetted by the politicians themselves, has more or less given up on filming proper speeches at proper rallies in favour of interviews, pointless photo opportunities and exegesis of the gospels according to the opinion pollsters.
Tragedy, comedy or farce?
As a result, election coverage - and you could say the whole election - is rapidly boiling down to a narrow and obsessive focus on a three 'act' play, with each 'act' preceded and followed by endless literary criticism in the form of commentary and analysis by reporters, pundits and pollsters about who did how well, which one should do what in order to do better in the next one and what effect they might be having on the opinion polls.
Thankfully, I haven't time to go on about it - because you really do have to get your priorities right. And my most pressing one at the moment is to do a bit of preparation to pose as a drama critic for a media piece on Act II tomorrow night...
- The LibDem leader only ever gets to speak third, after the other two leaders have already had a go.
- House of Commons procedures allow the Conservative leader to ask the prime minister three times as many questions as the LibDem leader.
- The Labour and Conservative leaders both have dispatch boxes to lean on, rest their papers on, bang their fists on and generally look like VIPs - compared with the Liberal Democrat leader, who has no dispatch box to lean on and nowhere to put his papers other than in his hands in front of him.
- How does your party (not to mention the poor old country) benefit from your preference for letting the other lot do whatever they like for 13 or 18 years when you could, with a more rational voting system, be in a position to moderate and/or restrain the excesses that inevitably flow from absolute power?
- Is your party quite happy to be powerless for a decade or two in exchange for being in power for another decade or two?
- Could one or other of you please explain how anyone in the country actually benefits from this bizarre form of turn-taking?
" I met a young man in London the other day. His flat had been burgled five times, and one of them, would you believe it, Jacqueline, was when he was away at his father's funeral. He said to me "Why can't this stop?"
I met a young man in London the other day. His flat had been burgled five times, and one of them, would you believe it, Jacqueline, was when he was away at his father's funeral. He said to me "Why can't this stop?"
"I was in a factory in my own city where I'm an MP in Sheffield just a few weeks ago. There was a great British company there, a manufacturing company, that produces great metal braces with these huge rollers, which apparently are sold to the American army. They attach them onto their vehicles, and when the rollers move over mines, the mines blow up, but of course, they destroy the rollers and not the soldiers. The American army says that those rollers, diesigned, manufactured by a great British business in Sheffield, have saved 140 lives. Why is it they're not being used by the British army?"
"I went to Crosby the other day and I was talking to a woman there who had been burgled by someone who had just left prison. He stole everything in her house. As he left, he set fire to the sofa and her son died from the fumes. That burglar, that murderer, could be out of prison in just four-and-a-half years. The system doesn't work, but that sort of sentence is, I think, just completely unacceptable in terms of what the public expect for proper punishment."
"I went to a Hull police station the other day. They had five different police cars, and they were just about to buy a £73,000 Lexus. There's money that could be saved to get the police on the frontline."
"I have a man in my constituency called Clive Stone who had kidney cancer who came to see me with seven others. Tragically, two of them have died because they couldn't get the drug Sutent that they wanted, that was on the market, that people knew was a good drug. That's a scandal in our country today."
"My mother was a magistrate in Newbury for 30 years. She sat on the bench, and she did use those short prison sentences that you're talking about. I've got to tell you, when someone smashes up the bus stop, when someone repeatedly breaks the law, when someone's found fighting on a Friday or Saturday night, as a magistrate, you've got to have that power for a short prison sentence when you've tried the other."
"When I was young, my father ran a youth club with my brother for young people, and the more people who do voluntary service and give their time in the community to getting young people off the streets doing purposeful activity, the better, whether it's sports, dancing or music or other activities that get people off the streets."
"I had a lady write to me who said that she would not be alive today if we hadn't introduced screening and we hadn't given the chance to see a specialist in two weeks."
- How many of the rules get broken during each debate?
- Who breaks which rules most often?
- Which of the three chairman was most effective in curbing rule-breaches by the leaders?
Prime Ministerial Debates - Programme Format - agreed by all parties 1st March 2010
1. The objective is to select an audience which is broadly a demographic cross section of the country.
2. the audience to be made up of roughly 200 people, subject to venue capacity.
