by Martin Odoni

I moved from Glasgow to Manchester in May 1996. That was just one month before the Provisional Irish Republican Army bombed Corporation Street, wrecking a dozen city centre buildings and partially destroying the Arndale Centre.

What happened at the Manchester Arena on Monday night was clearly far worse, but having attended the Vigil in Albert Square on Tuesday evening, and then walked along the rebuilt Corporation Street up to the police cordon starting at The Printworks, my thoughts were inevitably taken back to that startling morning twenty-one years ago. Not least because the cordon appears to have been set up less than thirty metres from where the IRA bomb went off. (Coincidence I am sure.)

The cordon on Corporation Street.

The National Football Museum centre, the Printworks on the right edge of the picture. Victoria Railway Station is the building covered in tarpaulin. The cordon keeping people away from the MEN Arena starts here. The roof of the Arena can be glimpsed in the distance to the left of the Museum.

The IRA were not completely without scruples, and to their (slight) credit, they did tend to give evacuation warnings before triggering a bomb. Hence, even though it was the largest bomb ever detonated on the British mainland in peacetime, no one died in the 1996 attack. Truth to tell, while most Mancunians felt angry and violated by the attack, and there were some serious injuries, it was more a matter of hurt pride than an all-out atrocity. It can also be a bit of a shock to look back to pictures from before the attack and be reminded of how different, ultilitarian, and even shabby the affected zone looked back in the early-1990’s, when compared to how it appears today. So you could almost argue that the bombing did Manchester a back-handed favour, as it forced the city to give its central hub a handy facelift to get it out of the 1960’s.

On Monday night however, Salman Abedi crossed several lines that the IRA did not. Not only did he not offer any prior warning before he attacked, but he appears to have very deliberately targeted children. Even the two boys killed in the Warrington Bomb Attacks in 1993 were not specifically targeted by the IRA (even if the IRA and their allies in Sinn Fein showed little notable remorse over the deaths).

Although I am not a Mancunian – and truth to tell I doubt I will ever truly feel Manchester is my ‘home’ – I have been a resident of the city during both of the big terrorist attacks on it. And I do feel strong enough links to the city now to feel personally hurt by them both. But for all the ‘deja vu‘ sensation of the last forty-eight hours, I have concluded that the similarity between the attacks is slight. June 1996 was a shock, but only on Monday night did the city witness horror.

Those who say terrorism was new to Britain prior to about 2005 are talking nonsense of course. But those who say that there is ‘nothing new’ about the terrorism we experience in the post-IRA era are equally in error. Radical Islam is objectively far more ruthless, indiscriminate, and relentless than Militant Irish Republicanism.

Certainly I will not join the foolish, manipulative/knee-jerk cries of the hard-right to close the borders, to intern terror suspects without trial, to turn away all refugees, or to exterminate British Islam.

Somewhere between the words 'Hopkins' and 'Katie' in the dictionary, you will of course find the word 'hypocrite'.

Katie Hopkins thought criticism of hard-right activism after the Jo Cox murder was exploitative. That has not stopped her from using the deaths of 22 people at the MEN Arena to call for a ‘Final Solution’ against Muslims though.

Nor do I want to imply that Islamist attacks are particularly commonplace in the UK. They are likely to remain a less frequent feature of British life than Irish Republican attacks were. No, people should not become consumed by paranoia and assume that it can never be possible to live safely, or that there will be a major threat to their lives every time they open their front door. To their credit, the people of Manchester have demonstrated since the Arena Bombing that they are indeed not easily cowed.

Equally, I will always argue against letting Governments – especially Tory ones – manipulate this threat to grant themselves ever-more-unchallengeable power. Hence, I am very concerned about the decision to raise the Terror Threat level and put troops on the streets, while also doubting it will have any effect on precisely the people it is supposedly meant to stop.

