Labour don't like MPs expressing views as 'English MPs'
In February Frank Field asked the Prime Minister to open a debate on the English Question. Cameron shrugged off the question. Remarkably, Field reveals that on the strength of that question the BBC asked him to appear on Question Time from St Andrews, and that the Labour Party leadership tried to persuade him not to appear.
Following a question I put to the Prime Minister on what I call the 'English Question', the Question Time team asked whether I would like to go on last Thursday's show, as it would be broadcast from Scotland.
I readily agreed, but I wondered whether the powers that be in the Labour party would try and block my appearance. They did, or at least they tried.
It was presented to me that I should not go on and that any appearance by me on QT could lose Labour any number of elections in the foreseeable future.
This is the normal treatment. Last time I was on Radio 4's Any Questions?, the team refused to buckle to Labour pressure to get me off. This time the line was that I could not possibly understand complicated Scottish politics. They were really worried that I was going to express my views as an English MP and they didn't know how to handle this.
Nigel Farage take note. Perhaps the BBC are crying out for politicians with a national profile to discuss the English Question.
Field said he was shocked by the Question Time audience and the sub-standard level of debate surrounding the Scottish Independence referendum. Instead of charming him with the values and virtues of Scottish independence the audience was, Field said, scrubbing around on the floor arguing over whether Scotland would be better off or worse off financially and whether 16 year-olds should vote.
I have to say that I agree with Field. But it's not the audience that should be ashamed, it's politicians on both sides who have reduced the independence debate to such triviality. The longer the debate goes on the cheaper and more tawdry it appears, so much so that the stereotype of the penny-pinching Scottish miser is going to be the only winner. Unless, that is, the penny-pinching Shetlanders and Orcadians beat them at their own game.
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