As promised, more comment about MPs.
There is currently an Early Day Motion in the House of Commons, with a modest 33 signatures (for EDMs anything over 100 is decent, over 150 good, over 200 very good – but this is clearly a very new one, so let’s not judge it by this yet). EDMs are effectively just statements with which the MPs who signs them wish to agree; they carry no formal weight (most are never debated) but can in practice bring a certain amount of political pressure to bear, depending on the issue.
But there will be a general election between now and May 25th, when the BBC Trust’s consultation closes. The current EDM will fall when Parliament is dissolved for the election around the end of this month – so it will only actually be around for another few weeks. Many of the MPs who sign it will not be in Parliament after the election.
It will be more important to have a well-supported EDM in Parliament immediately after the next election: this can provide a focus for the political debate as the BBC Trust undertakes its deliberations from late May onwards. It may be a challenge to find an MP to table this motion and to identify who will be the best MPs to target to sign it (at least one party is bound to be undergoing a post-election period of strife), but new MPs, of whom there will be over 200, may well be willing to sign it (before they’ve had chance to become cynical).
It’s doubly important that the campaign continues strongly at this later stage, as the initial burst of activity we’ve seen over the last couple of days will undoubtedly slacken to some extent. But pressure must be kept up throughout.
The value of engaging MPs will be to make it uncomfortable politically for the Trust to take the decision to close the two stations down. MPs cannot force the Trust not to do this; nor can ministers; but both can add to the Trust’s incentives to reach a sensible decision.