But at the same time, we do have to recognise that the picture has changed. The threat between the early-1970’s and late-1990’s is not the same as the threat today. The threat today is blind to all notions of honour, and attaches no value to human life, except for the value of ending it; the more lives it takes, the better it assumes it is doing. The mindset is that basic and primitive. No matter how much the British media like to vilify the name of the IRA, in practise, Irish Republicans were never so bloodthirsty as Radical Islamists.

I do not accept that the threat can reliably be labelled ‘Daesh’, or ‘ISIS’, or ‘ISIL’, as all these names, like ‘al-Qaeda‘ before them, are ill-defined. ISIS, in the sense of the extremist army presently trying to conquer Iraq and Syria, does not have the reach that its mimickers in other countries make it seem to possess, and it is only by accepting that those mimickers really are members of that army that the assumption gains traction. And I repeat, an attack in the UK is not as likely as it was in the IRA’s time. But when an attack does happen, it is more likely to kill innocents.

So to compare the two attacks on Manchester, the conclusion is unavoidable; the enemy has changed, and with it, all idea of what constitutes ‘scruples’ has changed too. Paranoia is not needed; to become scared and intimidated or hostile would be to give the enemy what they want, while jumping at shadows will not help anybody. But vigilance is crucial, because the consequences of ill-judged complacency are worse than they once were. Even children are now being seen as legitimate targets, rather than just as ‘collateral damage’. Civilian spaces are now seen as indistinct from military ones.

Confusing the threat of the present with the threat of the past will always lead us to choose the wrong approach to counter it. While there is no need actually to be scared, we do face some nervous times, but it is probably better to be nervous than oblivious.

I would now like to turn my attention to Ariana Grande, the singer whose concert ended in Monday’s tragedy. Now, it will not come as an earth-shaking surprise, I am sure, when I reveal that I am not a particular fan of Ariana’s music. Not a criticism of her, her style is just ‘not my thing’. But I bear her absolutely no ill-will either. Therefore, while I rather feared she would, I am saddened to learn that she has started feeling so much guilt over what happened on Monday that she is talking about retiring.

Ariana Grande might retire

Ariana Grande has been so traumatised by the Manchester Arena Bombing that she is considering retirement. But she should carry on.

I should make clear that I commend her wholeheartedly for her responsibility and compassion, but her retirement would be quite wrong. The Manchester Arena Bombing was not Ariana’s fault in any way, and so it would be an unjust shame if she retired from her career because of it. Even if her music does nothing for me, there are millions out there who adore it, and why should they be deprived because of one madman from Manchester? Ariana’s retirement would, inadvertently, make the attack a success, as it would indicate that Western culture can be intimidated into stopping doing what it wants to do, even the activities that harm no one.

There is no greater defiance of madmen and fanatics than simply demonstrating that life can carry on, no matter what they do to stop it. Nothing will infuriate them more. It shows to them that they were wrong to turn fanatical; when they did that, when they let their minds collapse, they stopped letting their own lives carry on as normal. So showing them that others can keep on keeping-on where they could not puts them to shame – makes them look weak. So Ariana Grande should carry on doing what she loves, partly as a tribute to the loyal fans who died, and partly to defeat Salman Abedi. She should keep on keeping-on.

There is no reason in the world to imagine she will ever read this, but in the enormously unlikely event that she does, I just want to say to her, “Do not retire because of this. Carry on because of this. Carry on with more determination and more feeling than ever before because of this. That way, and only that way, will you defeat the warped purpose behind the Manchester Arena Attack.”

One last thing to say, and I left it until last because it is the most important; –

May those who lost their lives far too soon rest in peace, may those who were injured, either physically or emotionally, find healing, and may those who have lost loved ones know that the great, great majority of Mankind i.e. the billions of decent people who are dominant everywhere, are with them.

by Martin Odoni

After yesterday’s Nightmare On Tory Street, another YouGov poll has more frightening news for Theresa May. The Conservative Party, having apparently made big gains in Wales over the previous few months, appeared in recent polls to have overtaken the Labour Party west of the border, with the Tories on 41 points and Labour languishing on 35.