3. ICM has been appointed as an external recruitment agency and the methods of recruitment are based on their expert advice. In broad terms, we will aim to:
4. recruit within a 30 mile radius of the host city, mindful of administrative borders on either side of that radius based on the revised ICM list of constituencies.
5. recruit according to gender, age, ethnicity and social class to best reflect the broader voting-age population. The recruitment procedure will be transparent, and its methodology will be available to the parties for comment.
6. ensure around 80% of the audience is made up of voters who express a voting intention at the time of recruitment.
7. These will be subdivided into ratios which reflect a ratio of 7 Labour, 7 Conservative, 5 LibDem. The political ratios will take precedence over the demographic in the final selection of the audience by ICM.
8. within the 80% (see point 6) the broadcasters retain the right to recruit some audience members who express an intention to vote for smaller parties.
9. ensure that around 20% of the audience will be undecided but will be politically engaged. ICM’s definition of undecided voters to be the basis of this selection.
10. reserve a small number of seats for participants from outside the ICM selected audience, whose questions have been pre-submitted and selected by the broadcaster’s editorial panel. The broadcasters may use a variety of methods to encourage the submission of such questions from across the UK in the build up to the debates.
11. the number of questions from outside the ICM selected audience will be a maximum of four per debate.
12. over-recruit by a small margin to accommodate “drop outs” or “no shows”
13. issue audience members with a protocol of rules, including security procedures for entry and conduct during the debates. The protocol will be agreed by the parties.
14. The objective is to ensure maximum debate between the party leaders - the distinctive
characteristic of these programmes - whilst allowing the audience’s voices to be heard directly posing questions.
15. Each broadcaster will nominate a panel to choose the questions for its debate. The panel's membership will be public, but they will meet in private.
16. Each selection panel will include a member to oversee compliance. List of names of panel members attached
17. The objective of each panel shall be to ensure fair question selection in order to frame a
balanced debate within the rules of our agreements.
18. The panel will meet confidentially in the weeks running up to their debate.
19. All questions submitted by the ICM selected audience will be seen by a member of the panel. Email questions will be sifted and a selection given to the panel.
20. Initially, each panel will sift through a selection of questions drawn from those submitted by members of the public.
21. They will narrow down their selections in a series of meetings up to and including the day of the debate.
22. Each panel will have five to seven members, including a designated chair who would have a casting vote if necessary.
23. The panel cannot be quorate with fewer than three of its members present.
24. In selecting its questions, the panel will take full account of the following:
25. each question will be relevant to all three party leaders.
26. no question shall focus on one party or one leader.
27. all questions will be based on election issues
28. audience members will be made aware of these rules before submitting their final questions.
29. half the programme will be based on the agreed theme. Within that portion of the programme, a maximum of three questions will be selected on a single sub-theme (as listed in point 65 of this document).
30. half the programme will be unthemed. In this portion of the programme, a maximum of two questions will be selected on a single subject.
31. the range of questions chosen will reflect the broadcasters' legal and compliance responsibilities for due impartiality and fairness.
32. the panel will use its editorial judgement to select questions and will take into account factors such as the prominence of certain issues in the campaign, the distinctiveness of the different parties’ policies on election issues, voters’ interest and issues relevant to the role of the Prime Minister.
33. Within these rules, the editorial independence of the panel shall be paramount, because each broadcaster is answerable to its regulator for its programme content.
34. Questions may be selected by the editorial selection panel up to the start of the debate.
35. The selected questions will not be shown to anyone outside the editorial team in advance of the programmes.
36. Members of the audience will ask their questions. The moderator will ask the leaders to respond. The moderator may read email questions.
37. All questions will be addressed to and answered by all three leaders.
38. The audience members will be restricted to asking the selected questions.
39. There will be an option of viewer involvement via emails read by the moderator.
40. In order to maximise the time available for viewers to hear the leaders discussing election issues with each other, the studio audience will be asked not to applaud during the debate. There will be opportunities to do so both at the beginning and at the end of each programme.
Structure of programme
41. the programme will start with all three leaders on set and standing at their podiums.
42. The moderator will have a podium/desk and will move within a small area to allow eyeline with
the audience and the leaders.
43. The moderator will introduce the leaders,
44. The first half of the programme will be on the agreed theme but with the agreement of all the parties, in case of a major national or international event not included in the theme of the debate, the moderator will ask the leaders for their reaction to the development at the start of the programme before moving on to the theme.
