Away from the canvassing, the shaking hands and the snogging of babies by wannabe politicians in Glasgow North East, there's an important battle going on that affects the basic democratic nature of this country. Last week, the BBC held a hustings on a radio show. A hustings is always understood to be an event where all the candidates have a chance to address an audience and answer questions. Well, the BBC version is different because the BBC pick & choose which candidates they will allow on the stand. Whereas the Electoral Commission treats every candidate equally, the BBC feel they are above such equanimity.
Back at the Euro Elections, the BBC made an important policy decision. They decided to award airtime to political parties on the basis of past electoral performance. Because of this, the BNP were given the same airtime as the Greens. UKIP were given the airtime befitting a party that did well at the Euros last time round, totally ignoring the fact that their vote had collapsed in the interim. We saw the result. UKIP went from around 6% in the polls to a resounding success at the ballot box and the BNP gained their first seats.
It's as if the BBC don't understand the effect of the media.
They meddled in politics again last week with a botched hatchet job at Question Time. Whilst I personally agree that the BNP had earned the right at the ballot box (with BBC assistance) to appear on QT, they hadn't earned the right to have the show turned into a soapbox for their policies. And the result? The BNP bounced to 22% in one opinion poll.
Back with the John Smeaton campaign in Glasgow, the BBC continue to play favourites. At their "hustings", they invited Labour, SNP, Conservative & Lib Dem candidates. When Jury Team questioned the omission of our candidate, we were told "Only the top parties were invited". By what measure do they arrive at "top"? John Smeaton has been a comfortable third in the polls since his hat was thrown in the ring. The BBC say they base such decisions on "Past Electoral Performance". Well, because this was the Speaker's seat and convention says parties don't contest against the Speaker, it's 12 years since the Conservatives or the Lib Dems had a candidate here. And when they did contest it over a decade ago, they were utterly trounced.
If we were allocating airtime according to the last electoral test, the Euros, the BNP with the same number of MEPs as the SNP would have to be given equal airtime. Indeed, if only four candidates were to appear on the BBC on the basis of past performance, last week's Brian Taylor "Big" Debate would have featured Labour, Conservatives, Lib Dems and the Greens.
The truth is, all this chicanery shouldn't be happening. It isn't for the BBC to pick & choose who the public gets to hear, it's the Electoral Commission. Chatting with the Returning Officer, I remarked how his office were scrupulously fair in ensuring that every candidate gets exactly the same treatment. Be it an Independent or the ruling Party, every candidate is equal in the eyes of the law.
We've seen how the BBC can throw elections and lead the public by the nose. The BNP & UKIP owe much of their success to the BBC. This is something that Jury Team is arguing vehemently against with the BBC and it's an argument we will pursue doggedly for the sake of this country.
Jury Team is about better governance. We cannot hope to succeed whilst the State Broadcaster is allowed to meddle in politics and influence elections.