BBC BLOGS - The Editors
« Previous | Main | Next »

Were you re-engaged?

Peter Barron | 12:27 UK time, Wednesday, 30 May 2007

Newsnight logoTwo Shags' replacement? Well whoop-de-doo. Deprived of a leadership contest...the TV news people lined up a load of people we've never heard of and couldn't care less about... presumably to see who'd be best placed for a role that has no actual, er, role.” (Read the rest of this blog here).

That was one view on the blogs this morning of Newsnight's Labour deputy leadership debate, but I must say it was very much in the minority. We'd debated among ourselves how much interest there'd be in a deputy leadership debate. Would an unmanageably large line-up of six contenders simply agree to agree on the key issues, the loser being the viewer?

depleaders_203.jpgBut then we invited you to let us know questions you'd like Jeremy to ask, and hundreds of you obliged (which you can read here). Thousands have already taken part in the post-match vote (click here to vote), and a healthy audience of more than a million watched the late-night debate from beginning to end (which you can watch here).

Could it be that the slightly unglamorous Labour deputy leadership debate is re-engaging the public's interest in politics?


  • 1.
  • At 03:02 PM on 30 May 2007,
  • Penrose Feast wrote:

I'm sure the Newsnight team are convinced by these reasonable sounding justifications for last nights tellyvisual spectacular - but why promote and publicise the canvassing of a tiny electorate of a private political organisation on a high profile national news programme?

It maybe interesting, and in some cases even important, to hear what the candidates have to say on a variety of issues (and non-issues: 'Who would you vote for if you were not going to vote for yourself?'), but to give a whole programme over to a USA style presidential television debate seems to elevate the election to a state of national relevance it really cannot sustain.

Last night was nothing more than a political beauty contest, and we all know that the most fancy-able candidate is not always the most suitable one.

I hate to think that in the interest of independence and political balance some future edition of Newsnight may feature a 40minute head-to-head between potential BNP leadership candidates or some other monster raving loony party.

  • 2.
  • At 03:41 PM on 30 May 2007,
  • CC wrote:

The Problem with the debate last night was not that Newsnight did it, it was with how vapid all of the candidates seemed.

Having one million viewers watching the programme from start to finish isn't anything to shout home about, really. The show was ok, let down slightly by Jeremy interrupting candidates as they were about to start debating certain topics.
It was an interesting show, but not fantastic.

Well as I've replied to a window-licker on my blog, it's the relevance that escapes me; it matters not one iota what a candidate for Deputy Party Leader has to say: they could promise to give out free Sherbet Fountains to the over-80s but if they were successful with their candidature, I doubt they'd have any real say in policy-making.
I know that the news organisations are upset that there won't be a 'proper' leadership contest, but this was such a non-event.
What next? A presidential-style debate on Newsnight for the Big Brother House evictees? Mind you, I expect that would pull in the viewers if nothing else {sigh}.

  • 5.
  • At 05:05 PM on 30 May 2007,
  • Ian Olive wrote:

It was mildly interesting. Cruddas seemed to be the only one of them who answered the questions and had a genuine reason for wanting to be Deputy Leader of the Party. Harman fluffed it a few times but did better that I thought she would. Blears should have had a soapbox, then she would have looked the silly part she sounded like. Hain just wants to be DPM and get richer. Johnson seemed out of his depth and not much of a sounding board for Buggins Brown. Benn's continual need to get on the right side of Paxo by calling him Jeremy loads of times was a bit too transparent. Brown will eat him before breakfast and spit him out in bits.

With the exception of John Cruddas, if that's the best the Labour Party can put up for the job, the it will be no surprise if there's not a lot of interest in these proceedings.

  • 6.
  • At 07:43 PM on 30 May 2007,
  • john sharman wrote:

It highlights for me what a lot of post-Blair politics is reduced to.The effects Blair had on politics due to him taking us in to the Iraq war.You had two anti-war candidates which made them immediately interesting,Harman and Crudas. But as this is only for the deputy leadership of the party it was more like monopoly politics with no real currency. I enjoyed it but it couldn't be considered a shot in the arm for a more truly representative form of future cabinet politics.It was far too cosy and everybody was far too supportive of everybody else.

