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Page last updated at 13:40 GMT, Friday, 21 November 2008

Licence to lobby...

Gavin Allen
Gavin Allen
Editor - The Politics Show

The Manx Flag

One of the by-products of the mushrooming trade in websites and emails has been the increased ability to mobilise a swift and effective write-in campaign...

Post up a note on your site's homepage and appeal to the like-minded users to bombard a programme with messages about your and their chosen bugbear topic.

No longer a single person and their pot of green ink - but an army of keyboards belting out the same strident demand.

And so it came to pass at The Politics Show last weekend.

We interviewed Alistair Darling (see the interview here...) and invited you, via these pages, to submit questions that you wanted the Chancellor to answer.

And amongst the many and varied responses, came a flurry of emails from depositors who had lost often vast swathes of money in the Isle of Man branch of an Icelandic bank.

They all bemoaned the total lack of assistance offered to them by the Treasury, in stark contrast to the guarantees secured by other similarly placed savers across the UK.

"Grill the Chancellor," they chorused - grill metaphorically rather than literally I assumed, though to judge from the vehemence of some of the emails I wouldn't advise Mr Darling to test that theory.

But we didn't grill him. We didn't mention it at all in fact - much to many of the depositors frustration.

So was this another case of journalists thinking they know best?

Alistair Darling talks to Jon Sopel

After all, spotting a pressure campaign (often directed by a political party) and refusing to naively skew our coverage as a result, might normally be a source of pride.

This wasn't a representation of the National View, but a bid to hijack the debate, with identical phrases cropping up across the messages.

So we protected our journalistic integrity didn't we?

Except that wasn't the reason we didn't ask the Chancellor about this case.

Instead we felt it deserved greater explanation this week.

For up to 8,000 people, this isn't just a story - it's their life savings: deposits range from the proceeds of a house sale to the injuries compensation payment to a badly wounded war veteran.

It's an outrage, right? Well not necessarily.

The government, in return, argues that the very distinct Crown Dependency status of the Isle of Man means it cannot just be treated like Anglia or Aberdeenshire.

The buck, quite literally, has to stop somewhere for the sake of all taxpayers.

It's complicated, as anyone who's seen the local coverage of this issue by our colleagues at the Politics Show North-West will know.

So rather than throw a swift question or two to the Chancellor that might be lost on many of our non North-West based viewers, surely better to offer a bit more background and to give it slightly more national airtime.

Well we think so anyway, but you can judge for yourselves on Sunday.

Of course we still might not get the answers the depositors want - or indeed any answers at all if the Treasury stonewalls, as the Chancellor most likely would have done.

Peel - Isle of Man

But at least we can shine a bit more light for those in the dark about the story, whichever side of the argument they eventually choose to take.

And the message of this to all you campaigners out there is don't be disheartened.

If you want to organise a write-in campaign this journalist at least will not be reaching for the delete button. Far from it. I welcome it.

Well-organised and stealthy or mob-handed and clumsy, it makes no odds.

So whatever the bugbear, whatever your level of dismay at our failure to cover this or that political issue now's your chance: get writing and bombard away.

We'll get there in the end.

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Watch the Politics Show on BBC One at 12:00 GMT on Sunday.

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