The Great BBC Let’s Talk electoral stitch up?

No pressure on the BBC to give up it’s remit on public service broadcasting you say? Well, what Slugger’s been hearing is that it’s being cut down to four programmes next year. With Insight gone, (replaced by a new nightly Late Live programme) Let’s Talk is now local politician’s big shop window (after Hearts and Minds)… So it’s with interest we hear the news from the Alliance Party’s European candidate’s blog that Alliance will not be included in the big Euro Election set piece in two weeks time… Neither will sitting MEP, Jim Allister:

Update: There are some important details of this story that are not quite as they first seemed from Ian Parsley’s blog… None of the candidates will be on the panel, which was the erroneous perception I was labouring under when I wrote the blog and commented on the thread below. My apologies, if I’ve led you a wrong path here…

Although I represent the largest party omitted from the programme (a party with a significant grouping in the Assembly and a consistently rising vote), this decision is made even more outrageous by the omission of an incumbent MEP. This means an MEP cannot make his case for re-election this time, simply because his party has no place in the regional government here. I could scarcely be further removed from that MEP in terms of political viewpoint, but he has an undeniable right to make his case for re-election, having topped the poll last time!

Furthermore, like me and the Green candidate, that particular MEP has turned up at every public hustings so far. The three of us have, whatever our disagreements, taken seriously the challenge of representing our views directly at publicly advertised events to give the electorate the chance to choose between us. This runs contrary to the three parties elected last time – the DUP failed to turn up at all at one event; Sinn Féin sent a substitute to discuss international development; and the Conservative/Unionist candidate has yet to answer a single question at any such event. Yet all three of those will be given the chance by the BBC on Let’s Talk, and the three of us who have been so diligent so far will be omitted! [emphasis added]

It is worth adding that RTE has (until June) a weekly Q&A programme called, erm, Questions and Answers… But also that in the last general elections it split the leaders debate in two parts. giving the smaller parties their own bite at the cherry

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  • Zoon Politikon

    That is shocking. I shall be complaining.

  • This is very unfair upon the Alliance Party and the TUV. I am not a supporter of either of those parties, I hasten to add. I dont know enough about the size of Green support.

    Jim Allister’s starting point is that he is a sitting Euro MP and took 40% of the DUP vote share in Dromore. It is ridiculous to use the assembly elections as the basis of their support. They post-date it.

    The Alliance, on the other hand has 6 or 7% of the popular vote which is not insignificant.

    It may be worth looking at what happened in relation to broadcasting rights of parties when the Liberals when they only had 5.9% of the electoral vote in 1964. Somebody from the beeb might be able to comment on that.

  • iluvni

    By any chance, have the DUP threatened to not participate if Allister is put up against Dodds?

  • Zoon Politikon

    Hopefully a reporter from the Belfast Telegraph or another paper will read this and act accordingly 🙂
    The BBC’s fee is paid by all working people and not just the DUP an SF electorate. I too do not know enough about the Green Party but it would be a nice and refreshing change to hear their views: after all we all hark on about wanting a difference well how can that happen when we stick to the same old formula of Green and Orange. To want a difference we have to make it happen – take a chance BBC!

  • blinding

    I would like to hear more from the Alliance party.
    They are the only alternative to the Green- Orange carve up and should be given more coverage as the genuine opposition party.

  • percy

    maybe Jim Allister could get an appearance on RTE!

  • Mick Fealty

    Yes Percy. That would do it. [shakes head slowly and walks off in the other direction]…

  • Mick

    The BBC’s Politics Show is recording an all candidate debate http://oconallstreet.com/2009/05/07/the-big-european-election-debate/

  • Frustrated Democrat

    I am also, as some may know, not a supporter of the TUV or Alliance but to not allow them to appear seems to be completely ridiculous. The sitting MEP should certainly be allowed to fully defend his seat and Alliance are an established party here.

    To apply some stupid procedure flies in the face of democracy and also reality in this case. Let them be heard.

  • Marcus

    Shocking indeed. To omit a sitting MEP and then two other parties is censorship. Having only government parties included is Mugabe style media on the BBCs part.

    Alliance have good representation and should be included from their representation in the Assembly.

