Women in Politics & BBC General Election Opposition Leaders debate
TV rating: *****
Thursday 16th April 2015
I thought the one and only televised Opposition Leaders debate and in reality the last final main televised debate between the majority of the major party leaders was a brilliant and fascinating one between the following 5 opposition leaders – Labour’s Ed Miliband, Plaid Cymru’s Leanne Moore, The Green’s Natalie Bennett, SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon and UKIP’s Nigel Farage.
Covering a wide range of questions from the NHS to immigration to national debt, the debate got most heated when discussing the NHS and was at its spiciest and most confrontational when Nicola Sturgeon and Ed Miliband faced off on whether or not Ed would get into bed with Nicola’s SNP in the event of a hung parliament. Nicola, rather aggressively pleaded with Ed to not let “them Tories” back into No 10. Ed was having none of it and point blank refused to form a coalition with a party that plainly wanted to break up Great Britain. He was unequivocal that that was not a price worth paying to get into Downing Street.
I thought it was interesting that it was a Black man who asked, “Has immigration put our public services at risk?” He felt it had done and wanted to know what the leaders thought. Most of the leader’s said it hadn’t, whilst Nigel Farage said if you look at the numbers that have come into the country you cannot deny that it has had an impact. I tend to agree with that. The numbers don’t lie and I find his use of figures in general quite compelling. His Investment Banker training in financial literacy is a real asset and he generally always backs up his arguments with hard numbers.
I felt overall that all the leaders came across quite well. Leanne answered well and showed a good sense of humour in a difficult, testing situation.
I was surprised the parties didn’t spend a lot more time attacking the Tories and Liberal Democrats – both of whom were absent. They were repeatedly missing an open goal. That would have really pressed home their advantage and those two parties would not have been able to challenge any attacks on them.
What was also blatantly obvious was how the three women, holding the centre ground so to speak, book ended between Miliband and Farage at either end of the stage, were in the majority on this platform.
There’s often a lot of talk re lack of women in politics, but when it comes to the top jobs in British politics it is clear they are punching well above their weight and are arguably over represented. Considering women made up 148 (23%) out of 650 MPs during the last parliament, in terms of leadership on stage they represented 60% of the panel of 5. That’s almost triple the representation of women MP’s. Even if the other two male leaders were on stage they’d still have represented 43% of the total leadership of the biggest 7 parties – double their representation as MP’s.
Also women were easily in the majority when it came to the Senior Production team roles for this programme as 5 out of 9 members (56%) of the BBC production team was female – Production Assistant Lesley Boden, Production Manager Moira Fitzpatrick, Producers Alice Aitkin and Helen Gray, plus Executive Editor – Sue Inglish.
The four men were Will Boden, Editor; Ric Barley, Editorial Assistant; Peter Day, Director and Matt Booker, Deputy Director.
This hasn’t been much talked about during the campaign and I think it’s important to show that it is a myth that there is a glass ceiling stopping women from getting on in politics and other spheres of television and business. It simply is not true and this programme showed two examples of that.
Grass Roots Politics
At grass roots level, Tiemo Talk of the Town put on two general election debates last month. Out of the two debates we had 9 panelists, only one of which was a woman. There should have been two, but one woman, Millicent Scott, a Liberal Democrat for Hammersmith withdrew at the last minute – for reasons unclear and which the Liberal Democrat party refused to explain. That was a great shame as it denied young people at a local College the opportunity to see a woman on the political stage debating with her male counterparts. She could have visibly role modelled to the young female students that women can get on in politics. That could have been such a good thing as it could have stimulated an interest in getting involved in politics. I’m sure the effect of seeing Leane, Nicola and Natalie in recent weeks will have galvanised women into getting involved in politics, seeing for themselves that there is no barrier to them getting to the very top of politics.
Whilst Tiemo are all in favour of this, it just doesn’t help any of the political parties, many of whom are presumably keen to recruit more female MP’s, when the sole woman on a panel ducks out of a debate at the 11th hour without valid reason.
Maybe the Liberal Democrat party just weren’t interested in the youth vote. It has been noted that young people don’t vote to the extent that older voters do and therefore parties have focused their energies on the older voter. To be fair, that allegation could be put Labour’s way too, as their candidate Andy Slaughter, also absent, was seen campaigning in the area shortly after the debate ended.
Research by Loughborough University indicates that election coverage is dominated by male politicians, with them getting 84% of the coverage. Tiemo welcomes the progression and increasing number of women in politics and look forward to seeing more women developing political careers and participating in debates, but that is not going to increase if women don’t get involved and therefore can’t be written about.
Tiemo have always provided a platform for all candidates standing in a general election or mayoral election and recognise the positive contribution the TV debates have made over the last two general elections in enabling the general public to see that there is more to British politics than just the Conservative and Labour parties. This has afforded Nick Clegg, Liberal Democrat Leader, the opportunity to rise in prominence to such an extent that having been perceived as the winner of the first televised election debate in 2010, he went on to become Deputy Prime Minister and his Liberal Democrat party formed the coalition government with the Conservative. Such an outcome was unthinkable before the 2010 general election.
It has also lead to the rise in fortunes of UKIP and Nigel Farage. Debates can of course be risky and in LBC Europe debates last year, Nigel Farage was widely perceived to have won the radio head to head debates v Nick Clegg. UKIP are now the third most popular party in Britain.
Well the time for talking and debating is almost over. This Thursday Britain goes to the Ballot Box. Will the result be as close as the polls predict with the Conservatives and Labour tied on 34% each. Or will it be like Saturday’s world welterweight title contest between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, where many said it was too close to call, but in the end had a clear winner, on points, in Mayweather? No one is predicting an outright victory for any party so let us see.
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