Tuesday, 2 November 2010


So Rambling Jim Naughtie has been flown over to the USA, the evening schedules have been cleared to host a results programme and Britain waits anxiously for the US mid-term election results. Fetch my slippers and the Bourbon, Mabel-Sue, for it's going to be a long night.

Or more probably it isn't for almost all of us, with the exception of the few hundred people in Westminster and White City who think this is a crucial night for global democracy, as well as the few hundred American ex-pats living here who might actually care about their home country. Is the massive expense of covering this story with anything more than a single news team and the BBC's generally capable Washington correspondent worthwhile? Is it a good use of my increasingly stretched licence fee, which can be used to make wonderful, innovative comedies like Him and Her or wildlife glories like the whole Attenborough oeuvre?

Granted, getting Naughtie out of the country is clearly a Good. Keeping him out would be even better but regrettably he will doubtless be back by the end of the week to badger, interrupt, argue with and refuse to listen to a series of politicians and possibly get the chance to be a pseud over some opera or arts story to show us how learned he isn't. However, this apart, what is the point? Why should we care any more than we might about the Indian elections, or those in Russia, both of which could have as significant an impact on the future global situation as the USA?

Yes, I know it is quite important. I understand that the USA is still key to the global economy and I realise that these elections could change much in that country but that's not my point. My point is to ask how many people in the UK are actually bothered and how many of them will stay up to watch the results?

The outcome of all this reflection is simply to conclude that the people who care are those at the BBC with the means to mobilise the formidable and very costly news machine. If only I had their power, I might suggest that they significantly ramped up their regional coverage, for example, so that my news always came from Oxford, rather than Southampton as it so often does. I might be able to push for more than one new story about Oxfordshire per day, when there must be a bit more going on around the county.

Sadly I am powerless against the ingrained obsession with all things American among the upper echelons of the Westminster and White City villages. So tune out tonight for the mid-term election results. Read a book, do a crossword, deflea the cat, go to bed, make love, enjoy the opportunity and forget this hubristic irrelevance which you will be able to read about extensively tomorrow morning after a good night's sleep and having avoided wasting hours out of your lives.

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