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

PM's Speakers Week

Post categories:

Joanna Carr Joanna Carr | 17:18 UK time, Monday, 22 June 2009

Order! Order!

Today marks the climax of PM's Speaker Week. Each day last week, we heard manifestos for restoring trust between governed and governors and then on Friday, our four alternative Speaker candidates debated live with each other.

The PM programme logoPM listeners, and those who comment on the blog, are never shy in letting us know what they think, so here goes an attempt to answer some of the most frequently-asked questions.

(1) Why do an alternative Speaker competition at all? Why not just hear from the actual candidates for the actual post?

"Yes, and" (as the managers say). We did cover the Hansard Society hustings quite extensively on Monday's PM, hearing from each of the candidates. This has been the only public forum so far - there'll more coverage of today's hustings in the House tonight.

But given that MPs defenestrated Michael Martin as part of their response to the crisis of trust arising from the expenses scandal, we thought that there was more than enough room to hear from people in public life with ideas about how to change things.

(2) Why did you choose the candidates you did?

My original brief to our excellent producer, Manveen, was simply to find people who make you want to turn the radio up when they start speaking. I'm sure with that in mind, almost everyone will disagree with our selection for at least one of our four Speakers.

We approached all kinds of figures across a range of areas: in particular, we tried to persuade some prominent business types to take part, without success.

In the end, I was very pleased with our line up: Tim Collins, AL Kennedy, Greg Dyke and Lord Carey.

Surely the ideas of an inspirational army colonel, a prize-winning novelist, a former DG of the BBC and a former Archbishop of Canterbury are of interest to anyone thinking about trust in the institutions of the nation?

(3) What came out of it?

I think it was inevitable that we had a quart-into-pint-pot difficulty, and I wish that we'd had even more time to continue the debate on Friday's show.

But over the week, we devoted 45 minutes to a debate which dealt with Lords reform, the kind of people who become MPs, what happens to them when they make it to Parliament, how to keep MPs in touch with the concerns of their constituents, parliamentary reform and whether it's the answer to the expenses question - and much else besides.

(4) Why did we need a phone vote?

We were very keen to gauge to what degree our candidates were finding favour with the audience, and we thought an independently-verified phone vote was the most robust and straightforward way to do this.

Several correspondents to the PM blog asked whether we (the BBC) were making any money from the competition: the short answer is "no". The competition (now closed) was conducted in accordance with the BBC's guidance on competitions.

In short: undoubtedly not a perfect exercise, but hopefully an enjoyable and thought-provoking one. How it compares to the debate in SW1, we'll have to see...

Joanna Carr is editor, PM, iPM and Broadcasting House.


  • Comment number 1.

    More BBC and PM programming dumbing down...

    "In short: undoubtedly not a perfect exercise, but hopefully an enjoyable and thought-provoking one."

    So pretty pointless in other words, wouldn't it have been better to have asked listeners which of our elected MPs they would prefer to be Speaker, rather than a collection of people who are not and most likely never will be accountable to the electorate. Light entertainment dressed up as something meaningful, something that the the PM programme has become very good act during the current incumbents tenure, current-affairs the PM programme is not much of the time. :-(

  • Comment number 2.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 3.

    I enjoyed PM's Speakers Week. I backed Greg Dyke, but It was good to hear all of the speakers' views. It was the clarity of Mr Dyke's proposals that attracted me (in contrast to Lord Carey's ball in the long grass Royal Commission approach). Mr Dyke had the necessary spanners and wrenches required to make me feel happier about our politicians (the number 400 is stuck in my mind!).

  • Comment number 4.

    I heard this and 'sort of' listened.

    It really did not do a lot for me but it certainly was no worse than a lot of other programs and, why not, if some listeners found it interesting.

  • Comment number 5.

    'Order. Counterorder. Disorder.' You know who.

    This was a classic. It could only happen in the mother of all parliaments.

    "Clean sweeep. New beginning. Transparency," was the cry.

    So the left lot elect a 'right one' which the right lot detest and on the first day start plotting against him.

    I am truly persuaded the right man was elected for the job.

  • Comment number 6.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 7.

    #4. At 1:27pm on 23 Jun 2009, ExpatDinosaur wrote:

    "and, why not, if some listeners found it interesting."

    Because the programme could have been used even better, if PM wants to indulge in fiction then might I suggest that the producer and presenter ask to present "Book and Bedtime" or the "Friday Play"! My point being, that the same time could have been used to informed and educated rather than just entertain the PM audience, achieving two out of the three requirements of the BBC's Charter is surely far better than achieving just one?

  • Comment number 8.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 9.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 10.

    I am unsure as to why the BBC wanted to introduce some more fiction into the Westminster processes. Don't we get this already on the Parliament channel?

  • Comment number 11.


    Unlike the recent PM programme, the election of the new Speaker as televised on the BBC Parliament channel was factual - now there's an idea, perhaps more people would be watching politics if the the BBC and MPs etc. referred to it all as "Reality Politics"!

  • Comment number 12.

    Why all the censorship ?? And why the byline photo ??

    Trying to justify your own existence with a 'profile-raising' exercise ?

  • Comment number 13.

    Radio 4 - PM's Speakers Week was meant to be about 'restoring trust between governed and governors'. But the format chosen - getting listeners to vote for one of four people with a plan was unsatisfactory.

    Each plan contained many proposals. And so for example, if we wanted to support proportional representation, we had to vote for Greg Dyke, the only person who backed it. But his plan also included many other proposals which we might not agree with at all.

    Also, Greg did not say which *kind* of proportional representation was to be used. He needed to do so, because some kinds of proportional representation would have made MPs more accountable to the voters, while other kinds would have actually made them less accountable.

    It would have been better to make each person give two concrete proposals, yielding eight proposals in all. The proposer would have described in detail how the proposal would be implemented, and what the benefits would be. Then the three other people could have said what they thought of it.

    Finally, listeners could have been given one of four phone numbers to ring, depending on whether we thought the proposal was
    * good,
    * mainly good,
    * mainly bad but with some redeeming features, or
    * worthless.

  • Comment number 14.

    From the latest reports, Mr BERCOW it seems loves to spend tax payers money like it was a god given right. Why cant the speaker and his family just be put up in a Hotel for the juration. It's got to be cheeper!!!


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.