Thursday, March 10, 2005

Letters to the editor

Like newspapers up and down the country, the Morley Observer (& Advertiser) has a letters page. Week after week, people write in to the editor letting off steam or occasionally providing praise. A few years ago, I used to turn the page quickly because they appeared to be full of bickering & squabbling about & between local politicians that I neither knew nor cared about.

Now that I am a politician myself (small p!)& know some of the individuals concerned I find it a bit more interesting but I have always asked myself what the motivation of the writer was when they penned the piece. What is the hidden agenda? What is their political or religious undercurrent? Are they a member of a political party? If I know the person then does the letter reflect their style or have they been handed it by someone else & asked to sign it?

A couple of years back, someone told me that political parties orchestrate a lot of the letters in local papers in order to raise awareness on issues, but mainly to score points. They even suggested that it came out of the Local MP's office on occasions. This time last year, I met an ex MP at a Conference who had an interest in Yorkshire as his Son lived in Leeds and he was a prospective MEP for the area. He knew our former MP (John Gunnell) fairly well and surprised me somewhat by telling me that he was a very shy person. I sounded him out on the possibility that the MP's office wrote some of the local paper letters and he rubbished it immediately, on the basis that the Party Central Office wouldn't trust a mere MP to get it right and would of course do it on his behalf then fax or email them to him! Of course he was a Tory and we can't necessarily assume all parties practice the same "news management" but judging from the exploits of Ali Campbell it seems a reasonable supposition.

We can tell that the election campaign has started in Morley. First was the announcement of the prospective PPC from the BNP. Then came a flurry of letters slagging off the Morley Borough Independents (the gang of six who have progressively unseated the six safe Labour Leeds Councillors). Now the glowing praise for our hard working MP has started with a letter last week so effusive and toadying that had I written it myself I wouldn't be able to look anyone in the eye again.

Now the MBIs have done some digging into some of the recent letters published. It turns out that many of the names & addresses are made up, the people not being on the electoral roll & the people living there never having heard of them. They have cried foul in their latest trade-mark lime green brag sheet, going so far as to accuse Labour of the scam. Surprisingly, however, the local paper hasn't picked up on it yet.

Maybe there should be some sort of sign-off categorisation at the end of letters to the editor in a similar manner to ethnic origin forms so that we can read the correspondence in context and judge it accordingly. After all, anything other than hard science is basically opinion...

Ian Grey, Political Affiliation: None; Political inclination: Classical Liberalism; Religious view: Agnostic.

2 comments:

Paul said...

but, Ian, opinion is that which makes politics . Frustrating, confusing, yet fascinating.

Never trust anyone who totally agrees with their parties policies 100%; equally never trust one who does so yet jettisons them for personal advancement.

Ian Grey said...

Of course, if someone sets up their own vanity party (Respect, Veritas, et al) they will totally agree with their own party policies, or at least the founding ones!

Never trust anyone with a passion for politics or religion...

Never work with children or animals...

Never eat yellow snow...

Curiously enough, shortly after I had made this post, I read a book called "Are you Liberal? Conservative? Confused?" by Richard J.Maybury which proposed the same idea, a sort of declaring a personal interest (Party Member) or prejudicial interest (Obsessive activist).