Letter: Time for honest political debate

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The Independent Online
Time for honest political debate

Sir: You have invited views on the difficulties facing politicians in their treatment by the media (Letter from the Editor, 5 October).

The run-up to an election is a feverish time. We sadly cannot expect too much honest debate just at the moment.

But how did we get here? We lack leaders who are confident in themselves, and confident enough to allow disagreement and differing points of view to be heard. The media would not be able to have the fun they do now with the famous alleged "splits" if internal debate were regarded with benign maturity instead of panic. Similarly, if leaders commanded respect and won loyalty, even the most self-indulgent of critics would gain little support trying to undermine that leadership through destructive criticism.

It is a case of "do as you would be done by". Straightforward, reasonable, capable leadership cannot be portrayed as authoritarianism; timid vacillation, or "followership," deserves to be exposed for what it is. My grandfather used to look for three qualities in politicians: honesty, competence and conviction (intellectual, not criminal). When he found politicians bereft of any of the above qualities, he really began to worry.

We haven't reached that stage yet. There must still be many sincere and decent people left in all parties. But to the winner of the next election, the spoils: a chance to try to set the agenda, to avoid dancing constantly to the media's tune, and to be honest about what can realistically be achieved in a medium-size developed country at the end of the 20th century.

STEFAN STERN

London SW12

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