Why do the BBC and Eastenders get politics so wrong so consistently ?
Eastenders apparently prides itself on getting its facts right on issues. So what do they get it so wrong when it comes to politics ?
When it came to mark Fowler getting HIV, they spoke to people from the Terrence Higgins Trust, they spoke to people in the NHS, the spoke to real people who had HIV/AIDS.
When they dealt with Diana Butcher running away from home they spoke to groups who deal with the homeless like Shelter, they spoke to charities who help children with problems like Childline.
In fact, on every social issue the BBC and Eastenders make great efforts to be as correct on the issue as possible and avoid sensationalistand factual errors.
But for politics who do they speak to ?
When Iain Beale stood for the Walford East by-election back in 1998, there were a series of factual errors, not the least of which is the assumed belief that candidates do not know the result until it is publicly announced. So have the BBC spoken to anyone since then ? Obviously not.
There is in Eastenders at the moment a by-election in Walford East again. Peggy Mitchell is the candidate. The by-election is in three weeks time (2nd April). And that brings up the first error. Why is it on a Monday ? No explanation and a clearly odd day for an election, especially given that Thursday is an Eastenders day, but clearly the producers of the show decided that holding an election on a traditional day for elections was not important.
The second "gaffe" from a political hacks point of view was that Peggy handed in her nomination papers about a month ago. this would have been seven weeks before the election day. Any political hack or former election agent knows that you cannot hand in papers this early as the election timetable has a clear window for the handing in of nomination papers. You could argue that Peggy might have been pro-active in this case and got them in advance, but this is a by-election and things are very strictly controlled in such elections with less chance of being pro-active when it comes to nominations.
This second gaffe though was compounded by a third gaffe as Peggy Mitchell got her nomination papers handed in during the evening. She even made comment about the fact that she "handed them in". Oh that we could all live in Walford where council offices stay open so late.
Perhaps though the most common gaffe in TV is the belief that a public meeting is still the centrepiece and deciding factor in any election campaign.
Tonight's episode of Eastenders featured a public meeting of candidates which was attended by all of 20 people yet Peggy's performance was enough, in front of only a handful of people, to make people think that she was set to win ? Public meetings might have been decisive in the period up to the 1960's, but I have yet to go to one that has made any difference to a campaign.
And what of Walford East ? How big would the ward be ? 3000 houses ? More ? Yet no mention is made of canvassing or delivering leaflets. A leaflet was shown in one episode but it was like something from the 1950s and nothing like leaflets 90% of people get through there doors at election time. So it begs the question why one landlady in one pub would be so well known outside of Albert Square. Clearly the Eastenders producers think that local council wards are made up of 50 houses only.
In truth, none of this is important and for 99.9% of the viewing public, none of the machinations of politics is of any interest, but if Eastenders can go to the trouble of doing such great research in to serious issues which require lots of explaining, couldn't they speak to someone who knows something about politics to ensure that at least they get the very basics right when it comes to elections ?