Who really won? My view on the Leaders’ Debates

I know I am not the only one that knows who outrightly won yesterday’s 7-way leaders’ debate.

Nicola Sturgeon was, in my opinion, phenomenal in the face of 4 outspoken men (3 of which will have had significant practice in this sort of area). The debate has really just left me sad that Sturgeon is confined to Scotland. If she was head of Labour, they would win the contested General Election, no doubts about it.

The debates discussed 4 of the most ‘important’ issues that circulate the election May: the NHS, the economy, immigration and young people – all fair enough areas in their own right. In each, I feel it is fair to say that Sturgeon came out on top. I appreciate I am vehemently left wing, but to me she just seemed to be talking sense.

People recoil from the SNP because of the fact it is Scotland – with the image of a British parliament controlled by those without the entire nation’s best interests at heart, and as my dad pointed out to me as we watched last night, this is fair enough; why should Scottish (and Welsh, is Wood gets her devolved Welsh parliament) has influence in purely English politics, when the English do not have a say in theirs. My answer is that if the SNP are going to stick by their more socialist policies, which would appear to benefits the wider majority of the population, rather than the cocktail of centre-centre right dogmas presented by the 3 main parties at the heart of Westminster, then I would be happy for them to run our country.

I think it was obvious that Miliband was desperate to show that he was not itching to collaborate with the SNP in a coalition in the case of a hung parliament after May 7th, but to me this seems like the best option – a left-wing moderating force assuring Ed keeps to his policies, perhaps shifting Labour back to the side where it has traditionally drawn support.

That being said, Natalie Bennett presented what I felt were sensible policies and recommendations which indeed offered an alternative to the 3 main parties. I think the pressure was unfairly on the Greens, to justify their surge in support and do aforementioned supporters proud. A lot of people on my Facebook feed took it upon themselves to “sum up” the leaders’ debate for those who may or may not have been watching, and lumped as per usual ‘climate change’ on the Greens. I think this was grossly unfair. I missed the first quarter, but watched the rest and as I recall, Bennett mentioned climate change maybe twice. Climate change is an incredibly important issue, far more important than immigration given that climate change would only exacerbate it for the worse, yet of course, it cannot be discussed by the leaders who should be promising they will tackle it.

That aside, and now moving on to discuss the NHS, my dad raised a couple of issues with me: my dad seems to be convinced that all of our doctors and medical staff are leaving the country, leaving me smiling in disbelief. My mum, a long-standing civil servant at the heart of the NHS in the South-West agreed with me that this simply wasn’t true. I asked my dad to show the statistics that all of our doctors were going abroad, leaving us with many foreigners in the NHS (which I’m not sure is a problem, given that he always harps on that those who get jobs should be the most qualified – i.e. it’s a non-issue whether a British job goes to a British person). He feebly searched around on the internet and gave me the number of 5000, to which my mum and I laughed. To me, this highlighted how little the public are actually informed. Farage and others commented on how much money immigrants (with HIV) were taking out of the NHS amongst other things, and the number £100million was chucked around, but as my mum pointed out this is just a ‘drop in the ocean’ to the NHS budget. The problem here is that people just do not know, the NHS and the government are not transparent. £100million sounds like an awfully big number, but in the grand scheme of things it isn’t and this is where we need to see change.

In my living room last night points were raised about this lack of public awareness, but how can we expect the public to get a good understanding of British domestic politics when so much of today’s most widely read media is owned by infamous Rupert Murdoch?

Sturgeon urged the electorate to vote for a Green or a progressive Labour candidate, which just fields the question as to why there isn’t a left-leaning English devolutionist party. Many English people want English Votes for English Laws, yet this is not presented to them. My dad’s point is valid – why should the Scots get to determine the outcome of the election based on whether Labour enters a coalition with them? To me, this suggests we need a devolutionist left wing party that can united with the left-leaning Wood and Sturgeon is Wales and Scotland on issues which are truly national, but leave more regional issues to the individual countries themselves. The main problem here is Nick Clegg’s apparent fear of a rainbow coalition of parties – a sort of “too many cooks spoil the broth” approach, but I just think of the times when it was the Whigs and the Tories – prior to the establishment of the Labour party as a significant political force in the 1920s and 30s, a multi-party Westminster was unthinkable.

In recent times, the electorate has become disillusioned with the status quo in Westminster, and have lost hope that that is the only option, and with the existence of First Past the Post and Safe Seats this is a fair analysis. For that reason, it seems to me the best hope the public have of a progressive government that works for them is a new approach to government, that is can be a coalition of many different voices working together to achieve outcomes that work for them, and not for businesses or the parties themselves. My dad, ever insightful, suggested that the problem with the main parties is that they work in government to benefit the parties themselves, rather than the people who elected them, and this is the fatal flaw in British democracy today: until we have a government that works for the greater good then politics will continue to decline leaving the public disillusioned, frustrated and powerless, a situation I desperately hope we never have to face.

