• chrisfewtrell1969

The Strongest Candidate

There's little doubt our leader Jo Swinson received the most hostile audience reception during the recent 'Ouestion Time - Leaders' Special'. But what wasn't made clear to viewers at the time was that the so-called 'balanced' audience was put together on the basis of House of Commons' representation - not 2017 vote share or opinion poll ratings. Thanks to the inequity of first past past the post, this meant while the mere sight of Jeremy Corbyn was enough to provoke ecstatic whooping from getting on for half the audience - not a response he's ever stirred in me - Jo had to walk out into a bear pit, where her supporters were outnumbered by more than twenty to one.

I would love to have seen how Jeremy Corbyn or Boris Johnson would've coped with such odds. I very much doubt they would have exhibited the strength of character or mustered the grace under fire that Jo managed. She spoke clearly, honestly, never descended into the bluster or evasion that characterised the Prime Minister's responses, nor did she indulge in the kind of sloganising and crowd pleasing rhetoric that has always been Jeremy Corbyn's stock in trade in lieu of a straight answer.

What we saw was a strong, modern leader not prepared to take a backward step or reach for an easy answer, and I for one was immensely proud of both her clarity and her fortitude. What I was not proud of - and not for the first time - was the conduct of the BBC in selecting the audience and then failing to explain the criteria to viewers. As broadcasters they know the value of audience response in terms of forming a narrative or creating a mood - that's why they use canned laughter on so many sitcoms. Moreover, on this occasion they saw the value of taking laughter out of a show, because when highlights of the programme appeared in subsequent news bulletins, the laughter that greeted Boris Johnson's attempt to answer a question on truth was deliberately edited out. They have since been forced to apologise for this, just as they had to when they inserted footage of Boris Johnson from 2016 into their Remembrance Sunday package, disguising his dishevelled, confused state at this year's Cenotaph ceremony.

They claim these are genuine mistakes - I will leave you to decide. But it is clear to me that we are not only fighting the other parties but the entire media during this election, including that section of it we used to be able to trust to be impartial. However, in facing these odds, I don't believe we could wish for a more courageous, combative leader than the one we are so fortunate to have. When this country chooses its next Prime Minister on December 12th, to my mind there can be no doubt that the strongest candidate, in every way, is Jo Swinson.

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