Friday, March 19, 2010

BBC School Question Time at Taunton School

Yesterday evening I was invited to be in the audience of Taunton School BBC Question Time event to represent the Green Party. This is the third election related public meeting for me this week; busy, considering I am not a candidate.

The panel consisted of a student chair (who did well, considering) and three students, two of whom were confident, considering their tender years, and one decidedly over-confident. The best way to describe him is to say that he makes William Hague the Younger look positively inhibited. The other male participant was of military stock, and was modelled on that comedian whose name evades me, the one who is really really miserable and grumpy, you know, the one who is sometimes on that patchy TV show hosted by Dara O'Briain. Jack Dee, that's the one.

Also on the panel was the great Craig Murray,  possibly the only diplomat of principle, who blew the whistle on torture in Uzbekistan, and was kicked out by our covertly torture-endorsing Foreign Office for his pains.

Alan Sked was on the other end of the panel. He founded the organisation that turned into UKIP, but left when it turned into the crypto-racist party that it now is. He was quite reasonable.

We had an electronic voting  system, which was interesting, especially when it showed a majority in favour of withdrawal from Afghanistan, excellent considering that the audience was privileged public-school middle class. I weighed in with the Opium Argument: "The Green Party always was and still is against the war, but paradoxically, we offer the key to success and honourable withdrawal: buy the opium, and use it as medicine in Africa, where 6 million people every year die of cancer with no pain relief.  We have been putting this case to Government, and their pathetic response is that some of it might leak onto the black market." The audience took the point that the Government line is without merit, given that ALL of it is currently going to the black market. Craig Murray backed this up, adding that the Big Pharmaceutical companies need to keep opiates in short supply in order to keep prices up.

I see that there is a letter in today's Guardian about buying the opium. The meme is spreading. Pity it is beyond the wit of any investigative journalists to take an interest in this aspect of the war.

Jack Dee responded that it is easy for the Green Party to speak about war, because it has never been in power, which gave me an opportunity to lash out at the disgusting, sub-democratic travesty of an electoral  system that is the First Past the Post system.  Which has got to go.

Voter turnout was debated, but I did not get an opportunity to mention that turnout is inversely proportional to majority, so Proportional Representation will increase voter engagement.

Local issues came up: the Government requirement that 20,000 houses must be built in Taunton. I was sitting next to Cllr. Alan Debenham, an indomitable Green Party member, who balanced the need for housing with the need for sensitive development, and criticised the unpleasant nature of government by diktat.

Immigration came up, with some pretty raw opinions coming through, especially from William Hague minor. I put forward the points that to accept people seeking asylum from torture, imprisonment and political oppression in other countries is of the essence of all that is good about being British. Also the point that we must look to the causes of immigration:
  1. War. Many immigrants are boomeranging from our bloodthirsty and piratical foreign adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  2. Torture and political oppression, which would be ameliorate by the Green Party's Global Index of Human Rights.
Ironic that the opinions that are against immigration are also the opinions that are in favour of viewing what happens in faraway countries as a Matter For Them.  The systemic approach of Green ideology is the antidote to all manner of political problems.

My last opportunity to comment was when the female student panellists, who I must say was of a most harmonious appearance, mentioned "Broken Britain". I came back with a mention of The Spirit Level, which relates all manner of social and medical problems to the Rich Poor Gap (RPG). This book truly is a world-changing work. You could see that this was unwelcome news. We are going to have to work hard to get this point across, because it seems Too Good to Be True. How to phrase it without seeming to be snake oil salespersons? (Actually, snake oil is probably good for arthritis, being rich in eicosapentaenoic acid. Bad for the snakes though).

There was a brisk discussion of the erosion of civil liberty under Labour. This is interesting. The concern about the desire of Government to exert command and control over the people is not limited to greens, lefties and anarchists. The libertarian and conservative right are also worried. Rightly. No less than 300 agencies are empowered to enter our homes. 650,000 people were stopped and searched under War on Terror legislation, of whom 200 were charged, mainly because the search turned up a bit of dope. No terrorists found. We should form an alliance on this matter. Green ideology surpasses the old cast-iron caste-divisions of classical left and right. I envision a mass protest against the many different Government abuses, from civil liberty to FPTP to the war in Afghanistan, all mediated through the General Pause.

Craig mentioned the dismal fact that all 3 major parties agree on the major issues (warmongering, dys-economics), so the Leader's Debate on Telly is going to be the political equivalent of Miss World.

So there we have it. A public school debate rich with radical and green overtones. Interesting times.

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