Debates

I’ve spent the evening listening to political pundits analysing the leaders’ debate ad nauseam, so will reserve my words of wisdom for next Thursday’s debate, the Sky one, on foreign affairs, which is of course being held in Bristol. Quite where it’s taking place, I’m not sure. I did a piece to camera from the Sky ‘bureau’ in Bristol a week or two ago, and it’s little more than a broom cupboard in an office block at the Science Park. (Incidentally, I hate those ‘down the line’ pieces. Never know where to look.)

I’ve been invited by Sky not to the actual debate, but to the VIP screening and after-show party, as have all the candidates, so not such a big deal really. I say all the candidates, it might just be the three main parties whose leaders are taking part. As it stands – and nominations don’t close till Tuesday – there are at least seven candidates standing in Bristol East. Me for Labour of course, got the nomination papers in today. Adeela Shafi for the Tories. Mike “Biggles” Popham for the Lib Dems. Glenn Vowles for the Greens. Bloke called Jenkins for the BNP. An English Democrat, I think. A lefty trade union/ Socialist candidate, can’t remember what the party is called. No sign of UKIP yet. And someone tweeted tonight about a Pirate Party candidate, but I don’t know anything about that.

So far I’ve only taken part in one debate with people who are actually standing against me, with Mike Popham and Glenn Vowles at St Brendan’s Sixth Form. Adeela pulled out. I was going to say, Adeela pulled out, so no Tory on the panel, but as I’ve already said, Mike Popham was there. Vote Lib Dem, get a Tory! (He was a Tory councillor in Woking, quite a right-wing one by all accounts, who defected to the Lib Dems because the Tories in Bristol wouldn’t give him a safe council seat. Or so I’m told – feel free to rebut.)

I cannot detect any sign at all of liberal leanings. The one issue he’s chosen to highlight on the front of his latest leaflet is something to do with undernourished soldiers, though he doesn’t quite say what he’s done about them. And he talks about “Tories and Labour buddies” on the Council. Excuse me! Wasn’t us who was in coalition with the Tories! By the way, I can say now, if I haven’t said it already – I will not even be mentioning my political opponents in my leaflets. Their parties, yes, their leaders, yes – but not the sort of nasty personal attacks to which the Lib Dem has resorted.

I also did a debate on Sikh issues last Saturday, but that was with the Bristol West Lib Dem and Green candidates, as well as someone from Plaid Cymru and the delightful Lord William Dartmouth from UKIP. Adeela pulled out. (Do you detect a pattern here?) There are more debates in the pipeline, but until today, when we took a call from a vicar wanting to put on something at his church in Lodge Causeway, none of them are between the Bristol East candidates, they’re more cross-city affairs.

In fact I’ve started turning down some of the invitations to do things with Stephen Williams because (a) I think he should be going head-to-head with his actual Labour opponent, Paul Smith and (b) if I’m going to debate with a Lib Dem, I think it should be the guy who’s standing against me. So, for example, I’d agreed to do a community radio show next Tuesday; then they said Stephen Williams would be on with me, so I’ve said, get Paul in. Or get Popham in, and then I’ll do it.

I’m very keen actually to debate Popham more, and Adeela, who is not only pulling out of debates, she’s not answering media calls either. Since the election was called local Tories have been busy getting their glossy airbrushed billboards up in supporters’ gardens. Voters deserve the chance to find out if there’s substance behind that sleek exterior. And at the moment, that’s being denied them. Unless she’s replying to emails, and in that case I’d be very interested to see what’s she’s saying…

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