  • 7.
  • At 08:56 PM on 30 May 2007,
  • confused wrote:

It is very interesting to such a debate, given that there was no such challenge for the leadership.

I have always taken an interest in politics and was truly excited with the promise of change presented to the country in 1997. At last I thought a chance to make Britain a fairer and socially responsible nation with an ethical foreign policy.

I know that delivery can always fall short of ambition, but to be given THREE chances, the last being a bit of a "bloody nose" and still not to listen to the voice of the electorate, sadly shows arrogance and a complete lack of an ability to judge the mood of the nation.

Deputy Leader by definition requires leadership. Not surprising then that Jon Cruddas was the only candidate that said what he thought and believed in. The others simply delivered answers that would not upset Gordon Brown if they weren't elected as Deputy Leader because they all want to be sure to secure a significant position in the new administration. Whatever happened to conviction politics?

I am by no means a supporter of the far left, but I am a big fan of honesty and the ability to listen. The hard fact of life is that as a result of some mistakes made by this government, the public no longer have any faith or trust in what they have to say. The reason for all of this is their inability to say sorry for those mistakes. Shame on Mr Blair that he doesn’t have the backbone to say "sorry for Iraq". The people of this county shouted loud and clear "Don't do it", but Tony Blair knew best and it is right that his legacy has been destroyed by his own folly.

The majority of these candidates seem to me to be promoting more of the same. Hardly surprising given that they were complicit in the mistakes that have been made. This really shows how out of touch they are, with the exception of Harriet Harman, who at least seems to recognise that mistakes have been made and Jon Cruddas who just seems to have the bottle to say what others are only thinking. If the rest are confident that they are right, then let's have a general election when Gordon takes over to measure the support of the British people? Or can't we be trusted to make the right decision yet again? Regardless, the Day of Judgment is not too far away and then we the people will have our say. The good news is that it's a win win for them if they are unfortunate enough to loose their seats. Unlike you and me they will be the recipients of parachute payments to allow them to adjust to rejoining us "ordinary people". Not that you’re going to be able to find out how much they get now that they are exempt from the Freedom of Information Act.

I rather suspect that in a year's time they will wish they had gone to the electorate in 2007. With interest rates rising, more soldiers coming home in body bags with little measurable success in Iraq. Add to this the outcome of the "cash for honours" debacle (the good news is that no-one will go to prison over it as they are all full!), questions of wasted investment within the NHS accelerated by failing IT systems, farcical control orders, road pricing and the tax credit fiasco, all rounded off with a nation of smelly dustbins and spot fines for putting out rubbish on the wrong day. We really have never had it so good.

The good news is that we can now drink alcohol 24 hours a day to forget about these minor issues. Families should become closer as our children stay at home until they are 40 trying to save up to buy a 10% stake in a one bedroom flat for £20,000 whilst paying back their tuition fees and paying £100 a week to drive to work. As parents we will all be looking forward to the government telling us that under the revaluation of our properties we really have had it good by paying council tax at a rate that really didn’t reflect the true value of our properties. On the plus side, our carbon footprint should greatly reduce as we won’t be able to afford to go on holiday. I rather suspect that sales of "We Love Gordon" T-Shirts may be a project for the next crop of contestants in "The Apprentice".

The next manifesto is going to make interesting reading. Not that anything they say can be believed on the strength of tuition fees etc etc etc. Let's face it, we all can't wait for Identity Cards that will make today's identity theft problems look like a walk in the park.

I wish them all the best and refuse to get excited about the difference it will make. I suspect that the presidential approach will live on but this time without the smile. As to providing a route to express the views of the “grass roots” party, I suspect that the only time the grass roots are allowed to speak is when an election like this comes along or at election time when mixing with “the people” becomes important.

I used to be a happy go lucky guy proud to be British and now I’m Mr Angry who can’t listen to political commentary without feeling I’m been fed a line or being asked to trust someone who finds it impossible to answer a question with a simple yes or no.To my horror, this inability to address simple issues to the satisfaction of everyday people allows organisations like the BNP to gain ever increasing support. Whoever is in charge I can’t help thinking that the family silver has all been sold and that the New World Order will see us dancing to the tune of China, and India.

