Parasites in our midst? And the cure!


Based on my limited knowledge of biology, most parasitic organisms have a co-dependent relationship with their hosts. Kill the host and either you die or else you need to find another host. I am beginning to wonder if there are some parallels with our broadcast and print media, that they are actually dependent for their own survival on the established form of our political system. Journalists are happy to ridicule many politicians and do their part to keep political structures weak and impotent, but they are just as determined to keep the system alive in order to protect their own livelihoods. With the Levenson enquiry currently taking up far more column inches than most of us can read in any one day, there is clearly a bloodletting frenzy going on.

My twitter friend Sam Chapman has a similar perspective. He tweeted this morning “The media’s simplification of politics into 2 or 3 brands is one of the few things keeping parties alive” Sam is not someone who is threatened by the role of Independents but as a Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner candidate he need not have been so frank – good on you Sam.  

The recent London Mayoral election is an illustration of this problem. After numerous calculations the BBC managed to ensure that their rules would allow them to offer a Party Political Broadcast to the widely despised BNP who they have learned to control, yet not to Siobhan Benita who was standing as an Independent. This denial of publicity for Siobhan because she was an Independent was repeated during numerous broadcasts and publicly held husting events including the one organised by the London Churches who frankly should be ashamed of themselves. One presumes that Siobhan’s ‘failing’ is that she is not part of a group who together could be relied upon to form a symbiotic relationship, allowing the Press to feed whenever they wished, on the basis that they allowed the elixir of publicity to be drunk in suitable contexts.

Despite the failure to establish this form of relationship, Siobhan achieved an outcome in the elections that was matched (and surpassed) only by Boris. All of the other candidates performed less well than their parties in the GLA elections on the same day, only Siobhan and Boris had a personal vote that exceeded party numbers. Although Boris achieved an impressive 176,000 personal votes, Siobhan was able to amass 84,000 votes. Imagine what would have happened if there had been a level playing field.  Just to remind the BBC, the BNP achieved 1.3% of the vote on the day despite their broadcast, Siobhan Benita achieved an impressive 3.8% which compares with 4.16% for Brian Paddick (Lib Dem) who also secured a broadcast.

In the run up to the elections for Police and Crime Commissioners (election day is 15th November) a similar pattern is beginning to emerge. In recent weeks Giles Dilnot (BBC) and Peter Hetherington (Guardian) have both run pieces which consider the role of Independent candidates in these elections. In each case these experienced journalists with their investigative resources concluded to differing degrees that there may not be the scope for Independents that the authors of the PCC role had hoped.  However both men managed to discuss Independent candidates without interviewing anyone outside of the main political parties. A piece in today’s Observer authored by Mark Townsend is not about Independents, but it is about the election for Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner. As an Independent candidate for Sussex I clearly have great interest in this subject. However Mark who is renowned for his exposure to the dangerous wilds of Afghanistan, chose to catch the train to Haywards Heath to interview some of the electors. He spoke to them about the candidates, and then proceeded to report on the views of some of the candidates. In practice he spoke to 3 of the 6 hopefuls for the Conservative Party nomination and one of the two for Labour. He could not even find column space for my name to mention that there is an  Independent Candidate standing! 

I recall an episode of the West Wing when CJ is determined to punish the New York Times for their irresponsible reporting. She thinks she has persuaded the President to stop buying the paper for the whole of the Whitehouse (several 100 copies). However in the end he admits it is only the edition that he and Mrs Barlett buy personally. Like most of the Independents standing in Novembers election, I cannot punish the press or broadcast media for their failure to engage with people like us in their articles. However I would be delighted to get enough votes in my campaign to become the first Police and Crime Commissioner for Sussex. I reckon that would give Messrs Dilnot, Hetherington and Townsend something to write about. I am not offering an alternative hide for Parasites to alight on, they need to evolve, just as the political parties need to evolve. We need a new paradigm that provides all of us with a politics that is not party dominated, or controlled, but which has at its root ideas and concepts similar to those that helped to birth the parties. We need a press that is not so impoverished that it debates issues in a studio with no one present who has any experience of the matters under debate.

About ianchisnall

I am passionate about the need for public policies to be made accessible to everyone, especially those who want to improve the wellbeing of their communities. I am particularly interested in issues related to crime and policing as well as health services and strategic planning.
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