    The Greens have an MLA and recieved over 11,000 votes last time round in 2007. Also the Greens have two sitting MEPs in the UK and 43 in Europe altogether.

  • Zoon Politikon

    In fact BBC are indirectly endorsing political parties by these omissions. Surely against the BBC Charter?

  • Greenflag

    I thought the idea in NI was to encourage democracy ? This sounds like gerrymander in a modern 2009 media way. Shame on the BBC or whoever made this decision . Let Alliance be heard and Allister and the Greens !

  • fair_deal

    I must admit there is no other programme I dislike more than Let’s Talk and the election ones especially. My dislikes aside this might be within the regulations but looks plain unfair to the person in the street.

    There have been two debates with all candidates in attendance so far – FSB and NICVA – and a third is planned (as Conall mentions with cameras in attendance) so don’t see how a fourth is a problem.

  • jake the snake

    What a shambles – the three incumbents not even on the panel! Good to see even the supposed impartial BBC bowing to pressure.

  • prodgers

    The Alliance Party have a decent argument here – they are a well established party and should fight their own cause on this issue.

    They actually damage themselves by even attmpting to link with Allister on this issue. He’s effectively an independent, and whether he or others admit it or not – he didn’t get elected on his name, no more than Ian Parsley will garner too many votes on his own personal vote – all the candidates attract, or repel votes on the basis of the party they are standing for.

    Allister & his party have had one very minor electoral test, and the only objective way for the BBC or any other broadcaster to decide who should or shouldn’t be included in a programme must be to do it on party strength. Otherwise they end up creating a precident which fits this election and which they’d no doubt have to change for some other election when someone else isn’t happy. There is possibly an argument that all candndiates should be on the panel, but oddly the Alliance Party seem to want some inclusion, but not total inclusion.

    Alliance seem to like the idea of a 6 candidate debate, but no mention of the 7th candidate from the Green Party. Why’s that? They have a seat in the Assembly but possibly because Alliance clearly see the promtion of a North Down candidate as a nice way to edge out Brian Wilson next time round at the Assembly elections…. its not all about European issues you know.

  • sj1

    I’d rather have lets talk than that awful late live, it’s a terrible programme and in my opinion won’t last long. It’s a poor format, they ought to try something else, and they could try moving lets talk to another night, instead of replacing question time with it. It means if you watch one you miss the other.

  • ??

    The sitting MEP should certainly be allowed to fully defend his seat and Alliance are an established party here…

    why? in 2004 people voted DUP not allister

  • Zoon Politikon

    The same argument could have been said of Jeffrey Donaldson when he jumped ship to the DUP ??. Hindsight is wonderful thing but as a sitting MEP it does imply that the BBC are not endorsing other Parties more so than others. As a QC I am sure Allister will find a legal argument if there is one to be had.

  • Frustrated Democrat

    ??

    It was Allister’s name and picture on the posters, he is the MEP not the DUP. I understand his position is that he ran on a manifesto that he still adheres to but the DUP don’t and therefore the DUP left him and not vice versa.

    I in no way support his policy on the Assembly but as a sitting MEP he deserves to be able to defend his seat and what policies he stood on last time and what he stands for this time.

    The voters can then accept or reject what he says at the ballot box.

  • ??

    ??

    It was Allister’s name and picture on the posters……..

    allister was the DUP candidate – people voted for the DUP not for jim allister.

    glad you returned FD, maybe you can tell us more about those policies of the Tories , remember the 10% corp. tax you promised

  • Mr Allister should be allowed on to that programme to defend his many outrageous statements, particularly those on the Irish language, and his abject failure to fairly represent the north in Europe. The BBC are dancing to the tune of the ruling parties. Any democrat worth his salt should not participate in a fixed debate and SF should bear in mind if they agree to this, it weakens their case to be included in the main debates south of the border. Or do they want one rule for the north and another for the south?

  • Mike

    prodgers

    “Alliance seem to like the idea of a 6 candidate debate, but no mention of the 7th candidate from the Green Party.”

    There’s actually a clear reference to the Green candidate quoted above.

  • Mick Fealty

    ??

    “people voted for the DUP not for jim allister.”

    You have this on what authority?