I'm sorry to say that I am one of the growing minority that have lost all hope of our political system.

I see absolutely no point in voting for parties that have no real differences between them...

I know this is probably not want you want to hear as feedback to this editorial - but when I hear the word 'debate' used in conjunction with politicians these days I have to smile wryly.

Can there be any debate among consensual re-interpretations of one another's version of the same this or that...

It seems that the only thing that separates one party from the other these days is a Thesaurus.

  • 9.
  • At 09:19 AM on 31 May 2007,
  • Mary Lockhart wrote:

I was very surprised that every one of the candidates favoured building new nuclear power stations. Hitherto I had the impression that at least one third of party members were opposed to the inclusion of nuclear in the energy mix because of concerns about the waste. Considering 2 candidates were very forceful about representing the membership and re-engaging with them, it is perhaps revealing that none suggested consulting with the membership before advancing any settled view - on anything, not just the nuclear issue.

Dear Peter

Credit to Newsnight for arranging this debate. But what a tease you are in posing your concluding question. The lesson surely from the debate is that you, the broadcaster, found a 'newspeg' for stimulating debate.

I'm hoping you will find other 'newspegs' to fuel more intelligent political debate - especially about the 'Command Party' exposed as past its sell-by date in the LabOUR Commission report at:

  • 11.
  • At 10:25 AM on 31 May 2007,
  • Home Truths wrote:

Nope, I thought it was a complete borefest. Candidates desperately trying to save their front bench careers by harking back to old fashioned left wing ideals.

Good on JP for trying to keep the answers brief and to the point. Ultimately what the deputy leader believes is irrelevant.

We all want to see Paxman vs Brown because then we may get an idea of where we're heading.

  • 12.
  • At 02:06 PM on 31 May 2007,
  • Rabble Rouser wrote:

Just to add a lone voice of dissent: the debate was very worthwhile. It's too convenient to overlook the fact that all of the candidates are longstanding public servants - constituency MP's who can be held to account by the electorate and who work on their behalf with little thanks and a great deal of sneering. Would you do it? No, thought not. Beats me how people can simultaneously hold the views that all politicians are beneath contempt, and that they're just in it for the glory.
The galloping apathy of those who criticise yet feel no obligation to contribute anything positive is guaranteed to determine the quality of our democracy - the system we purportedly want and admire - yet how many of us are active democrats in the way that we're active parents or active members of the RSPB? Our great grandparents would probably be appalled by our complacent acceptance of things they'd consider privileges and we're doing them a disservice by being so contemptuously feeble, while in our leisure moments engaging in our favourite national pastime - researching our family trees.

  • 13.
  • At 03:34 PM on 31 May 2007,
  • Luke Carruthers wrote:

A very interesting debate in some ways...yes it was a bit cosy but what did we expect?

I would actually have liked to see a little more challenging from Jeremy Paxman (who generally handled things very well I thought), particularly concerning most candidates utter inability to provide simple yes or no answers to questions.

The unwillingness to provide any meaningful answer at all to some questions, with the usual vapid fluff instead, actually said much more about the calibre of the candidates than their answers did!

For me John Cruddas came across as earnest but underpowered, Hillary Benn as the most thoughtful candidate and Harriet Harman presented herself suprisingly well.

Maybe a second debate could be organised in Alan Sugar's board room with candidates being eliminated by Sir Alan if their justifications for their positions and advocacy of their own suitability is unsatisfactory!

The search for Gordon Brown's Apprentice continues....

  • 14.
  • At 02:24 PM on 01 Jun 2007,
  • Paul wrote:

well!well!well! if it isn't the same people who no nothing of loyalty, but to back stab. if any of these guys get the job i will laugh my head off. come on are there no politicians out there with a bit of grit and honesty, please not these clowns. BBC shoot these guys down, its your duty to protect us from back stabbing idiots!

This post is closed to new comments.

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.