02 October 2005

The treatment of Walter Wolfgang.

The fact I'm writing about this says more about our media than the so called 'authoritarianism' in the Labour Party. Security was over-zealous, and didn't use 'common sense' when confronted with an elderly man, that it all the story is.

We all know that debate at Labour Party conferences has been suppressed for a long time. And we all know why that is the case. Unfortunately we know that to win elections we have the play the media's game of 'showing unity'. None of us like it, but we swallow hard and leave the debate to behind closed doors or independent rants on websites.

What Walter Wolfgang did, shows that there IS still some democracy left in the Labour party. The Tory conference happens this week and they will doubtless make some comments about the treatment of Walter. They know in advance that no-one will challenge their speakers, their elderly audience wouldn't dream of interupting. Debate has NEVER been a part of the Tory party. Is this not worse than the situation Labour are in?

We also have to ask ourselves, what if everyone in the audience was like Walter Wolfgang? There has to be some respect for speakers, or the whole conference would descend into chaos. The talk of the manipulation of the agenda to avoid debate on Iraq and other contentious issues is beside the point, that is another argument, nothing to do with Walter's ejection.

The focus of the media on this issue is ironic because the fact that someone did have the nerve to heckle, shows open debate is still alive (albeit suppressed). The irony is the Tories will be shown as more fitting of the media model, when open debate in their party has never occurred.

I was at the Labour fringe meetings last week and debate was refreshing and open, but the media never report from these events, in fact it is good they don't because politicians wouldn't feel so free to speak openly. The real travesty of democracy is that it is the media (helped by the electoral system) that is suppressing debate in this way with their biased and misleading coverage of events.


  1. No comment on the use of the Prevention of Terrorism Act, which David Lepper wholeheartedly supported, to detain Walter?

    You're blaming the media for suppressing debate - "the real travesty of democracy" - when it's the Labour government which is the most obvious culprit.

    Note: the media are not immune from criticism of course.

  2. I was speaking to David about this on Monday. David knows Walter because he used to be the proxy voter for his mom.

    All that happened was when Walter tried to re-enter the complex without his confiscated pass, a police officer said 'I can't let you in because of the terrorism act'.

    The media have made it sound like he was arrested which is totally untrue.

    It was an over-zealous security guard who didn't use common sense with an elderly gent, that was the problem but you have to accept that heckling is not fair to speakers or the rest of the audience.

    If you want to have a debate about Labour party internal democracy that is a different debate. I get your point about debates being suppressed, but ask why is it suppressed?

    I went to plenty of lively interesting and honest debate at the fringe last week that isn't covered in the media. Politicians could speak their mind precisely because it is 'semi' off the record and there are no press to distort what is said to their agenda.

    Look at the headlines in the Standard the other day, 'ken increases fares', when actually he has reduced fares on the oyster card. It is all an agenda and this is why the Labour party (exacerbated by our monstrous electoral system) has to be so careful what is said.

  3. I wouldn't complain about Walter Wolfgang being thrown out - if I was at a meeting where a crazy Stalinist jumped up shouting "Nonsense!" during a speech I'd probably help to do it.
    The Labour Party's internal democracy is its own concern. I was thinking more the way the Terrorism Act and other Labour driven law changes (again I have to add, supported by our MP) have been used to stifle public debate, e.g. the area around the Houses of Parliament.

  4. Totally agree with you Paul, don't agree with David on that. Do agree with his stance on loads of other things though, like his opposition to nuclear power. He also supports ASBOS (which I notice the Greens are thinking of changing policy on), Proportional representation and was fairly against Iraq, so there is plenty to agree with him about.