    I would not suggest party is not important, critical. It’s possible to make an intelligent estimate that the lack of machine will be the difference between the incumbent retaining or losing his seat.

    But we’ve also seen this assumption break down entirely. North Down has consistently chosen candidate over party allegiance for much of the last forty years.

    Jeffrey Donaldson would have been obliged to give up his Lagan Valley seat under this assumption when he left the UUP for the DUP. That would have been ludicrous, of course.

    Parsley makes an important point here that begs something other than dumb grandstanding. It is not for a public service broadcaster like the Beeb to make such blunt anti democratic assumptions.

  • danielmoran

    mick… i recall that let’s talk has previous form on giving in to dup blackmail. i think it was at the the time ian jr was in the doghouse over, either the gays offensive remarks or the causeway episode. whichever it was, the let’s talk show the following week had a dup man on the panel, but the subject wasn’t even brought up from the panel. they must have been threatened on that. i wouldn’t put past the duppers.

  • ??

    ??

    “people voted for the DUP not for jim allister.”

    You have this on what authority?

    awwwwwwww mick , i hadnt even heard of JIm allister before the last election. To say his was a personal vote is absolutely ridiculous.

    “Jeffrey Donaldson would have been obliged to give up his Lagan Valley seat under this assumption when he left the UUP for the DUP. That would have been ludicrous, of course.”

    This is about a debate on the BBC based on party support, Allister has very little, the BBC are correct in their judgement. What poor Jeffrey has to do with is is beyond me. This isnt about standing down as MP or MEP but who is eligible to appear on the debate based on party support

  • ??

    It is not for a public service broadcaster like the Beeb to make such blunt anti democratic assumptions.
    Posted by Mick Fealty on May 08, 2009 @ 01:27 PM

    so where do they draw the line. What happens in other elections when you have everybody and their granny standing. if you have inter party debates on tv do you invite everyone?

    I can help Jim cwying now

  • Turgon

    ??,
    Since the DUP claim to be so confident that Jim Allister will be beaten why are you so concerned that he be kept off the air?

    He is the sitting MEP and the suggestion that the sitting MEP not have a place in the debate is bizarre.

  • Zoon Politikon

    At the very least their should be Orange, Green and in between 🙂

  • ??

    He is the sitting MEP and the suggestion that the sitting MEP not have a place in the debate is bizarre.
    Posted by Turgon on May 08, 2009 @ 02:06 PM

    he is the sittin MEP who cannot claim any significant electoral support. Thats the truth and after this election we will thankfully have the pleasure of watching Jim and the others disappear into the sunset.

  • Far be it from me to defend Jim Allister but to suggest that he has no significant electoral support is wrong given that he is the sitting MEP. When drawing the line, the BBC should compare like with like. It’s wrong to compare the Euro elections with the Assembly elections as Jim Allister didn’t stand in the Assembly elections. The Euro elections are a very distinct political beast.

    I too share the view that the political stage would be better for Mr Allister’s absence – but only if he’s roundly defeated after an election which is run fairly and where he can’t claim to have been discriminated against by a state broadcaster.

  • percy

    Turgon,
    Aren’t orange and green two sides of the same spud?

  • Zoon Politikon

    Allister should be kept off the air for he is first on the ballet paper: DUP thinking probably. He is the sitting MEP so he must be treaty with equity even if his views are repugnant but then again what is so different in his views now and when he was under the DUP banner? Thus is DUP admitting that they were sectarian and bigoted pre-2004?

  • Mick Fealty

    ??,

    “he is the sittin MEP who cannot claim any significant electoral support.”

    Says you. But he’s the sitting MEP. If he’s going to get bucked out, it’s no part of the BBC’s job to take a punt on the probable winners.

    We’ll be digging a little further into this story just to see whether and what kind of pressure may have been brought to bare on the producers.

    There is a proper place for corporatism in politics, of course there is. But finding out how the sitting the MEP came to be dumped from public view is certainly worth pursuing.

  • prodgers

    Frustrated Democrat

    “I understand his position is that he ran on a manifesto that he still adheres to but the DUP don’t and therefore the DUP left him and not vice versa.”

    In fact that’s far from the position Jim Allister adheres to.

