Thursday 15th April 2010 saw an event never before seen in the UK. It affected many thousands of people and has the potential to affect millions. And the debate about its effect on the population will rumble on for days to come.
What was this event?
Well, take your pick. There were two history making events on this date. The first being the massive cloud of volcanic ash drifting through the air from Iceland towards the UK, shutting down the entire air travel network.
An over reaction? Health and safety gone too far? Or a sensible decision?
What ever your views, the authorities decided that it was just too unsafe to risk any flights in UK air space while this cloud drifts over the country. And in fairness to them, that was probably the correct decision. But did those affected by this decision agree.
The television networks managed to find disgruntled people at airports to interview and as usual none of those interviewed could understand why their flights had been cancelled. Despite standing under the departures board which read “Flight cancelled due to volcanic ash”, people were still claiming not to know what was going on.
I feel sorry for anyone affected by this; those who have planned a holiday for weeks and are deserving of a rest. In fact I know a couple who were sent home from Gatwick Airport before the news really broke around the country. Maybe for them it was harder to understand because the reason behind the cancellation was only just becoming clear.
However, I don’t understand why when presented with the facts, some people are still all too keen to have a go at the authorities over their decisions. Would these people have been happier to have been boarding their plane when news broke of the flight before them crashing because the engines had cut out? Would they have been happy to continue to board if the authorities said that it wouldn’t happen again and that it was a fluke?
I doubt it.
Of course I would have been upset to be stuck in an airport; of course I would have been upset to be sent home when I should be enjoying a holiday, but sometimes we just have to trust the powers that be.
Which brings me to the second historic event – The Debate! The debate over who will be our future ‘powers that be’.
For the first time in the UK’s political history, the three main candidates for the up coming election went head to head in a live televised debate. It had been billed as an event not to miss. This is the sort of debate the Americans have been doing for 50 years. We even took advice from them on how to stage such an event.
So did the debate live up to all expectations?
Well, in my humble opinion, I think I summed it up two sentences ago when I said we asked the Americans how to ‘stage’ such an event.
That is exactly how it came across to me, from the game show setting, something more akin to The Weakest Link, to the over zealous application of make up applied to David Cameron’s face. Mr Cameron probably had no say in amount of foundation he was wearing, but he would have been quite at home at one of those make up counters in the well known high street store I talked about here!
It might as well have been filmed with out an audience, as they were under strict instructions to remain silent. The only people allowed to make a noise were those posing the questions and even they had to read them off carefully positioned cards! Were they really their questions, or had these been written for them to ensure the candidates could ‘debate’ the correct topics?
Or am I just being too cynical?
There were giant stop watches counting down the sixty seconds each candidate was allowed to speak for before Alistair Stewart tried to move them on. None of them were allowed to truly debate as they were hurried along often before making their point. Sometimes, however, they kept repeating themselves which is when Mr Stewart came into his own and stopped them in their tracks.
Then there were two polls. The first being about twenty people from Bolton; a town seen as extremely important for each party to win if they are to come to power in May. They were monitored as each candidate spoke to see how they reacted; whether they approved, disagreed or were not moved by what was being said. A graph was displayed showing their reactions and for the most part their feelings were fairly neutral, with the occasional spike either side.
So what did this tell us?
Well, apparently the Lib Dem candidate, Nick Clegg, was the man most likely to receive Bolton’s votes!
And the second poll was taken from a cross section of 4000 people who also believed Mr Clegg had won the debate.
But do we really believe these statistics? Should we really believe them?
Let’s face it, there are about forty million eligible voters in this country and 4000 only amounts to 0.01% of them. Is their opinion a true reflection of the voting public?
Would The X Factor decide the result after only receiving 0.01% of the phone calls?
Of course not! Maybe we should change the way we vote on May 6th and do it by phone. Dial 090… and add 01 for Gordon Brown, add 02 for David Cameron etc. We’d probably get a better turn out!
Roll on May 6th, when we can all go to the polling booth and place our X on the ballot paper. Then on May 7th, we’ll truly know who had the X factor!