Climate Talks and Agendas

This issue has been done to death, covered by every news outlet five times over, this does not however make it less important today than it did, say, 10 years ago when I personally began noticing the problem of climate change. You would think that a problem so large scale, affecting every corner of the globe would get more coverage, especially during the United Nation’s climate change summit that took place this week.

The summit saw 120 world leaders talk for 4 minutes each about climate change, and was especially significant as for many, this was their inaugural summit. I figured that this alone was reason enough to write a blog post about coverage of climate change in the media today.

This article will look at coverage in newspapers further afield from my go-to the Guardian and the Daily Mail (although these will be included) and hopefully assess their impact on readers the world over. I remember reading many articles in the Guardian this week about climate change, with Obama declaring … however, when I visited the website, I can’t see anything on the front page. You may be thinking ‘well it was a few days ago’, which is true, but personally I feel it is still important enough of an issue to warrant at least some front page recognition, especially as miseducation about climate change is part of the reason why nothing is seemingly ever done about it.

Five ways Ban Ki-Moon’s summit has changed international climate politics forever was the first article I read in the Guardian concerning this summit, which was surprising given that it gives a more ‘Comment Is Free’ vibe, rather than a news story (which on reflection and examination, it may well act as). The third paragraph into this column reads ‘The UN climate summit did not conclude in a grand ‘agreement’.’ and this is where I feel the Guardian may have gone wrong. Part of the problem, in my opinion and experience discussing with fellow students at both university and school, if that many people feel exasperated with climate coverage, as like me, they feel nothing is ever really agreed upon or sorted out – only postponed. This summit is indeed a preface to the upcoming Paris 2015 conference when EU climate goals will be reassigned, yet the fact tat nothing was achieved only adds to this “climate change exhaustion”.

Nevertheless, the article in itself is a positive one, finishing with the explanation of its title: it gives 5 positive impacts the summit has had (something it should have opened with).

Contrastingly, when I read the Daily Telegraph, a right-wing broadsheet (a smart and socially acceptable brother of the Daily Mail) I see a significantly more negative take on the summit. One article, entitled How not all of Barack Obama’s climate change ‘facts’ in UN speech stack up appears to aim to discredit a large proportion of Obama’s speech. This caught my eye as it is a classic take on anything that suggests climate change at its current level is anthropogenic by nature. Let’s look at the opening ‘claim’ made by Obama:

‘OBAMA: “Over the past eight years, the United States has reduced our total carbon pollution by more than any other nation on Earth.”

THE FACTS: Europe as a whole has cut a bigger proportion of its emissions.’

You do not have to be stupid to notice the basic flaw here; Obama says his nation has cut its emissions the most out of the countries on earth, and the Telegraph dispels this with the fact that the EU as a whole has cut a ‘bigger proportion of its emissions’. I may not be a climate scientist working within the environmental and meteorological departments of the government meaning I can neither confirm nor deny this fact, but I can say that the EU is not a nation. Nevertheless, I am predisposed to dislike articles that aim to reduce the believability or importance of climate change, leading to perhaps the biggest culprit in this sense, the Mail.

Unsurprisingly, neither the summit, nor the hundreds of thousand strong demonstrations across the world (which even impacted my walk to university this Sunday) that coincided with it, made front page news on the Daily Mail website. In fact, it took a lot of searching today just to find a relevant article, leading me to a video of Obama’s speech, accompanied by a link to an article seemingly titled President Barack Obama says alarms ringing over climate change. Upon clicking, however, the article is in fact called: Obama’s new climate change rules will create ‘an unnecessary hurdle’ for global development work – including fight against Ebola, warns CDC official. Upon reading, the Mail changes an article which should be climate orientated, to an article concerning the work of the CDC (Centres for Disease Control and Prevention). Admittedly, this is also important, yet simultaneously classic of the Mail itself, and can be seen as another example of poor journalism. The Mail attempts to assert that we should not combat climate change, as it’s “cost” will inhibit other important work, such as fighting malaria and ebola abroad. This contrasts with information found in the Guardian revealing that an outcome of the summit was the revelation that cutting carbon emissions can walk hand in hand with a growing economy.

Climate change is a touchy topic, and another difference I found interesting when combing the aforementioned newspapers was articles relating to the recent study conducted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as well as Washington University which supposedly found that changing wind patterns are the reason for increasing temperatures on the US’ West Coast. The Telegraph here, as well as the Mail here, covered this story, yet I could not find the equivalent article on the Guardian. This shows how, just as my professor noted in his International History lecture today, that journalists (and historians in the lecture’s case) can conveniently overlook facts that do not run with the associated journal’s agenda. This is not exclusive to the Guardian, and is very common in the Mail’s news coverage, especially on “contested” topics such as climate change.

What can be concluded from this, is again that no newspaper can be fully trusted, hence my inclination to read more than one. To me, this adds to my acknowledgement that climate change (and human responsibility for it) will never be universally accepted (at least for the foreseeable future), but also to my anger at news sources that continue to religiously dispute any evidence contrary to their agenda. Agendas naturally run deep within any publication, this blog for example aims to convince readers of my arguments and ideas, what is important, is that we, the public as readers, continually dispute and question what we read to extrapolate what truth we can get from it.