Now, after last week’s much-applauded Labour Manifesto, and the Tories’ everlasting shambles on Thursday and in the days following, YouGov have found the swing back to Labour has been far bigger and more rapid in Wales than seemed possible just ten days ago. The Labour Party has not just caught up west of the border; it has surged back into the lead there, and on 44 points, the party is suddenly an imposing 10 points ahead of the Tories, who have slumped back to just 34.

Now, a swing on this scale is not going to be replicated across the country as a whole, at least not remotely as quickly, but if it were to do so, Labour would not only be looking at forcing a Hung Parliament, they might even be the largest party in a minority Government.

I shall waste little time listing off the implications for the Tories, as they hardly need pointing out. However, I should mention that today’s latest little fiasco, with announcing an amendment to a Manifesto promise just days after publishing it, compounded by insulting attempts by May to convince everybody that there has been no Tory U-turn, has doubtless only cost her party more votes. But the YouGov poll in Wales was compiled from findings across four days up until yesterday, and will not reflect reaction to today’s farce. The Tories have made every stupid mistake it is possible to make so far in this campaign, and that is why they have started to haemorrhage support.

My priority is to mention the right wing of the Parliamentary Labour Party. It is time for them to grow up, and to smarten up. Their party has all the impetus now. Jeremy Corbyn may not yet be winning the Election, but he is dominating the Election Campaign, and that means he can win on the 8th of June. So I am addressing the Blairites, their allies, their apologists, and their spin doctors when I say the following; –

If you want to convince everybody that you are not just ‘Blue Labour’ or ‘Red Tories’, that these are just cheap insults that miss your true beliefs, well now is your chance. Just see what Jeremy Corbyn and his Shadow Cabinet have already done over the last month largely without you. Now imagine what they could do if only you would swallow your stubborn pride and get properly behind Corbyn. No, none of the shallow gesturism and ‘going-through-the-motions’ you have made do with up until now. It is time for you really to speak up for him, really to commit to his Manifesto, really to appeal for the public’s support, and really to show that you truly want that support.

For the sake of far more than just your party, you cannot afford to waste another opportunity like this. You made such a terrible, self-defeating mistake when you tried to overthrow Corbyn last year, letting the Tories off the hook when they were reeling from the Brexit Referendum. By some miracle, you have been presented with another opportunity. Do not make the same mistake now. The Tories, with their U-turns, their brainless policy ideas, and their comical public gaffes, are not ‘Strong-&-Stable’, they are vulnerable and clumsy. A sustained, unified, party-wide campaign by Labour starting now can bring the Conservative Party toppling down, and there are so, so many people around the country who desperately need that to happen. Never mind your ideological assumptions that old-style Labour politics ‘must be wrong’, and that you will therefore make them wrong just so you can tell yourselves that you are right. There are more important matters at stake than your intellectual vanity. Time to get on board. Time to work with the leader your party chose, and time to bring down the most draconian Government Britain has had to endure in well over a century. That should be a goal in itself.

The opportunity is there to do it, and contrary to your assumptions over the last two years, it can happen with Jeremy Corbyn as leader. In fact, it could well happen because he is leader; he is connecting with the public in a way that no political figure has done in about twenty years.

Screenshot from 2017-05-22 19-13-58

Just think what could be achieved over the next few weeks if you really backed him.

Corbyn can win this, and that means you can win this. Do not be the ones who lose it for your party instead. So many people will suffer if you do.

by Martin Odoni

The Conservative Party lead, at least in the YouGov polls, appears to be in free-fall. Their lead, suggested to be at a resounding 24 points a month ago, is now calculated at just 9.

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That is a dramatic slump in one month, but it gets worse; the Tory lead was double its current scale just over one week ago. With almost three weeks of campaigning time still left, there is now a realistic chance – though still less than 50/50 – of Labour forcing a Hung Parliament. That would be an unmitigated disaster for Theresa May, given her enormous starting advantage, and one of the greatest upsets in British Electoral history.

