County Matters

Photo: Adam, Alex, Kit, Lisa Duffy ukip leadership candidate, Bill, County Matters

CM vs DUFFY

CAN HUNTINGDONSHIRE PRODUCE ANOTHER POLITICAL HEAVYWEIGHT?

In 1977, two masters of the form took seats opposite each other to do battle with words. Frost and Nixon still hold the record for the most watched interview,

Let me be clear, Lisa Duffy is not Richard Nixon, and certainly even the combined might of the CM team cannot match the mastery of Sir David Frost, but the stakes were all too clear. County Matters was playing on the national stage, and it was one set for controversy. To one side, Lisa Duffy was attempting to prove that a local councillor can be both effective as a national leader and considered as a real candidate. On the other side of the desk sat I, having only minutes before been told I would take the lead. I don’t think either of us were quite ready.

In the same vein as Frost’s legendary interviews, we had a few of the same pitfalls. With an hour to fill, the first segment was decidedly more chat-show – we followed Cllr Duffy’s life from TK Maxx through to UKIP Party Director, generally with a laugh and a smile, although my political leanings occasionally got the better of me. Lisa spoke happily about her time as youth coordinator, while setting out her vision for a UKIP ‘team’ that she was building. Ever down-to-earth, the Grassroots Candidate brushed off my question regarding her ‘entourage’, as one staffer had put it to me, and came out of the first twenty minutes relaxed and ready for the real work to start.

By the half hour mark, the tone had changed drastically. Continuing to make national headlines regarding her policy towards community integration, particularly with regards to Muslim citizens, we sparred over complex issues of multiculturalism and the inherent problems within. Lisa’s view; it wasn’t working, and we needed to start tackling these taboo issues. She also outlined her views on wearing the veil in public, which for security reasons she stood somewhat against, a fact that would make national headlines the very next day. My question sheet was discarded as I pressed for answers, and one must admit that Cllr Duffy was more than happy to provide them, while promoting the speech she later made that offered the same opinions. Whatever one might say about County Matters, it was nice to have a head start on the Daily Telegraph!

In the last segment, we garnered a few telling insights into Lisa’s vision for the future, and her ambitions for the party. She spoke at length about her ideal team, bringing in experts as well as supporters such as Patrick O’Flynn and Suzanne Evans, together to create a new generation of spokespeople (and was careful not to term them a shadow cabinet). We got a glimpse of her values, as she ardently supported local candidates for parliamentary seats, although again stopped just short of ruling out ‘blow in’ contenders. And lastly, she made her outlook for the future clear – attempting to create a legacy of keeping the party together and “walking the people’s army into Westminster”.

Overall, one could analyze the to-and-fro for hours, but that’s not the real take-away here. This programme highlights for me the station itself, and its ability to take on both the tough issues and the bigger players. If anything, the show goes to show that as council candidates can perform on a national stage, so too can community radio. I’m not the first to notice – Rock IntoThe Weekend has been covering huge festivals and knocking on celebrity doors for much longer – but now is the time for us all to push. I know one thing, I certainly won’t be letting creeping doubts that ‘they wouldn’t do this show’ get in the way of booking in the future.