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It's purdah out there

TV and radio has to give all politicians equal airtime on the next six weeks. Time to leave the country?

Published on March 31st 2010.

It's purdah out there

PREPARE to enter the wonderful world of purdah where everything hangs in suspended animation while the war of the words is fought on the streets of Britain.

A glitzy Tory fundraiser at the Liverpool Hilton this week saw an autographed photo of Stevie Gerrard going in an auction for more than a signed picture of the Iron Lady herself

Every city, town, village and hamlet will be invaded and bombarded with leaflets and literature as politicians go to battle in the next six weeks.

Yes, the General Election is about to happen. Perhaps the most important election since the last one!

In the background, we will exist in that nowhere land caused by purdah which will control what we can watch on television or listen to on the radio and will effectively silence thousands of civil servants and public officials.

The House of Commons will put up the ‘closed’ signs and all of our MPs will become ordinary citizens again. Even the Prime Minister will essentially be plain Gordon Brown, esquire.

Purdah is the period between the dissolution of Parliament and the end of the General Election and is supposed to ensure there is fair play by all involved.

It imposes strict, almost impossible rules, on TV and radio broadcasters to make sure one party is not allowed a split second more than rivals. You can almost imagine party faithful, stop watches in hand, making sure their man or woman was not robbed of a nano-second during News at 10.

Purdah also imposing strict rules on what decisions can or can’t be made by the Government – essentially everything is put on hold. The fear is the outgoing government could easily make a series of positive decisions to outwit the opposition. Civil servants, therefore hibernate for the duration. The only exception is a national emergency.

The very word purdah is the most fascinating of all – it literally means drawing down the curtain and comes from the Hindu and Muslim systems of keeping women secluded, preventing them from being seen by men. So much for all-women shortlists and female prime ministers.

Newspapers and other publications are not legally obliged to observe purdah, which is why they will happily nail their political colours to their masts and say who their readers should vote for.

Television channels have already started to get comments from all three party leaders or top-table politicians whenever one party utters something interesting.

Perhaps purdah is a blessing in disguise. Without it we would be overwhelmed with US-style political warfare – political advertising on television, sponsored messages with campaigners who never sleep.

Come election day it is the great British public who will decide the fate of Brown, Cameron, Clegg and the rest of them, not TV and radio.

For many the big question will be – should we sack Labour and give Cameron and his troops a go at running the show, or should be stick with the devil we know rather than rock the boat.

The Conservatives see a number of seats around Merseyside as key marginal targets, but as a measure of the task they face, a glitzy Tory fund raiser at the new Hilton this week saw an autographed photo of Stevie Gerrard (wearing his red shirt) going in an auction for more than a signed picture of the Iron Lady herself – Margaret Thatcher.- £300 against £200. And that, as they say, is politics – Liverpool style.

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Citizen of LiverpoolMarch 31st 2010.

Trouble is, we wouldn't be arsed voting

X-ratedMarch 31st 2010.

Why not have an X-Factor style tele programme to decide. Then everyone could gradually vote off those they don't like. Trouble is we'd probably vote everybody off.

Auntie LeftbiasMarch 31st 2010.

So is the right wing BBC news closing down for the duration?

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