Two years ago, the Tories somehow got away with one of the worst, ugliest, dirtiest, sleaziest, most negative campaigns in living memory. This year, they have managed to exceed their transgressions with a campaign composed of repetitive dronings-on about ‘Strong-&-Stable’ leadership, ridiculous scare-mongering noises about Jeremy Corbyn, and policy announcements that openly attack many of their own core supporters, especially pensioners.

tory daleks

Each of the three ‘main’ parties announced their manifestos this week, a big occasion that should usually feed impetus to their respective campaigns. That was certainly true for Labour, as an ambitious and (by recent standards at least) fairly radical manifesto was greeted with enormous enthusiasm and approval by large numbers of people around the country, quite capturing the public imagination and really seizing the Election initiative. Labour has advanced 11 points in the last few weeks, according to YouGov, including 3 points just this week. The Liberal Democrats’ manifesto-launch was much-of-a-muchness, and was greeted with according quietness, and its polling-points total is thus the same today as it was beforehand. The Tories’ manifesto, launched on Thursday, has been described, in loud of echoes of Labour in 1983, as one of the longest suicide notes in history. It is uncosted, and its attacks on pensioners’ rights, including an effective ‘Death Tax‘, and on schoolchildren, with the end of free school meals, have clearly horrified even many of the party’s own core supporters. Outcome; the Tories are down by 5 points in the aftermath of launching their own manifesto! That is an incredible indictment of what an abysmal campaign they are running.

It seems people are finally cottoning on to the reality that the Tories have nothing to offer except cruelty, most of which has no purpose behind it other than looking ‘tough’.

In more good news for Corbyn, a new poll suggests that, in spite of the mechanical claims of Blairites, his leadership is not the reason for the party’s lack of support over the last couple of years; instead, the poll finds Labour would likely lose support if Corbyn were replaced by Chuka Umunna or Yvette Cooper.

Labour has the ability to win this General Election, folks. All the Parliamentary Party seems to lack – bar Corbyn and his closest allies – is the belief.

by Martin Odoni

So. The ITV leaders’ debate. I found the absence of Theresa May from it was rather a redeeming quality, as the leaders who did speak were comparatively less android-like, and she would have ruined that with her mechanical repetitions of ‘Strong & Stable’. I thought Caroline Lucas and Tim Farron were the most impressive speakers, Lucas very impassioned, Tim Farron surprisingly combative. Nicola Sturgeon seemed a bit awkward compared with her performance in 2015 and a bit too eager to speak from a narrowly-Scottish perspective. Leanne Wood’s performance was fairly solid, although it had a bit too much umm-ing and ah-ing at points. I do feel Jeremy Corbyn rather missed a trick by not taking part.

A special mention for Paul Nuttall – and yes, paranoid ‘Kippers, I will start by being fair to him. Given it was clear that the other four debaters were all in agreement on most topics, and therefore were dead-set against Nuttall’s far-right mindset, I genuinely thought his showing was surprisingly good. It can only be difficult to avoid getting in a flap when everyone else on the stage disagrees with your every word, and I thought he held himself together quite well.

But, having said all that, he still said some flipping stupid things, which made it easier for the others to ‘gang up’ on him. Here are my own responses to five of these stupid remarks; –

STUPID REMARK NUMBER 1: –

“There’s a big world out there! There’s the Anglosphere. There’s the Commonwealth which has over 2 billion people in it. This is where our future lies.”

(Emphasis added.)

Really? Nuttall thinks the British Commonwealth is this country’s ‘future’? That would be rather like Vladimir Putin suggesting that the future of Russia lies with the Tsars of the House of Romanov. Or Lars Rasmussen declaring that the future of Denmark lies in raiding other countries in longships and stealing their gold.

The whole reason why the Commonwealth is so-called, and no longer called ‘The Colonies’ or ‘The Empire’, is that it is not Britain’s future. It is part of Britain’s shameful past, and there is little reason to assume any of its constituent nations would be eager to offer Britain a better deal than the European Union.

