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Sunday, May 01, 2005

Election UK: Dialogue and Challenge

It's election time in Britain. Always an interesting experience for this American. Serious electioneering that lasts only a month! What bliss. The television set has not been taken over by party political advertising either.

And guess what!!! The protagonists, excuse me, those running for office, actually face tough questioning and it can be probing and sometimes overtly hostile. It was fascinating for me to watch Question Time a few nights ago. Since Mr. Blair was not willing to participate in a debate with the other main candidates, each candidate faced the audience alone -- and if this audience was partial, I wasn't able to figure to whom. And if the candidate tried to evade the question, the way politicians are want to do, Mr. Dimbleby was there to follow-up and reign in the prevaricating fellow. Not only that, but from time to time it was permitted for the questioner to follow-up and comment on what that answer might be.

In all my years of watching political debates in the United States, I have never seen candidates face the kind of confrontation with the general public that I have witnessed in every general election in Great Britain. The fact is there are few American politicians able to suffer that kind of dialogue.
That is not to say that there are no set political answers -- but the edge is taken off these answers by a public that is allowed to follow-up and challenge the rhetoric.

Within a few moments of facing the audience, Tony Blair had broken into a sweat. And so it should be. The public hired him, the public can fire him and he's not for leaving -- yet!

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