One thing we can all agree on is that in this NE stateen we are bitterly divided. The same applies at present to the United Kingdom (now there’s a misnomer) and the United States (ditto). The difference is that bitter division has been at the heart of our stateen from the get-go, whereas division has seriously flared in the UK and the US in more recent times.
Given that we’re divided, we’ve got all sorts of moves and inquiries that help us detect what is the political inclinations of someone we meet without directly asking. Things like what school people went to, what is their name, what football club do they support, where do they live. Not all of this is so that we can be sectarian to those we meet: on the contrary, most of us want to know so that we won’t trample on people’s sensitivities and when they express an opinion, we’ll know where it’s coming from.
With the day of the general election in sight, loyalties and backgrounds are made crystal clear. If you’re carrying a placard saying ‘Vote DUP’ or ‘Votail John Finucane’, it’s supremely clear where your loyalties lie. In the post-election hours and days, representatives of different political parties will pile into broadcasting studios to explain away or exult in the defeat or the victory they’ve gone through.
What we won’t hear is the political background of our radio and TV presenters. “Oh but they’re neutral, especially in the BBC. That’s they’re job.” Indeed. And in many cases they do it in a fair, unbiased way. But wouldn’t it be helpful if they could make public how they voted or even if they voted?
No, sorry – this would not be to question their professionalism. It would simply provide us, the people who pay their wages, with an indication of where bias might lie. The presenter him or herself knows how he/she votes, and they would maintain that that doesn’t prevent them doing their job fairly. Then let the rest of us know, so we their employers can also judge how even-handedly they’re discharging their job.
For some this proposal will be unthinkable. For others it will seem blindingly obvious. A final word of caution: because something has never been done or thought about before doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be a good idea.