Speaking of the Commonwealth as Britain’s ‘future’ says more about the pseudo-historical romanticism of the xenophobic right in this country, harking back to some kind of ‘British Golden Age’ that never really happened, than it will ever say about the realities of Brexit.

STUPID REMARK NUMBER 2: –

“We are letting too many people come [into the country]. The only way to solve it is by having an Australian points-based system, whereby we have the right to say who comes and who doesn’t.”

Oh? Would this be the same Australian points-based system that, according to studies from last year, allows a higher rate of immigration per head than the UK’s current system?

Well, I am fairly happy for extra immigrants to come in, so I am most gratified to learn that Nuttall was secretly in favour all along.

STUPID REMARK NUMBER 3: –

“My party is committed to putting £6 billion extra every single year into the National Health Service. This will fund twenty thousand new nurses, ten thousand new GPs… Net [migration should be] one in, one out.”

While I am heavily in favour of training up far more home-grown medical experts than has happened in Britain over the last twenty-five years, we have to face the reality of how long it takes; training up a new doctor requires up to six years of education. So as we wait for an enlarged next generation of doctors and nurses to come-of-age, what do we do in the meantime? Well, the answer to that is precisely what we have sadly been doing for the aforementioned twenty-five years; we have to rely on immigration to keep the NHS adequately staffed. But if, as Nuttall insists, we have to reduce net migration to zero, adequate staffing becomes a dice-roll. What if not enough unskilled people wish to leave the country at a time of NHS vacancies? What if a lot of the people leaving are themselves NHS workers?

The policy platform of the UK Independence Party, characteristically, is completely incoherent. Particularly, it fails to recognise how one policy can impact upon another. It is therefore ironic that Nuttall said at one stage of the NHS/social care discussion, “The left hand very often doesn’t know what the right hand is doing.”

That is a fine summary of his own party’s policies.

STUPID REMARK NUMBER 4; –

“Let’s not forget the opportunities Brexit will give us once we leave the European Union. We’ll be able to sign trade deals all over the globe.”

“Opportunities”? The UK will be compelled to sign such deals, instead of leaving it to the EU to sort that out, as it presently can. Whether replacing all these deals is an opportunity or a chore, it will be an obligation. A very long, slow, frustrating obligation, some of the negotiations taking many years. This is because, once the UK is out of the EU, it is also out of all of the EU’s trade agreements too. That will mean replacing the collective deals with individualised treaties, country-by-country. Nuttall does not seem to realise the incredible amount of work and time that will involve, and again, no plan for what the UK will do in the meantime.

STUPID REMARK NUMBER 5; –

“How would we pay for [NHS funding increases]? Well, we would take that money directly from the Foreign Aid budget… … … We believe as a party that people know how to spend their own money better than any Government does on their behalf… we believe that people know what best to do with their own money.”

The implication of this is that the Government spends tax-receipts on services. This is not strictly true, but Nuttall probably thinks it is, so let us go with it for now. With this in mind, from where exactly does Nuttall think the Foreign Aid budget is sourced? Throughout the debate, he kept talking of spending more on some services by re-directing funds from other areas. Fine, but if he is going to rabbit the Bronze-Aged cliché of people ‘knowing how to spend their own money’, how can he then talk about a putative UKIP Government investing in anything at all?

In fairness to Nuttall, he was not the only one to make the odd silly remark; I found Leanne Wood’s remark that large class sizes in schools have little negative effect on the quality of the children’s learning to be very foolish indeed. If that is the case, well, why not just have about fifteen teachers in the whole country, and let each one of them teach one year of pupils up and down the nation all at once? Easy in an age of Skype, right? The reason why not is because of course large class sizes have a negative effect on children’s learning!

But Nuttall definitely made most of the stupid remarks, and if he is really the outstanding talent left in his party, that is a very sorry look-out for its crumbling support-base.