45. The time taken for the reaction to such an event will be added to the time available for the themed part of the debate, unless the event is clearly part of the theme of the debate, in which case the reaction will be counted as part of the time allotted to the theme.
46. Each leader will make an opening statement on the theme of the debate lasting for 1 minute. After the three opening statements the moderator will take the first question on the agreed theme. There will be closing statements of 1 minute 30 seconds from all three leaders at the end of the 90 minutes.
47. Each leader will have 1 minute to answer the question.
48. Each leader will then have 1 minute to respond to the answers.
49. The moderator may then open the discussion to free debate between the leaders for up to 4 minutes on merit.
50. The length of the debate on each question will be decided by the programme editor.
51. The programme editor will use their best endeavours to keep to the 4 minute time allowance but it may need to be extended in the interest of equality of treatment.
52. Questions will be taken on the theme until around half way through the programme, depending on timing and ensuring fair treatment of all three leaders.
53. At the end of the themed period, the moderator will open the debate to general questions
selected by the broadcaster’s panel from the audience or via email.
54. The same timing format will apply to the general questions i.e. each leader will have 1 minute to answer the question. Each leader will then have 1 minute to respond. The moderator will then open the discussion to free debate between the leaders for up to 4 minutes on merit
55. There will be a clock indicating the time remaining for statements, answers to questions and responses. This will be visible to the candidates and moderator but not to the audience in the debate or on screen.
56. The order of speakers, based on an agreed grid, has been determined by the parties drawing lots.
57. At the end of the programme the three leaders will shake hands.
Role of the moderator
58. To moderate the programme
59. To keep the leaders to the agreed time limits
60. To ensure free-flowing debate being fair to all candidates over the course of the programme.
61. To ensure fairness on the direction of the programme editor
62. To seek factual clarification where necessary
63. It is not the moderator’s role to criticise or comment on the leaders’ answers.
64. The candidates accept the authority of the moderator to referee the rules on stage and ensure a free flowing, fair debate conducted within the agreed rules
65. Order of themed debates. The order of the themes for the first half of each programme was determined by the broadcasters drawing lots. The order is as follows:
1. Domestic affairs including but not exclusively: NHS; Education; Immigration; Law and
Order; Family; Constitution; Trust in politics; Political reform; 2. International affairs including but not exclusively; International relations; Afghanistan; Iraq; Iran; Middle East; UK defence; International terrorism; Europe; Climate change; China; International Development 3. Economic affairs including but not exclusively: financing of public services; Taxation; Debt; Deficit; Public finances; Recession; Recovery; Banking and finance; Business; Pensions; Jobs;
66. The leaders will stand at podiums throughout the debate. The positions of the three leaders during the debates are to be determined by agreement with all parties.
67. The moderator will have a podium/desk and will move within a small area to allow eyeline with the audience and the leaders.
68. Each broadcaster responsible for their own titles, music, branding etc.
69. The purpose of the programmes are for the viewers to see and hear the party leaders engaging in debate with each other and answering questions from the audience. The audience is a key element of the programmes and has to be seen by the viewers but there will not be undue concentration of the reactions of individual audience members.
70. There will be a close up of the questioner while he/she is asking a question.
71. There will be no close-up cutaways of a single individual audience member while the leaders are speaking.
72. However if one of the leaders directly addresses an individual audience member, a close-up shot of that individual can be shown e.g. if a leader answers a question by directly addressing the questioner.
73. There may be group shots and wide shots of the audience during the programme.
74. The programme will be confined to events inside the debate studio.
75. Breaking News straps will not be put over live coverage of the debate. On news channels (Sky News, BBC News channel), the scrolling news tickers will offer other news but will not cover breaking news lines from the debates while the debates are taking place.
76. Each party will have the right to recall the negotiating panel made up of representatives from the broadcasters and the parties, during the campaign to discuss issues arising from the debates.