    When challenged about the manifesto he ran under his justification for not sticking to it was….:

    “I didn’t write it”

    That’s the principle and integrity you get. Unless the TUV manifesto is in his own handwriting you never know what you’ll get. That’s why you can get the Jim Allister manifesto on the DUP website but not Allister’s own….

    But apparently everyone flocked to Allister because of his ‘personality’ in 2004 and not the fact he was the DUP candidate…..

  • prodgers

    Mick
    “There is a proper place for corporatism in politics, of course there is. But finding out how the sitting the MEP came to be dumped from public view is certainly worth pursuing.”

    The idea that he’s been “dumped from view” is ludicrous. He will not be appearing on one programme during the election. He was on the radio yesterday and I’m sure we’ll be subjected to far more of his dulcit tones than any of us would care to hear before June 4th.

    Unless Slugger has got some scoop that Allister isn’t being featured on any politics programmes between now and election day then this isn’t a story.

    Are there no other examples where an MP/MEP somewhere else in the UK has jumped ship from his/her party and then ran as an independent (which is what Allister is effectively doing) at the next election? I’d be surprised if something like this situation hasn’t arisen somewhere before. That probably won’t affect the fevered, comspiracy-theory riddled minds of some here on slugger though who believe that everything is a plot inspired by Peter Robinson apprently.

  • oneill

    Are there no other examples where an MP/MEP somewhere else in the UK has jumped ship from his/her party and then ran as an independent (which is what Allister is effectively doing) at the next election?

    If there are/were do you think their local media would have not have included them in such a similar debate? A very strange response from the resident Duped on here, you would have thought they would have welcomed the opportunity for Jim and his policies to be torn apart by Mrs Dodds…

  • Mick Fealty

    Paul,

    Nice try… 😉

  • ??

    the BBC are inviting representatives from political parties based on their electoral support, not individuals who have no quantitative mandate.

  • prodgers

    oneill
    “If there are/were do you think their local media would have not have included them in such a similar debate? A very strange response from the resident Duped on here, you would have thought they would have welcomed the opportunity for Jim and his policies to be torn apart by Mrs Dodds…”

    I was asking the question – were there any similar circumstances and what happened in those. I said there’s bound to be an example somewhere. Perhaps an investigative blogger might investigate.

  • Mick Fealty

    Argh,

    Embarrassing moment of truth… You are right ?? Just had an email confirming you’re correct…

    Apologies and amendments coming up…

  • kensei

    MF

    Jeffrey Donaldson would have been obliged to give up his Lagan Valley seat under this assumption when he left the UUP for the DUP. That would have been ludicrous, of course.

    Except it isn’t “ludicrious” and anyone who does shift parties should have the balls to do it.

    The European Parliament is a bit different, but in general while we may in theory be voting for local representatives, the setup means we are also effectively voting for the Excutive as well. That makes party affliation very very important and the examples of people voting for candidate and not party is outstripped ten to one by the examples of people voting for a donkey in the right colours.

    On topic: Allister should get on. But not the Alliance. I know JA is raving nutcase but at least provides some entertainment and putting insufferabely wet nonsense talkers on TV is abusing the populace in ways the licence fee was not invented for.

  • sandy paper

    “insufferabely wet nonsense talkers”

    is that Alliance generally or Ian Parsley in particular?

    which kind of “dry” has worked better for us lately that Alliance’s “wet”?

  • the setup means we are also effectively voting for the Excutive as well

    No we’re not, we do that in 2011.

    insufferabely wet nonsense talkers

    Careful, kensei, you’re sounding like a member of the Young DUP.

    And your spelling isn’t good enough to carry it off.

  • oneill

    Are there no other examples where an MP/MEP somewhere else in the UK has jumped ship from his/her party and then ran as an independent (which is what Allister is effectively doing) at the next election? I’d be surprised if something like this situation hasn’t arisen somewhere before

    Robert Kilroy-Silk?

  • granni trixie

    Its always the same – “man eats dog” makes the news. Alliance always tries to play a constructive role to improve “the NI situation”
    (ie not killed anybody, not called on people to bring the country to its knees etc etc)- which does not make news. But funny how invariably their peers turn to Alliance when they want a tricky job done?

    Apart from that, Alliances man would make good telly – articulate,intelligent,witty (“fresh parsley”?..ouch …I know, its a weak joke but Im sure it wont be the last with a moniker like that.