Ah well, better luck next time you need to choose a leader, UKIP – assuming you are still around long enough for there to be a next time, that is.

c/o Jayne Linney

Given what the Tories are repeatedly doing to the mentally and physically disabled, you would have to be intellectually and ethically disabled to vote for them.

jaynelinney

Letter in The Guardian  today, PROUD to be a Signatory, please READ & SHARE:

For chronically ill and disabled people, recent years have been a disaster. The UN recently found “reliable evidence that the threshold of grave or systematic violations of the rights of persons with disabilities has been met” (Report, 8 November 2016).

We have been forced through a work capability assessment that the government’s own expert adviser described as “inhumane”, and which in 2015 was found to be associated with an additional 599 suicides.

Many needing help are now forced through another persecutory assessment – the personal independence payment – designed to reduce the numbers qualifying for help by half a million.

Theresa May says this is “focusing disability benefit payments on those most in need”; but it means removing support from many in great need. Over 50,000 people have lost their vehicle, with some losing their…

View original post 115 more words

by Martin Odoni

The BBC’s increasingly infamous political correspondent, Laura Kuenssberg, is now so shamelessly biased that she is cheerfully copying Conservative campaign slogans (SEE UPDATE BELOW).

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(Check out the Swindon Conservatives’ website for the original.)

I am sure Kuenssberg will claim this is a coincidence, but every time there is a ‘coincidence’ or ‘mistake’ by the BBC’s political staff, it always happens in a way that is beneficial for, or at least in agreement with, the Tories. So I hope readers will forgive me if I can suspend my disbelief no longer. (Also, note on the link above the way she refers to a “recent consensus that the UK should be moving to lower borrowing, and lower taxation.” This “consensus” was less clear-cut than she implies.)

Happily, indicators are that the damage to Kuenssberg’s credibility has become almost irreversible. Certainly if this gentleman’s contribution at today’s Labour Manifesto launch is anything to go by; –

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_____

UPDATE 17-5-2017:

This article has been shared on Reddit, and I noticed a couple of rather off-colour remarks being made about it. I have decided to write a response to one or two of them; –

Firstly, to a user calling himself/herself ‘Doors of Perception’ – which I cannot help but feel on this evidence is a little like Theresa May calling herself ‘Guru of Spontaneity-in-Public’ – who suggested,

Wait… did he edit Miliband’s head out of the picture so it looked like it was a recent attack on Corbin [sic]?

No. The picture in question had been doing the rounds in this form on Twitter for several hours before I wrote this blogpost, and I simply downloaded it from Francesca Martinez’s feed. For the link above, I found the original using a very, very quick search on Bing. Use a little common sense please, DOP; if I had anything to hide, why would I link to the original at all?

DOP then adds,

Is that really the best he can come up with to make the BBC look biased?

Again, no. This is not ‘the best’, nor did I imply that it is. This is merely the latest in a range of examples of Kuenssberg spinning her coverage in a way that benefits the Tories and hurts Labour. The most profound example of Kuenssberg’s bias is perhaps her insistence, in spite of the very clear conclusions of the Electoral Commission, that the Tory Election Expenses Fraud was just a catalogue of ‘mistakes’.

Laura Kuenssberg is a disgrace to objective journalism.

Laura Kuenssberg continues to be the Tories’ most shameless spin-doctor-with-press-pass.

A somewhat better argument is offered by a user called ‘Quagers’, who says,

This is clearly just a coincidence, I doubt Laura was checking out the Swindon branch of the Conservative party’s 3 year old web page while she was writing her story today.

For what it is worth, so do I. But again, this over-literal speculation is not exactly what I meant. (I will accept the blame for that, as looking at the opening paragraph, I can see that that is precisely the impression I gave.) My point was more that Kuenssberg’s mindset is so inseparable from that of the Tories that she says exactly the same things about Labour that they do. As a ‘neutral reporter of the facts’, that is not healthy.

