Saturday, November 05, 2005

Sion Simon - what's the point?

I thought I'd heard enough from Sion Simon this week (Labour MP for Erdington), following his diatribe in the Guardian about those of us who think that Tony ought to call it a day - the executive summary is that there's nothing wrong with Tony, it's all of you who are wrong.

Thanks for that Sion.

Of course, you do feel a distinct loyalty to the Leader - after all, it was the No 10 apparatus that airdropped you into a safe Labour seat a little while ago, when the sitting MP conveniently stood down shortly before an election and leaving no time to carry out the usual selection process. Naturally, that hasn't stopped you opening your mouth about Birmingham, when you gave the opposition some succour back in 2002 with your views in parliament that Labour is 'sufficiently incapable of running Birmingham.'

Of course, some of us are involved at the grass roots of the party and we have to face those voters who want to vote Labour, but can't stand Tony. We have to try and cope without the members who have left as a result of Iraq and other policies, running our campaigns on a very stretched shoestring. Look around the blogosphere - predominantly middle-class and liberal/left-leaning, to be sure - and look at the number of anti-Blair commentators who should be loyal Labour supporters and you will see the depth of the problem. This is not some rose-tinted view of what a Brown-led world might be, nor is it betraying the achievements of the government.

Tony's become a liability, pure and simple. We won the election in May in spite of Tony, not because of him.

I was out campaigning because I still believe that Labour has transformed aspects of this country in the past eight years of government - for all the faults and errors. I have no doubt that a Labour government offers the best route to Hattersley's 'justice and equality', but government is local as well as national and Tony is becoming an obstacle for the people in the wards that make up Sion's constituency. Sure, they will all return Labour councillors next May, but there will be other wards across the city that will continue to return Liberal Democrats or Tories, wards that we must take to attempt a rescue of this city from the incompetence of the LibDem/Tory coalition.

Far from accusing people like me of betraying the 'least powerful people in the land,' I'd argue that those who hold these views are defending those without a voice - many far better placed to make the argument than myself. It is because these people need a Labour government at all levels to help them that we'll get on our soapboxes to speak up.

I see the enemy only too clearly and I see how they are exploiting the weakness of our leader. I don't want to see Tony's legacy be the destruction of our party base, for that would be the greatest betrayal of all.


But that wasn't all from Sion this week. Oh no. He's back in the Birmingham Post today with a piece calling for the scrapping of the BBC licence fee.

Is it a regressive tax? Absolutely. Is it a poll tax, of sorts? Yup. Should we oppose it? Well, probably. Except that the licence fee is one of those British quirks that don't really make sense, but do actually work.

For a few quid a month - even under the planned increases, it will still be less than £15 a month - people get access to local and national radio, TV and internet coverage, with a global newsgathering organisation respected the world over for its integrity. Trust me, that's the best deal you will ever get. Sky costs you a damn sight more - I've just signed up to it to feed my cricket addiction and because I was offered a particularly good deal. Even ITV has a cost - those advertisers bung their charges onto the bottom line of all those goods we buy.

Sion reckons that the BBC will become unresponsive to consumers' demands and will get out of touch. Too a degree, that's a good thing, as it allows the BBC to be responsive to a range of consumers rather than having to focus on the lowest common denominator and feed the majority to the exclusion of minorities. Quality programming doesn't always attract high audiences - not many people will watch 'The Thick of It,' but that doesn't stop it being a wonderful programme. Would any other channel have taken a risk by commissioning The Office? Would Radio 4 have been a testing ground of dozens of comic careers in writing and performing - Little Britain, The League of Gentlemen and The Day Today were all born on radio.

So leave the licence fee, with all the relatively minor injustices that go with it, well alone, for the simple reason that it works.


Bob Piper said...

Spot on. When Simon finally catches on that Blair is actually going it will be interesting watching him slithering across the floor to toady around the new Leader.

Gregg said...

You're way off, Bob - when Blair goes, Simon will slither across the floor to re-join the Tory party (where he can sit alongside his former boss at the Spectator up until his loses his seat at the next election).

Martin said...

People in Birmingham wonder if Sion remembers exactly WHY is in an MP for a constituency in the city.

Odd, isn't ot. how a Labour MP could produce such a sexist piece of drivel with hints of encouraging paedophilia, and yet STILL not understand why people were so disgusted with him!

Perhaps Sion cannot forget he used to work for that organ of record and decorum, the News of the World.

What next for Mr Sion Simon? A stint as a columnist on the Daily Sport, perhaps?