BBC and the Four 'Don't Knows'
Saturday 11th September.
Whilst most people were enjoying a leisurely Saturday morning, I was out with John Elliott ( who was the Chairman of our North East No Campaign, now the Chairman of North East Says No...the rival to the Peoples' Campaign, but who will come back and work with us when, sorry, if, we get designation...confused? So is everyone else! ) at the Baltic Arts Centre in Newcastle.
Touch of culture you may ask? Herron gone cosmopolitan?
No, this was a pre-record for BBC. Their intention was to bring in four random 'undecideds' and get them to hear, seperatel, both sides of the debate. They will then be better informed and can then make an educated assessment of what they are voting for.
The four undecideds arrived. A young female psychology student, and three gentlemen,
an IT expert, a financial consultant and a fireman.
In the chit chat in the lift it transpired that they were all Newcastle supporters. Funny that it was the first question that I asked. Funny that the BBC didn't.
We arrived at the top floor of the Baltic in a open room with panoramic views of the Sage Music Centre, the Millennium Bridge and the rest of the wonderful development on the Quayside.
The 20 x 20 room itself was bare. Wooden floors. White walls and at one end, the big window. No pictures on the wall. Not even a copy of Constable's 'Haywain,' to take off the bareness. Members of the public were milling around the sides and towards the view. BBC set up their pitch, with two cameras, mikes and so on.
Six plain wooden chairs were brought in. From the size of them I think there would only be one dwarf left at the kitchen table, but at least Snow White would be all alone feeling Happy.
I thought it the chairs were perhaps from an exhibition...but no, we had to sit on them. The guy who was 6ft 6" (2m I believe, according to BBC rules now) looked the most uncomfortable.
There were no offers of coffee or even water. Not a chance of a table. Six basic, uncomfortable chairs in a plain room.
Half an hour of batting backwards and forwards and a few statements from the No Camp and it was over.
Chats in the lift on the way down. Pre- shots and greeting shots outside and then the BBC and the four had to dash to get to the similar event in front of the Yes Campaign.
John and I went and bought our own coffee and checked our watches to see if we had enough time left on the meter in the car park for a top-up. The BBC had jokingly asked how we got here and when I said by helicopter, but forgot to ask for an invoice, there was no offer forthcoming.
We drank up and left. I made my way to the next event. A gathering of Church groups some 15 miles away. John was off in the other direction with horses on his mind...and after winning (dead heat) a group race (his horse not him) at Doncaster on Thursday who can blame him. I am sure that the half of the £60k prize money will help cover the expenses the BBC are reluctant to offer...and I wouldn't blame him for jumping on the back of one of his steeds and galloping off into the sunset rather than keep turning up trying to fight the battle on such an unlevel playing field, with the biggest attempted stitch up in recent political history.
Oh, and the four unconvinced / unsure / undecided?
They were being whisked off to the Director's Box at St. James' Park to do their piece with Mr. Newcastle United, Sir John Hall and opera singer, Suzannah Clarke of the Yes Campaign. The BBC were in a rush because they had to get the filming done and put together because it was a home game. I am not sure how many stayed for the match, and if offered, I am sure they all declined.
I trust, however, that the four Newcastle United supporters would take the 'Yes' arguments on their merits and were not swayed or coerced in any way, and I am sure that the corporate hospitality did not get in the way of filming.
I am sure that two of the four were 'trainee' cynics, and had sussed Prescott's three card trick, but if I were them I would only make my mind up with Ballot Paper in hand ;-)
As for me, I entered the arena four years ago as a fresher. My Master's course is not far from being finished...and then perhaps a Professorship in Cynicism from the University of Establishment Spin, Duplicity and Deceit.
I have faith in the North East public not to fall for the fraud...and today endorsed the lack of understanding or respect that people caught up in the Newcastle bubble have for the rest of the region.
Sir John Hall, with a Bottle of Newcastle Broon in hand on a billboard in Sunderland saying, "Vote for Wor Geordie Parliament," will have everyone sharpening their pencils.
Saturday, September 11, 2004
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