Leeds Mayor debate . . . take your pick.
Does anyone remember a quiz show called “Take Your Pick”? It went something like this.
One lucky contestant who manages to guess the answers to a barrage of random, pointless questions ends up at the climax of the show facing a choice; “take the money” or “open the box.” The money isn’t much. And chances are the box contains an old boot or a mousetrap. At best there’s a few more quid, though there is always the tantalising reveal in the opening credits – “and tonight’s star prize is . . . ” – when a curtain opens and there’s a speedboat, a Triumph Dolomite, or the latest automatic washing machine. Hardly anyone actually wins the star prize, we all know that, but the thought that it’s possible to bag the speedboat always guarantees an outbreak of oohing and aahing.
The choice is between a certain but hardly inspiring win and the slim chance that the box might contain something a bit better, but more likely a bit worse. The audience is encouraged to join in with the decision, based on absolutely no accurate information at all. Everyone feels equally free to vent an opinion, however.
Half of them howls, “take the money,” the other half bellows, “open the box.” Which is hardly helpful. The contestant just stands there, blinking, perspiring, fiddling with the buttons on his jacket, until he’s prompted, “time’s up!” and made to point at one thing or another.
Whatever the outcome the contestant had better look suitably grateful for having been given the chance to take part.
Yesterday evening I went to the debate about the Leeds Mayor vote. I can now understand exactly how those contestants must have felt.
The “take the money” crowd (No to Leeds Mayor!) are convinced that the present set up is working just fine. They point out that we know exactly what we are going to get – even if they admit it’s not that much – and that any change would be a gamble. The mayoral box may contain just hot air.
The “open the box” folks (Hell, yeah to Leeds Mayor!) seem to think that whatever the box contains it’s got to be a big improvement on what we are offered currently by the council. In fact, they don’t really care what’s in the box, it’s the fact that we are all getting involved and whooping that’s the key. The more we jump up and down and the louder we boo and hooray the better things will be. It’s called “participation” I believe. Participation will put something in the box as if by magic.
And there were a few people there who wanted nothing to do with the whole show. Cobblers to the contest! It’s not about the money! Let’s make our own boxes! Just shows there are dreamers and cranks in every city. It’s people like that give people ideas.
The oddest thing about last night was the constant “myth busting.” The Yes people busting the myths of the No voters, and the No’s counterbusting the Yes myths. Leeds seems fuller of myths than Ancient Greece! I felt privileged to be in the presence of so many savvy Socratic dialecticians.
I am, sadly, still none the wiser. And remember what a certain city did to Socrates!
So, when I’m asked am I Yes, or am I No, the only reply I can honestly manage is a shrug; take your pick.