Democracy versus Debate.

Why do the Media & Politicians Keep Getting in the way of Democracy?

I have resisted writing about this subject for a while in the apparently vain hope that the TV broadcasters and our national politicians would come to their senses and produce a constructive series of televised debates.

It seems this is a forlorn hope. Who are the losers in this sad spectacle of ‘to debate or not debate, that is the question’? We, the people, the electorate, are.

While the media strut their ‘independence and freedom of the press’ (which is a good thing if it is done in the name of the people rather than the media’s ratings/pride), and the politicians put their quest for power ahead of their obligation to promote a fully engaged democracy, it is the electorate that lose out.

It seems that the politicians really don’t believe we understand that a series of political debates should not be the only basis on which we choose which box to tick.

It seems the TV executives believe it is more important for them to appear to be strong and politically agnostic in the face of political pressure, than for the politicians to appear on the box.

Meanwhile, membership of political parties of all colours plummets to all time lows.

Constituents lose interest and become disengaged with the political process.

Fewer and fewer people care to vote.

Protest parties that represent extremes flourish.

Political leadership is about taking people with you, not just expecting them to follow.

How can people follow an empty podium? Why should voters bother to tune in to a media that uses the ‘privilege of principle’ to avoid the public spectacle of a ‘people’s forum’?

Politicians – trust the people to see through the artefact of a televised debate to distinguish hype from substance.

Broadcasters – put your principles to one side to find a compromise that gives the people who pay your TV licence and your advertisers what they want – a representative debate.

Ultimately the real loser if neither party finds a way to put pragmatism ahead of principle will be democracy.

And if democracy fails, neither the media nor politicians do well.

And we, the people, are the people who suffer the most.


Our NHS Doesn’t Get The Credit It Deserves.

Stop kicking our NHS. That’s my message to politicians this election campaign. From the 10 o’clock news to the pages of The Gazette, some politicians are using the NHS as a political football while ignoring the facts and the great work most NHS staff do.

Let’s look at the facts. NHS England is among the best healthcare systems in the world. In a recent survey by The Commonwealth Fund we rank number 1 in the world with Switzerland 2nd and Sweden 3rd. When it comes to value for money, you’ll do well to find any other healthcare system that delivers so much for so little. We live longer than many countries. If we are badly hurt or desperately ill we ALL get seen as quickly as practically possible. 9 ½ times out of ten, even if we have only broken a finger or fell over in a drunken stupor, we still get seen in less than 4 hours.

Yet judging by the headline grabbing comments made by politicians you’d think we have one of the worst healthcare systems in the world.

I have worked in and used healthcare systems all over the globe. Here in Amazingstoke we are lucky enough to live in one of the best run healthcare eco-systems anywhere. Our hospital is staffed by world renowned clinicians and has a world class management team. Rarely do you hear people complain about the quality of care they receive from the hospitals’ Doctors and nurses, while our GPs are among the more progressive and well ranked in the country. If we choose to use a private hospital, the same Doctors that work in our NHS hospitals are also able to care for you in high quality private hospitals around the region.

All of this costs us about £2,000 per person per year. The US spend more than twice that per head, the French 20% more, the Germans nearly 30% more, Sweden 15% more and the Swiss 60% more.

Sure our cancer survival rates can improve. We need to improve the accessibility and effectiveness of GP clinics and provide better integration between primary care, community and social care and hospitals. We certainly need to do a better job of helping those suffering from mental illness.

None of this need be too difficult if the politicians stopped point scoring and scare mongering by throwing the word ‘privatisation’ around. Over 50% of the NHS budget is already spent with private companies, and a significant portion always has been. The drugs that have eradicated some disease and significantly improved the chances of getting better from most that ails us are developed by private pharmaceutical companies. Our GPs are privately run businesses as are most of our mental healthcare services.

Yet some politicians scream about the dangers of privatisation and point at what happens in the US. Guess what, about 50% of the US healthcare system is run by public sector organisations!

It should not matter who provides the service as long as the care they provide is effective, efficient and safe; and it is entirely possible to ensure that unreasonable profits are not made at our expense.

So please, to all those politicians that want to score points at the expense of one of the best healthcare systems in the world, have some perspective and look at the facts first. By all means engage in a debate about ideas to improve the care and service, while ensuring it is affordable for all. But please don’t pretend the system is broken and the fault is the private sector or a desperate lack of money.

It isn’t. In fact, it’s really very good. Here in Amazingstoke it is among the best in the country, and in some cases in the world!

Less Shaming, More Debating

It seems everyday another story comes out about a UKIP candidate who has exhibited some form of shameful behaviour. This is to be expected as the general public and mass media start to subject a new party to the same levels of scrutiny of the established parties.

I think this is a shame. Let’s face it, all of the established parties have had their fair share of ‘named & shamed’ Members. UKIP are not the only party who have selected bigots, philanderers or other unsavoury characters.

All of this attention detracts from what I believe the electorate really want to hear, which is for each party and their representatives to exchange of ideas, beliefs and practical examples of how they plan to make a difference.

I have invited Hazel Van Bergen, the UKIP candidate in the Basing Ward, to join me in a series of hustings open to everyone in Old Basing & Lychpit. These meetings would be along the same lines of Question Time, with The Basinga/Gazette/Observer playing the role of the Beeb and David Dimbleby. All the local candidates would sit on the panel and residents could ask them questions on the issues that matter most to them.

Hazel has said “I’ll think about it”. I hope Hazel agrees and as soon as I know who else is standing in our ward, I’ll ask them as well.

Our elected representatives should have the courage of their convictions, and take every opportunity to engage with the people who can vote for them.

It’s time for us to stop the scandal hungry national media from setting the agenda, and start to set the political agenda ourselves by debating the issues that actually make a difference in our day to day lives.



Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different outcome!

I watched Question Time last night. It is always going to be for the last time yet I always tune in hoping that some one will actually capture the hearts and imagination with an idea, rather than just pander to their own political, personal or professional interests. Don’t the politicians on the panel realise that they have lost the trust and faith of the people they serve? The biggest political issue today is not that UKIP are winning by-elections or that Lib Dem support has fallen off a cliff. It’s that less than 50% of people can be bothered to turn out to vote at all. Leadership is about taking people with you, not expecting them to follow. Whether you agreed with Thatcher or Blair, it was those qualities that captured the hearts and minds of the electorate.

Speak Out!

We’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take this anymore”. Those famous lines spoken by Peter Finch in the 1976 film ‘Network’ sum up what a great many people believe about the current state of our political system.

I share some of that frustration, and rather than sit and shout at the newspaper, radio or TV I decided to try and funnel my frustration and energy into becoming a local Borough Councillor.

Councillors can’t have any impact over issues like the EU, immigration, income tax, fiscal and foreign policy and international aid. They can make a real difference to things like local health and social care, planning & housing and the health of our local economy and the communities we live in.

So over the course of my election campaign, and beyond if I am elected, I will use this forum to share my thinking on issues that matter to local people. Whether you agree or disagree, I hope you’ll share your thoughts with me.