Sunday, 20 February 2011

This is what the No campaign call a debate

This is crossposted from the Yes to Fairer Votes website:

This is what the NO campaign call a debate
At 5.30pm on the 16th February I received a call from the No Campaign stating that “seeing as I hadn’t provided a speaker for the AV debate taking place in Sheffield on the following day, could I please bring down some Yes literature?” This is the first notice I had received confirming that any debate would be taking place, and indeed the first time I had been offered the chance to have a speaker. I politely declined the offer.

Not only is that not enough time to find a debater to match the seasoned, professional likes of David Blunkett and Jane Kennedy, but I did not like nor agree with the terms of this “debate”.

The Yes campaign has repeatedly invited the No Campaign to open, honest and independent debates.

This “debate” was none of these things. Billed as “free, fair and impartial” the debate was organised by the No Campaign who had sole control over both its venue and tickets. Indeed, the process of applying for a seat actually involved communication with - and being vetted by - the No Campaign. Moreover, the debate was only advertised on the NO2AV website and in anti-AV literature (my Grandma read about it on a NO2AV leaflet). The local and regional Yes Campaign had not been invited and as Katie Ghose reported last week,

even the national Yes to Fairer Votes office had not received an invitation - and that includes the letter NO2AV now insist was sent in mid-January.

The next day, concerned that attendees of the “debate” would be misguided over what was essentially a No rally, I organised for a group of the Sheffield Yes Campaigners to have a presence outside the debate. The venue, although far from central, was easy to spot due to the NO2AV signs on its gates and the NO2AV clad volunteers waiting to greet anyone going in. Not really the markings of a “fair and impartial debate”.

On arrival, our local Sheffield volunteers were confronted by the central No campaigners who were relentless in their determination to get us inside and thus legitimise the debacle. Again, we politely declined their invitations.

As we informed the No team, we will not endorse this kind of No set-up. We will however welcome the opportunity to participate in an impartial debate held by a third party. In fact, we are happy to donate our time and money to ensure this happens.

I explained all this to Bernie Keavy from Hallam FM. Keavy had been asked to act as chair by the No campaign, a position he retracted once aware of the false pretences under which the debate had been advertised. Kennedy subsequently took up this position, leading the “debate” which has been described as having a “heavily stage-managed feel”.

The night as a whole has set a precedence for the NO2AV “debate” tour. We can expect a series of rallies organised, controlled and manipulated by those from the No Campaign. However, given that there were nearly as many people outside as there were inside the hall, and given that the majority of those entering the debate revealed they were already No supporters, this need not be a cause for concern. Instead, I propose we forget this No farce and focus on working positively with neutral third parties to host the serious debate on the referendum that our voters need and deserve.

Emily Wilkie is the Sheffield Yes! Coordinator.

No comments:

Post a Comment

I'm indebted to Birkdale Focus for the following choice of words:

I am happy to address most contributions, even the drunken ones if they are coherent, but I am not going to engage with negative sniping from those who do not have the guts to add their names or a consistent on-line identity to their comments. Such postings will not be published.

Anonymous comments with a constructive contribution to make to the discussion, even if it is critical will continue to be posted. Libellous comments or remarks I think may be libellous will not be published.

I will also not tolerate personation so please do not add comments in the name of real people unless you are that person. If you do not like these rules then start your own blog.

Oh, and if you persist in repeating yourself despite the fact I have addressed your point I may get bored and reject your comment.

The views expressed in comments are those of the poster, not me.