Saturday, 12 September 2009

Save our election night.

Well upholstered Tory Chairman Eric Pickles, now there surely is a name made to appear on the marquee outside the theatre on the pier of a run down seaside resort, is not a happy man. He weighed in ( really I must stop it) to criticise the growing numbers of councils believed to be considering moving the counting of the votes for the next general election from Thursday night to the following morning.

The move, claimed to be due to the rising numbers of people using postal votes and the high cost of paying council employees to work until the early hours of the morning counting the votes, mirrors current practice for all European Parliament elections and most local elections.

Employing the sort of rhetoric Seneca would have given his right arm for Mr Pickles said delaying the count until the Friday morning meant the event that defines our democracy would have ‘all the impact of a soggy sparkler on Bonfire Night.’

He isn’t alone in seeking to defend the traditional election night festivities; Jonathan Isaby of Conservativehome has launched a Facebook petition devoted to the issue.

Good luck to them and shame on the Town Hall penny pinchers who want, as usual, to spoil the fun.

Seriously, it may not rank up there with seeing the Grand Canyon or sailing down the Nile, but everyone should attend at least one election count before they die.

As an event it is somewhere between a farce and a thriller with boxes being rushed in from the polling stations and, once the counting is under way people, most of whom you don’t know and may never see again rushing around passing on results from constituencies around the country that have already declared their result. You’re up by five percent, no you’re down by three; your party is set to form the next government, no its out of the game and heading for an embarrassing leadership race before the conference season starts.

The whole thing ends with the candidates, at least in a general election anyway, stepping up onto the podium to make their victory speech or to try and get at least one sentence of their gracious concession onto the local news.

It is all pure theatre and of a decidedly amateur dramatic sort, and all the better for it. Election night, when careers are made or made to founder is one of the few moments when politicians cannot duck making contact with the most important people, the voters. I am on the side of Eric Pickles, Jonathan Isaby, the massed ranks of Facebook and anyone else fighting to save our election night.

Should the BNP appear on Question Time?

This week the BBC confirmed that it may invite BNP leader Nick Griffin onto its popular discussion programme Question Time, which may cause problems for the three main political parties all of whom refuse to share a platform with the far right party.

How does this make you feel? Angry that an oafish man representing a party that shamelessly trades on misery and ignorance has been given a platform on national television? So do I, however, I also find it hard to disagree with the BBC’s chief political adviser Ric Bailey when he points out that the BNP has ‘demonstrated evidence of electoral support at a national level’, meaning that under its own rule our national broadcaster has to treat them with due impartiality.

This is not, necessarily, the disaster it at first appears to be, by refusing to share a platform with the BNP the three mainstream parties are, unwittingly, protecting their most dangerous rival from having its policies exposed to public scrutiny.

Far from excluding the BNP from appearing on national television Labour, the Tories and the Lib Dems should be taking every opportunity to pick their policies apart on national television, exposing them for what they are, racist thugs who neither understand or truly love this country.

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