  • watchman

    Of course the duppers wouldn’t want their cosy tea party ruined by that nasty Jim Allister!!! He won’t be there if they have anything to do with it. It appears evident from their refusal to even mention his name in the run-up to the election, that they don’t want a piece of him.

  • Rory Carr

    Nice and easy now for the slow learners:

    It is the political party that chooses the candidate to represent that party.

    It is the electorate that chooses the individual candidate to represent their wishes.

    The party affiliation may or may not have an influence on the electorate’s decision and indeed it is a pretty safe bet to assume that it does but there is no way of knowing that one way or the other. In which case it is the individual who garners most votes who is duly elected and indeed there is no necessity for any candidate to declare allegience to any political group or party.

    So it is that when an elected member chooses to desert the political party to which he claimed allegience at the time of the election he is not then required to step down from his seat. This is precisely because it was as an individual that he was elected regardless of his party loyalties or none.

    Remember Winston Churchill? He used to switch teams with all the dexterity and reguality of Nicholas Anelka. Didn’t do him any harm.

  • Rory Carr

    Unfortunately it hasn’t done Nicky Anelka much harm either. The treacherous ex-Gooner b*****d! We nurtured him and now he appears to us as Cordelia seemed to Lear (Turgon will fill in from here with the appropriate quotation. Something, something “…sharper than a serpent’s tooth…. something, something”).

  • John K Lund / Lllamedos / Suchard

    BBC NI leaves a lot to be desired in my opinion.I consider that the more parochial you get in broadcasting the lower the intellectual grasp of the journalists and it manifests in their ability to read the oracle. They seem to be unable to use the term Conservatives and Unionists even though it is plastered all over the place. If they are so inept what are they going to call the next goverment when it is elected? They simply cannot get the point that after being condemned to the political wilderness, previously a normal socio-economic political free area, that the NI political tectonic plates are shifting and the electorate are being given the chance to help vote in the future government with David Cameron at it’s head.
    In spite of this they continue to indulge in, and it would seem accomodate, the two now rapidly becoming obsolete sectarian political parties at the cost of of all other political viewpoints. Hence denying polical broadcast space to the TUV,Alliance, and Green parties. Surely a shorter period to each of these paries should be granted here. Even if it is put out as a joint broadcast.
    Hopefully this matter will be discussed on Monday’s Talkback as it must be conceded that Jim Allister is the sitting member having been elected very decisively. I am not a supporter of his but he deserves a fair deal if only to stop the creation of potentially the largest parliamentary expenses pianola in British polical history of married couples in politics.
    The voting taxpayers of this UK province want a say in the nations affairs and to be represented by single mandate cadidates at the next General Election; the voting at this European election will send a message to Brown and hopefully bring a change of goverment closer.

  • jamesy

    The dup put forward a lightweight candidate as they had not the guts to put forward a more senior party member in the fear of a crushing a bruising defeat by the tuv -Jim Alister.
    Their tactic now to shorten the odds,is to spend heavily on a massive poster campaign ,travel around the province in an emblazoned bus,and put pressure where possible on the media to stiffle or prevent media coverage for JIm Alister the sitting mep.
    That`s the dup`s way of justice -.I sincerely hope they get a real routing for they really deserve it.

  • ??

    the two now rapidly becoming obsolete sectarian political parties at the cost of of all other political viewpoints

    you mean the two largest local parties. THe Tories have no mandate here whatsoever

  • ??

    The voting taxpayers of this UK province want a say in the nations affairs and to be represented by single mandate cadidates at the next General Election………

    really when did they decide this. Also this means not voting for reg empey as he has a dual mandate, and how many jobs have members of the shadow cabinet?

  • Junior Apparatchik

    A scandal.

    The public service broadcaster should do its job and represent all candidates a fair say.

  • jeep55

    Isn’t it about time that any supporter of Alliance, Greens or indeed the TUV, did the one thing they really can do to protest about this inequality. And that is to withdraw support for the BBC by not paying the license fee the next time it is due? The BBC have adopted this “institutionalised sectarianism” approach for years now and I for one am sick of it. As if D’Hont isn’t bad enough!