Page last updated at 16:47 GMT, Friday, 9 May 2008 17:47 UK

Martha Kearney's week

By Martha Kearney
Presenter, BBC Radio 4's The World at One

One of the things I enjoy most about radio is the sheer speed at which you can translate an idea from the office to an item on air.

John Laurie as Dad's Army's Private Fraser
Voice of doom: Labour MPs are taking their cues from Dad's Army's Fraser

OK, sometimes I admit that does mean inflicting an interview from a crackling mobile phone on you but there is a true immediacy.

In television there are always searches for a camera crew or a nearby studio.

With political stories (which are picture light) there is the desperate quest for a "device".

Hence giant chess boards on the green outside Parliament or elaborate computer generated graphics.

I once found myself recording a piece to camera on Labour's economic policy from a couch suspended thirty feet above the Ideal Home Exhibition.

Simpler business

My all time favourite though was a film by John Rentoul (now an esteemed columnist) crouched inside a giant polling box while he tried to explain the intricacies of the single transferable vote (Mark Mardell in a chicken run was pretty good too..).

It is a sign of the longevity of the government that it is now reversing its own policies

Radio is altogether a simpler business - or it is normally.

Early on Tuesday morning, for example, we decided to send one of our reporters, Ray Furlong, up to Crewe and Nantwich to do a piece about the by-election for lunchtime (David Cameron was visiting that afternoon).

We did not allow for the vagaries of the British rail system.

Ray got north of Watford, then sat in the train for around an hour before being sent back to London.

We were still able to interview people from the area though with some interesting insights.

Peter Nurse, chairman of the Cheshire Police Authority lost his council seat in last week's local elections and blamed national issues, in particular the abolition of the ten pence tax band which he said kept coming up on the doorstep.

Cannabis U-turn

He wants greater clarity on the government's compensation package. Many MPs agree with him and it will be a factor in the by-election.

It was the Treasury which brought in the 10p tax band before abolishing it.

It is a sign of the longevity of the government that it is now reversing its own policies.

Take cannabis (No, not literally).

In 2004 the then Home Secretary David Blunkett downgraded it from a class B to a class C drug.

Wendy Alexander
Wendy Alexander's intervention took Downing Street by surprise

This week the government put it back to class B in an unusual move rejecting the recommendations of the independent Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs.

The former minister, Chris Mullin, on our programme accused the government of following a tabloid agenda.

'Bring it on'

Others were more welcoming, including the Conservatives and several Labour backbenchers who argue that stronger strains of cannabis mean it is a more harmful drug than it used to be.

Another Labour U-turn this week seemed less planned.

Scottish Labour leader Wendy Alexander reversed the party's policy of opposing a referendum on independence, throwing down the gauntlet to the SNP with a Delia Smith style cry of "Bring it on".

This apparently came as a shock to Downing Street.

The affair led to angry exchanges at PMQs and First Minister's Questions in Edinburgh.

Whatever the virtues of the strategy, it has led to more trouble for the prime minister with claims that he has lost authority in his own backyard.

So is the game up (a question Alastair Burnett once memorably put to the Tory party chairman)?

You might think so - especially after the latest opinion poll putting Labour on 23%.

But not according to one senior politician I met this week.

His scenario is that the economy will begin to recover later this year and will be back on track by 2010, the most likely date for a general election.

Gordon Brown would then be able to say with some justification that he had taken the right long term decisions for the country (a phrase which has once or twice slipped from his lips).

Of course few Labour politicians would paint such a rosy scenario in private. (You're more likely to hear the mantra of John "we're all doomed" Laurie in Dad's Army).

No, this was a Liberal Democrat.

Here is a selection of your comments - add yours using the form below.

The problem that your labour source has not reckoned with is that in the knee-jerk rush to deal with tabloid headlines, they have stored up some rather large problems that will slowly emerge in the future, poisoning any fightback based on supposed economic competence. The Tories had sorted out the economic mess by the mid-1990s, but got none of the credit as a series of stories demonstrating government stupidity, mendacity and greed came to light. The 10p tax rate row clearly falls under stupidity, whilst the deportation of the Filipino whose wife was killed by the NHS demonstrates how unreasonable and abhorrent immigration policy has become to stem tabloid catcalling. Equivalent or Lower Qualifications will explode when the Open University has to set its 2009 budget, and how many OU alumni are wavering Labour voters? These are all things that disgust a British sense of fair play, so are difficult to spin away.
Paul Benneworth, Newcastle, UK

Unless the person you met was Vince Cable I wouldn't take this too seriously. It's not just the economy, it's GB's blatant incompetence and failure to listen that's getting on people's nerves. Even if there is an economic recovery by 2010 I don't think it will help GB - it didn't help Major who was never so detested.
NBeale, London

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