Wednesday, January 12, 2005

The X Factor

Anything that gets people interested in politics has to be a good thing, right?

The new ITV series Vote for Me isn't.

It assembled a bunch of 60 political wannabes in the search for a new star. They've now been whittled down to six finalists and we, the public, get to pick one of them who will then be able to stand in any constituency in the land.

My biggest concern is that it trivialises politics. Already, we see political debate on issues reduced to simple soundbites and headlines. There is little room to look at the facts and policies, although we can devote acres of space to wittering on about the personalities - whether David will oust Michael after they lose the election, where Tony will put Gordon, whether Charlie will return to the Glen of Tranquility. And through all this , people's jobs, our environment, health and lives depend on decisions made by politicians. Reducing it to the level of a third-rate game show does nobody any favours.

On a minor technicality, you don't need to qualify through some sub-Pop Idol process to be eligible to stand - all you have to do is rustle up the required deposit and get some local electors to nominate you and there you are, PPC for your chosen constituency. Without the support of a local party structure or a local issue to generate that support, the winner will get a kicking wherever they stand. As someone who has stood in a council election with a tiny campaign team, I can't imagine trying to work a ward on my own, let alone trying to cover a whole constituency of three or four wards. The Representation of the People Act will also prevent much 'realtime' coverage of the winner's campaign, without giving equal time to other candidates.

Incidentally one of the chosen six, Rodney Hylton Potts is a criminal solicitor - in that he was convicted of defrauding RBS - and is disqualified from serving as an MP by dint of his previous stay as a guest of Her Majesty at HMP Brixton. Following the election to Westminster of Bobby Sands, the IRA hunger striker, criminals who serve more than 12 months in prison were disqualified from election by the 1981 Representation of the People Act. [EDIT: Thanks to an anonymous comment - Rodders isn't disqualified, the RPA only disqualifies SERVING prisoners. Always glad to correct errors.]

If they want to commit to public involvement in politics, why not produce a series of prime-time, audience challenging programmes looking at genuine issues, not news-lite or entertainment-based formats?

ITV have shown their faith in the format by putting it on at the peak viewing time of 11pm, so we can expect it to sink without trace. Thankfully.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

They are only disqualified while they are actually in prison (or if they have illegally absconded from prison) apart from in cases of conviction for electoral malpractice, once they have served their time they are free to stand.

So, assuming Mr Hylton Potts isn't on the run he is eligible to stand for election.