Details of selection panels
ITV Selection panel:
Michael Jermey, Director of News, Current Affairs and Sport (Chair)
Sameena Ali-Khan, ITV Central regional news presenter
Alexander Gardiner, Debate Programme Editor
Lucy Meacock, ITV Granada regional news presenter
Jonathan Munro, Deputy Editor, ITV News
Alastair Stewart, Debate Moderator
Chris Wissun, Director of Programme Compliance
Sky Selection panel
Chris Birkett, Executive Editor, Sky News (chair)
Adam Boulton, Political Editor and Debate Moderator
Jonathan Levy, Executive Producer, Politics
John McAndrew, Executive Producer, Debate Programme
Penny Chrimes, Executive Producer, The Boulton Factor
Hannah Thomas-Peter, Politics Producer & RTS Young Journalist of the Year 2009
Daniel Austin, BSkyB Legal Department
BBC Selection panel
Sue Inglish Head of Political Programmes BBC News (chair)
Ric Bailey Chief Adviser, Politics, Editorial Policy
David Dimbleby, Moderator
Daniel Pearl, Programme Editor
Jeremy Hillman, Editor Business and Economics
- Vince Cable shows how 'Yah-boo' politics can win victories for Lib-Dems
- Televised debates about televised debates really would be worth watching
It reminded me of how often the garrulous Mr Naughtie has had this effect on me, and got me wondering whether I'm alone in wondering why the BBC lets one of their top interviewers ask questions that are often longer (and less coherent) than the answers he elicits from his interviewees.
So I found it quite reassuring to discover from a quick Google search that you don't have to look far to find comments about his long-winded style of questioning. Nor did it take long to come across some fine exhibits (HERE), and the following specimens are reproduced in ascending order of length.
I haven't timed how quickly Mr Naughtie speaks. But if we assume that it's somewhere around the average conversational speed of 170-180 words per minute, it would have taken him more than a minute to get to the end of the longest of these (184 words).
Is this another example, I wonder, of the BBC's apparent preference for allocating more time to its own staff than to the people we'd rather be listening to - that I blogged about a few days ago (HERE)?
Q: What's very interesting here is that we're very quickly back into the arguments, which are quite familiar about the reasons for war. And let me suggest to you, Secretary of State, that the reason these arguments are still quite fresh in people's minds a few years on is because they realize this has been a campaign attended by mistakes. Of course, there were people thought it was a bad idea completely. But even those who said, well, maybe this is the way to deal with Saddam. Look at John Sawer's, who's political director now of the Foreign Commonwealth Office, his assessment in May 2003 just after the invasion about what the American forces were doing there: no leadership, no strategy, no coordination, no structure and inaccessible to ordinary Iraqis. Now that was the Pentagon in Iraq. That was a mistake (140 words).
Q: But you see, the problem that we've got is that we know about Guantanamo and we know that Mr. Gonzales who is now the Attorney General has said in one famous remark in a previous incarnation with the White House that he thought the Geneva Conventions were "quaint" and they didn't really deal with the situation we've got. And we know, talking about the American Administration, we know that 500 people have been for varying lengths of time in Guantanamo Bay without the trials and the protections that would normally be given under your jurisdiction and ours. And people say, well hold on, if this is a model war, if these are for high ideals, if this is for the spread of the liberal democracy of which you speak here, how can that be? You're breaking your own code of conduct? (141 words)
Q: To the Foreign Secretary in one second, but on the question of why we went to war, yes, it was said Saddam was a bad man who was a force for instability. No question about that. But the American people were told pretty straightforwardly we're in the business -- the American Administration -- of regime change. The British people were told something quite different and very distinctly different; that if it wasn't for the WMD than the whole game would be different. Now we know that those weapons didn't exist in the way that we were told they existed. And Mr. Blair tonight persistently -- that the argument in Britain was about regime change, and yet we now know don't we because of the arguments that went on and the leaks we've had from the discussions in Washington that Mr. Blair's party was regime change all along (147 words).
Q: But the question is not whether liberal democracy -- you talked about this in your lecture on the eve of this program -- is a good thing or a bad thing, as most people in this country, as in yours, think it is a desirable state. The question is how you go about bringing it. Now let me remind you and I'm sure you know these words from President Bush himself in the presidential debate just before he was elected October 2000. He said, if we're an arrogant nation, they will resent us -- speaking about the United States. Now the problem is that many people who try to look at this fair-mindedly, look for example at the question of extraordinary rendition, people taken to third countries where there may be practices that amount under international convention as to torture and they know that they go through our airspace. And the government said, well, really request every time -- a permission is requested every time this happens. Is a rendition flight only allowed through our airspace if the British Government has been informed? (184 words).
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