Thursday, November 03, 2005

Debates, the Three Davids, and George Galloway

I'm currently watching the debate between David Davis and David Cameron (how I love online BBC streaming). It is great to see two politicians willing to square off against each other in such a direct manner. Head-to-head debating doesn't happen enough, and Blair's attitude at PMQs makes it even worse. For once, I agreed with Cameron when he began his remarks by hoping that there would be a televised Prime Ministerial debate before the next general election. The problem that political discourse has in this country at the moment is that party posturing is more vital to media profile than policy is. It needs to change.

The Oxford student political scene has been involved in some petty bickering lately. The Conservative Association (OUCA) had invited George Galloway to address the society; he accepted the invitation, only to meet with strong criticism from the Labour Club (OULC). Despite being no big fan of OUCA at all, I wrote the following letter to the Oxford Student:
Dear Sir,
It is rare that I write anything in favour of either OUCA or George Galloway. However, I must defend both institutions against the comments made against them by the Labour Club in your last edition.
One of the problems that British politics faces in general is that there is a lack of debate. Rather than confronting opponents, political animals of all colours seem to feel most comfortable among their own kind, scratching each others' back, never engaging deeply with the issues at hand.
For OUCA to invite George Galloway to speak to them, and for Mr Galloway to accept the invitation, is a refreshing change. If politics is to achieve anything, it has to be through a full and frank discussion of the issues at hand. The past form of the two parties involved suggests the events may only be theatre, but it is a healthy step forward.
In a democracy, ignoring our opponents is wrong. It is our duty instead to change their minds and the minds of others by dealing with them head-on. For this, OUCA and Mr Galloway deserve to be applauded.
Ken Owen
Since writing the letter, George Galloway has cancelled his appointment to speak to OUCA (links will follow once the student paper uploads its current edition). This disappointed me greatly, and I think it reflects very badly upon Galloway. No wonder he praised Saddam's courage, strength, and indefatigability. He has none himself.

I stand by the words I wrote in the letter. We need to meet our opponents head-on; to use the crucible of free speech, of debate, to challenge their conceptions, and be willing to have ours challenged too. That's the point of a free society. We shouldn't just run away from those we dislike or find nauseous. If they're wrong, we should point it out. That way, the crucible of public opinion, not the crucible of the media moguls, can run our society.