...while we were working on this Blog, a man came to the door to ask if I'd take part in a survey about London. Turned out to be on behalf of the official government-of-London bureaucracy headed by Ken Livingstone - they've commissioned an opinion poll. The first question - I'm not inventing this - was about whether or not I considered London to be a good place for homosexuals and lesbians to live in. Then followed a whole series of questions with a list of approved answers to be selected. It was all slanted to ensure a certain response - you couldn't just give your own answer but had to select from a list - so watch out for the headlines when it is published. There'll be things like "Majority of Londoners say they are glad to live in a city that offers diversity/ want more done about global warming/ believe the Mayor's office should give out more publicity about its work" etc etc. Asked which policies of Livingstone I opposed, I said that I disagreed strongly with his promotion of homosexual and lesbian lifestyles, but this wasn't on the approved list of replies.
The young man - he was v. pleasant - also had to ask ritual questions about my age, work, race, etc. I explained I was a Catholic journalist and gave him a couple of pictures of the Pope, which he accepted very nicely and put in his pocket. He was absolutely correct all the way through the interview, so I don't know if he found the questions as ludicrous as I did.
It all felt vaguely reminiscent of stories I heard from eastern European exiles twenty years ago, about how the official bureaucracy was always announcing the results of surveys proving the rightness of their ideological line. A major difference, however, as Mac pointed out, is that at least in Britain taking part was optional - I could simply have refused - and of course we will be free to criticise the report when it is published. Long may this freedom remain.