LettersYoutellusyourthoughtsonTVleaders’ debates, Sir Nicholas Winterton’s views on class and the taboo of mental health in politics mental health in politics
Letter of themonth wins aTotalPoliticsGuide tothe2010GeneralElection take up the issue of the TV
Inclusive TV debates It’s good to see Total Politics take up the issue of the TV debates with a dialogue between Tim Montgomerie and AdamBoulton. However from the SNP perspective, it’s not a case of whether there should be debates but that the SNP should receive fair coverage in any UK-wide debate. It’s unacceptable to us that UKbroadcasters exclude the party that forms the government of Scotland. For these debates to be relevant they must reflect the democratic reality of Scotland and political diversity across the UK. That must include SNP involvement in all debates broadcast in Scotland.
As polls show, the election in Scotland will be a two-horse race between the SNP and Labour. So the broadcasters have got to meet their public service obligations to audiences across the UK. To propose debates which fail to do so shows an extraordinarily highhanded attitude and depressingly metropolitan mindset, which is whywe are now reviewing our support for the licence fee. Angus Robertson MP SNP Westminster group leader
Living in another era... and class After reading the comments made by Sir Nicholas Winterton regarding first class train travel, I cannot wait until the day he retires. His attitude sums up the public perception of how arrogant and out of touch the majority of MPs are with the voting public. To claim that people who travel in second class are “different” and that he deserves to travel first class is incredible. Whodoes he think made him anMPand gave him the privileges he has acquired over the years – the second class travellers! As a junior doctor who is also class is incredible. Whodoes he think made him anMPand gave him the privileges he has acquired over the years – the second class travellers! As a junior doctor who is also disabled, I have travelled on Cardiff to London trains during rush hour on several occasions. It is uncomfortable and it is difficult to work or concentrate. Finding a seat is hard andwith a congenital deformity, standing is dangerous for me.However, I put upwith it and so domanyothers. I for onewould rather sit or stand in second class and socialise with the “commonman” than be in first class forced to hear verbose loudmouths discussing the stock exchange or the latest business news. The concept of privacy leaves most of themonce themobile rings. In addition, whyshould I travel first class? I amstill ahumanbeing, the sameasaplumberorparent. Just because I can afford it, doesn’t meanI have to travel with the upper realms.
I also ask Sir Nicholas if, when he travels first class he pays the difference in ticket price out of his own pocket or is it another of his rights to have this paid by the voters who are stuck in the cattle shed of standard class? Dr David Gwynfor Samuel Merthyr Tydfil
Turning point for social justice AsBenDuckworthandIainDale highlight (TP Feb), ‘social justice’ has becomeapopular political term. While, it is welcome to hear our politicians speak of social justice, I hope that together wecanreverse the inverse care law. In particular, wemustreduce the high levels of unemployment in our poorer
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communities, which are contributing to crime, poormental health and substance misuse. This is key during a recession whenthosewhohavenever been close to work are in danger of being left at the back of the queue for support. The cost-benefit of investing in these groups is clear andTurning Point wants any future government to give providers the right incentives to support them.Weare also calling for generational services which target the children of benefits claimants with meaningful activity, work experience andanynecessary support services. Without suchmeasures, the political rhetoric is unlikely to becomeareality. Lord Victor Adebowale CBE Chief executive, Turning Point
Gender poll Although menandwomenmight come from different planets where relationship counselling is concerned, weall come from the samevillage as regards social attitudes. Differences
Total Politics is giving one lucky reader the chance to win a pair
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A pair of tickets for the musical Hairare on their way to you. in gender-based voting are all too often exaggerated by opinion polls. AsAndrewHawkinsrightly observes, all such data is open to interpretation. It is fascinating though howthe idea of the female vote as someshadowy menace for the Conservatives has survived the early years of women’s enfranchisement and still seems to dog the party today. Numbers might actually suggest a solution here. In 2005, 98womenLabour MPswereelected, Conservatives camesecondwith only 20 new female members. If the Conservative Party is indeed worried about the female vote, theymight want to give these figures serious thought. Who knows?All-women shortlists might not be such abad idea after all. Krisztina Csortea President, Oxford Women in Politics
Open mind We applaud Laurie Penny’s article (TP March) for putting a spotlight on an issue that remains largely hidden within the corridors of power. Mental health problems can and do affect all members of society which means MPs are certainly not immune.
Our cited research shows the extent to which MPs experience mental distress. Yet the hostile political environment means that they are often forced to put on a brave face and cope without seeking the help that they need. Under Section 141 of the Mental Health Act, MPs face losing their job if they are ever sectioned for more than six months. That such an outdated law still exists shows how deeply engrained stigma towards people with mental health problems is within our society. The government recently signalled that it intends to amend Section 141 and that a review of the law would go before a select committee. But this will make it unlikely to be repealed before the election. Instead, we urge the government to amend this in the Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill and seize the chance to endmental health discrimination in Westminster. Vicki Nash Head of policy and campaigns, Mind
Why we spoke to the BNP
Why we spoke to the BNP
says blackballing Nick Griffin
Ben Duckworth says blackballing Nick Griffin and his party no longer works. The BNP must be exposed to scrutiny
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It was not an easy decision to include an interview with Nick Griffin. It was the cause of serious discussion among the staff here. Our decision has also come at the cost of two members of our editorial board, who resigned. It’s important therefore to explain whywe’ve done it.
Much of the coverage of the BNP centres on their conceptions of race. This is because they are obsessed by it. In our interview, Griffin claims he’d tell his son and an Asian girlfriend to think about their bloodlines before getting involved in a relationship. He continues to make a feeble defence against charges of anti-semitism. The BNP was forced to change its constitution to allow ethnic minorities to join. Racism remains the primary motivation behind their politics.
But the BNP is attempting to appear as mainstream as possible. This is where the danger lies. While Nick Griffin should find it impossible to overturn Margaret Hodge’s 8,883 majority in Barking, the anti-politics mood in Britain is visceral. Turnout could be far lower than it should be for a general election as important as this. There is a continuing disconnect between politics and the people, letting the BNP cast itself as a protest vote.
Now the BNPhas two MEPs who are able to speak in the European Parliament, we don’t think blackballing the party works anymore. It adds to the sense of the BNP being a protest against a political elite. The party therefore has to be exposed to scrutiny.
Webelieve the BNPhas to be challenged on its policies as well as its world views to counter its pernicious presence. Not talking about the BNP does not stop them campaigning on doorsteps, peddling their nonsense and filling a gap where other parties should be.
Our remit is to be positive about politics. That does not meanwe can’t see enormous problems with the health of British politics currently. Our greatest concern would be for a party that offers people nothing to profit from the situation. Wehave a history of keeping extremism out of mainstream politics in this country. I hope we can keep it that way.
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