Quagers later treads onto distinctly shakier ground by adding,

And the headline isn’t biased, of the three elements in the headline two of them are literally how Labour is selling its manifesto. So to suggest they are negatives would be to suggest that you think taxing or spending is “bad”. Which begs the question, what do you think of the Labour manifesto?

I hope I am not the only one to notice the two gigantic assumptions in Quagers’ assertion. Firstly, I never did suggest that taxing or spending are bad, so why does (s)he imagine that I am suggesting that? What I was pointing out was the consistent resemblance between what Kuenssberg says about Labour, and what the Tories say about Labour. As I disagree with the Tories on so many subjects, why should it be assumed I agree with them on tax-and-spend? The bias is not about whether the policy is objectively right or wrong, it is about Kuenssberg agreeing with one side of the debate, when she should be reporting from a neutral perspective. Secondly, Quagers freely admits that two of the three elements in the headline are Labour’s selling points. But (s)he never articulates why the third of them, borrowing, should be taken as read. As public borrowing is often seen (not really correctly) as bad policy by the general public, it is bias on Kuenssberg’s part to report that as part of the equation, when there is no firm indication that that is the case. She makes no reference to the reality that public borrowing has sky-rocketed over the seven years since the Tories got into power, and that therefore the low-tax/low-borrowing ‘consensus’ she speaks of is essentially mythological, and that Labour’s spending plans will have to go some distance just to match the profligacy of the Tories.

Quagers then adds,

Its bollocks like this which is why the BBC, including Laura, has infinitely more credibility than shitty Corbynista blogs.

Sorry you dislike my blog, Quagers (although I doubt that you have read much of it). But just for the record, while I support Corbyn, I am not a ‘Corbynista’. I am not starry-eyed about him, I do recognise he has his failings. I would be pleased if you could acknowledge that the same is true of Kuenssberg.

by Martin Odoni

Sorry to keep on about what happened on BBC Question Time last Thursday, but yes, there is more. As I highlighted yesterday, the BBC’s response to my complaint did not really address my concerns, and was verbatim-identical to responses others received.

Some people on social media have argued with me that they thought the BBC’s answer was reasonable. There are a few reasons I cannot agree with that.

Firstly, as I say, the BBC did not really answer my question about the impropriety of elected politicians being allowed to ask the questions on a debating programme where members of the public are supposed to do that. Was it ‘reasonable’ that the BBC’s response talked around that instead of answering it?

Secondly, was it ‘reasonable’ that Eric Holford was allowed to ask his question without it being made clear in advance that he is an elected councillor? Was it also ‘reasonable’ that he claimed that nurses are well-paid entirely because his daughter makes a decent living out of it, but neglected to mention that she works for BUPA, and not for the National Health Service? And was it ‘reasonable’ that the BBC’s reply makes no mention of these details at all?

Thirdly, was it ‘reasonable’ that the BBC’s one-size-fits-all reply denied accusations of ‘planting’ Holford in the audience, when my complaint did not make such an accusation? Yes, I do believe Holford was a plant, but I did not necessarily mean that the BBC was behind it or co-operated with it (although the denial in their answer increases the suspicion). I am perfectly prepared to believe that the Conservative Party arranged it all by themselves, but that would still make Holford a plant.

But above all, I need to highlight a detail that has been drawn to my attention by a reader called Steve Mills (thank you, Steve). That detail is the experience of an Scottish National Party staff member called Catriona MacKenzie. She tweeted a few days ago that she had been invited by the BBC to sit in the audience of an episode of Question Time, but on telling them of her position within the SNP, she found her invitation being withdrawn.

CatMack

Now, one might quibble that Ms MacKenzie was a Parliamentary staff member, whereas Holford is a local councillor, so the rules need not be the same. But on consideration of that, my response would be, “That’s codswallop.” An elected politician is at least as ill-suited to a place in the audience as a staff-member.

There is no consistency from the BBC at all over this, and with the attempt to explain away the situation being so evasive and generic, it is very tempting to suspect that the inconsistency is quite deliberate.