A few years ago, I ran little software company in Fife. My office was next to Gordon Brown’s constituency office. As Chancellor of the Exchequer, he was legislating against small companies like mine by introducing the IR35 legislation. I lobbied against it and met him, as my representative at the time, on more than one occasion to press my case. I lost the argument.

A little while later, Gordon and his wife, Sarah, lost their first child, Jennifer. I offered my condolences and helped his office deal with the large number of similar messages from the people. In 2003, facing insolvency, I closed the business down and took a year out of the workforce to re-qualify as a teacher. During this year, I struggled with debts, and one particular month, was unable to pay my rent and was afraid I would not be able to stay at university. When Gordon Brown heard about this from his staff, he sent me a personal cheque for the rent. Unsolicited.

Since then, I have recovered my solvency and am enjoying public service in secondary education. Gordon Brown has refused repayment of the help he gave me in 2003.

It is a pity he is painted so blackly this week, after a private remark was made public. I am thankful there are no media microphones in the staffrooms. Teachers might come across as child-hating, contemptuous and arrogant middle-class snobs, judged by the words vented over a coffee after a run of difficult and challenging childrens’ behaviour.

I’m not voting for Gordon Brown: he’s not my representative. I am, however, voting the way I think is the democratic way: I am voting for the local man who does a good job representing the people of my home town. He’s a Liberal Democrat, as it happens. Would I vote for Gordon Brown if he were my representative? Yes, of course. He is a good man.

BBC Question Time

23 October 2009

I wasn’t going to blog about this but I have just read Seb Schmoller‘s skewed assessment and thought I should after all.

The BBC is obliged to be politically impartial – you could argue that all public media ought to be so but we are all aware that this is more than naive an expectation. Their reasoning for inviting Nick Griffin onto Question Time can never have been, “that it wished to discredit the BNP and negate its influence” for this would imply political purpose. The BBC can have no political purpose. Rather, as their DDG said clearly yesterday, the BBC responds to rising political importance by following what the people do – in this case, the people voted the BNP a couple of MEPs. They therefore represent a view – a minority but significant view – of a part of the people of our country. They therefore should be involved in public debate so that we can hear, be influenced by and respond to their eloquence, the strength of their argument, their charm, personality, good looks and all the other things that affect how we dispense our electoral power at the ballot box. Bravo, BBC, for not being bullied into the suppression that was demanded by the clamour outside TVC and elsewhere, for this would have been oppression. Only the dishonest or stupid fear open debate.

As for the choice of panelist, this was a master stroke. An articulate and moderate Muslim woman; a highly experienced politician from the establishment that caused the reaction that voted in the extremists; the extremist; and the sharpest intellect I have seen on such a forum for years. Bonnie Greer, the playwright, commands not only devastating wit but also a thorough knowledge of history. With these and apparent ease, she allowed Nick Griffin to place himself by his own words right where he belongs. At the end of his own political rope.