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Written by 25 Jan 2012 on 25 January 2012 in Opinion
The pick of our readers' comments this month, both in print and online

This article is from the February issue of Total Politics

In reply to David Torrance’s article on the SNP’s success (TP, January), it would be churlish not to acknowledge the skill with which the SNP crafted their winning campaign last May. Their messaging and use of technology unpicked a voting system designed to create coalitions. It’s disappointing that they have since returned to negative campaigning, picking fights with judges and Westminster to undermine the union. Having ignored independence in the run up to the election, they now talk of little else. Anyone who questions their approach is accused of talking Scotland down.

They know they can’t guarantee that we would be better off outside the UK so avoid specifics. Voters will demand more than just a slick campaign. Conversely, the pro-UK parties will have to do more to add passion to their case, to connect with the voters. If both sides step up to those challenges, we’ll have the high quality campaign we deserve.

Caron Lindsay
Scottish Lib Dem activist and blogger

Opinion is extra
In his interview with Iain Dale (TP, January), Nick Robinson has raised a very important point about political journalism on television. At a moment when we are all obsessed by newspapers and online it is important to remember that most people get their political news via the telly. Increasingly, debates on programmes like The Andrew Marr Show, Sky News and Question Time are shaping the political arguments, too. But at the heart of it is the power of the great political TV editors like Nick or Adam Boulton who are increasingly expected to give analysis and comment along with the facts. As Nick said, this is not about UK political TV becoming like Fox News (although some of our radio from LBC to 5Live is heading that way). Perhaps it is time for us to have a debate about our regulated broadcast political news – more views with your viewing?

Charlie Beckett
Director of POLIS

I should like to express my gratitude to Ann Treneman. Her diary ‘Verbification worries’ (TP, January) reminded me of a verbified noun to which I have taken offence in the past, but which I forgot to include in my book, The Banned List: A Manifesto Against Jargon and Cliché.
She quoted Douglas Alexander, the shadow foreign secretary, accusing the Conservatives of “a tendency to empty-chair those meetings that seem to be on the periphery of our interest”. To empty-chair! Horrors! Ann said that she felt it should be illegal “for so many reasons”. Without waiting to find out what those reasons are, or even for an emergency committee meeting, I have added it to the Supplementary List that I have compiled since the book’s publication. It shall never be used again.

John Rentoul
Chief political commentator, The Independent on Sunday

The pick of online comments from

Commenting on Martin Shapland’s blog about Diane Abbott’s “divide and rule” comment on Twitter, Lucy Taylor said: “I think it is easy to make the mistake she made. We live in a society that is largely populated and controlled by white people. To make disparaging remarks about the controlling elements of society strikes me as different to the majority controlling elements making disparaging comments about minorities. In any case, I don’t think her comment is racist – it is political.”

T French said of Oliver Wiseman’s report on David Willetts’ high tech vision: “This is Britain to a T. We know a lot, invent a lot, and do not capitalise on it. Willetts needs to address that problem otherwise being good at science is not worth a candle.” Hooke added: “Let’s hope we don’t have to wait until Charles III before we get a real Royal Society of London.”

In response to Amber Elliott’s post wondering who will lead the pro-unionist camp in the Scottish referendum campaign, Ralph Baldwin comments: “There is a way to outflank Salmond and take control of this whole mess. I watch with wry amusement as the Westminster tribe try and work out how to do so. In the meantime I applaud the PM and his team for trying where the Parliamentary Labour Party failed utterly, both in elections and in suggesting a credible solution.” Ben chipped in to wonder to what extent Scotland would build its own institutions, saying: “This should be the biggest issue in politics… UKIP must be familiar with the kind of issues though: it’s all the kind of stuff that would arise if the UK pulled out of the EU (only more of it and with the possibility that Scotland would adopt the Euro!?).”

Susan was sceptical about Nick Clegg’s attempt to seize the agenda for 2012 and prove his relevance with a press conference on Europe. She said: “His speech is now being widely reported and, suffice to say, he hasn’t managed to avoid the ‘spare part’ label. The man needs to go; he has never defended the interests of this country. He is a bought-and-sold Eurocrat.”

KR Lohse responded to Dan Hodges’ piece wondering where Ed Miliband stood on the issue of Europe and a new EU treaty by roundly condemning the means by which the Labour leader was elected: “Ed’s luck ran out the day the unions propelled him into a position that the majority of the party didn’t want him in. He is a ghastly mistake by Labour, and you won’t have the common-sense to change him.”

Tags: Comments, Inbox, Issue 44, Letters

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