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Question Time



Last Updated: Thursday, 21 September 2006, 21:23 GMT 22:23 UK
Charles Kennedy Q & A
Charles Kennedy MP

Following the Liberal Democrats conference, we asked you to send in questions for the former Leader of the Liberal Democrats Party, Charles Kennedy.

What was your reaction to the views of the Question Time panel?

We asked for your comments and feedback and Charles Kennedy answered a selection of your e-mails.

Thank you for all your responses.

Mr Kennedy writes:

"I'm extremely grateful for the number and variety of responses from Question Time viewers. Most - if not all! - appreciated. Space being limited let me try and address the principal matters that came up.

Question from Carl, Nottingham: I've voted Liberal Democrat since I could vote 10 years ago. During that time, Charles Kennedy had taken the party from, unlikely to win a general election, to a very strong third party with the best political intentions compared to the other two parties. I do not understand why Menzies Campbell is the leader of this youthful, forward thinking party, in place of Charles Kennedy. Can we have you back?

Question from Sandra Clancy, Melrose: Please will you run for the leadership again... seeing you again made us all realise just what the Lib Dems were missing and what an asset you are? Go for it Charlie.

Charles Kennedy: Several people asked about the Lib Dem Party leadership, including Carl and Sandra. This is one of these issues to which there is no correct answer! The fact is that I've been an MP since 1983, led the party through two general elections and am now a backbench MP aged 46.

The electorate willing, I continue to see my future in Lib Dem politics nationally and constituency representation locally. Over the course of this year I've been involved in developing party links with the more liberal forces in Russian politics, doing some more analytical and non-party political television presentation, as well as preparing for a forthcoming series of academic seminars at an Oxford college which will focus on the role of ethnic and religious minorities in democracies. I want to continue moving forward.

Question from Simon Holmes, Bristol: I voted for the Lib Dem's at the last election, having always voted Labour previously, mainly due to your anti Iraq and income tax policies. Depressingly the party appears to be heading rightward, having abolished the 50p tax rate. Why is this happening? Surely it was a vote winner last time. There is now nothing between all the parties.

Question from Mike, Sheffield: I was disappointed that the plans for a higher tax band for high earners was dropped. What are your views?

Charles Kennedy: Within the Lib Dems, people - like Simon from Bristol and Mike - feel strongly about the Party's tax position. What I say is no party should ever get hung up over a specific tax commitment, for the very simple reason that times change and the world moves on. The 50p tax issue has become totemic within our ranks, but so did the 1p on income tax levied for education before that. The principle at stake is surely a fair tax system based on ability to pay and no shying away from an element of redistribution. We are not resiling from any of that.

Question from Ben Gilby, Kingston-Upon-Thames: As a Lib Dem member and bearing in mind the likely improved performance of the Conservatives at the next election, what do you believe would be a successful outcome for us at the next election, realistically?

Charles Kennedy: In response to Ben's question about the next election, the best outcome from our point of view, obviously, would be an outright Lib Dem majority. Failing which, continue to exercise our presence and influence on an independent party political basis.

Question from Anthony Cassidy, Manchester: What do you consider to be the single most important issue that the country should try to solve as we move closer to the General Election?

Charles Kennedy: Anthony asked what the single most important issue to solve is, and it has to be the environment. It transcends party and national politics. I still hope that there can be more scope for common cause on a cross-party basis domestically. If not, frankly we let everyone down.

Question from George Freeman, Helensburgh: Should Britain retain Trident or should it be abandoned now?

Charles Kennedy: The UK has a distinguished track record in terms of framing and making international rules, regulations and the institutions which give them effect. I worry that we are losing that reputation as a country; I hope I'm wrong. We should not subscribe to a pre-emptive foreign policy view of the world; neither should we rush into a decision about what/if so/when to do post-Trident. This is one over which there simply must be a full and proper parliamentary consideration. It has yet to happen...

Question from Ann-Marie Pickup, London: Why do you think the British public is more interested in the results of the X Factor rather than serious issues such as the power and access the arms industry holds, politically in the UK? Is it the media's fault or are we as citizens failing?

Question from James Keeling, Manchester: Given the wide range of faiths in England do you believe the Liberal Democrats should re-emphasise the traditional Liberal call for the disestablishment of the Church of England?

Charles Kennedy: If the Archbishop of Canterbury will forgive me, I shall lump together questions about the X Factor and disestablishment, from Anne-Marie and James, together. And here's my get out - both ways! A. I've not seen this/these? programmes. B. I happen to be a Scottish Roman Catholic. So my lips are sealed. There you are.

Question from Greg Young, Sutton Coldfield: Why do the Lib Dems remain unelectable? I am a lifelong Labour supporter, and am very disillusioned with Labour but cannot vote for the Tories as they are totally without anything new or useful to say. But I cannot vote Lib Dem as they remain (even after your recent increase in seats) a fringe party. Please (without politico spin) advise me.

Charles Kennedy: As to Greg, I don't care if you're ex-Labour or ex anything else! The fact is - by definition - that millions more ex other party voters are going to have to vote for the Lib Dems if we are going to achieve what I believe passionately we can for our country.

Allow me one bit of partisan yet factual argument here: Labour had 4 million less votes in 2005 than when they came to government in 1997; over the same period the Tories were 1 million less. Between 2001 and 2005, against that trend, the Lib Dems put on 1 million votes. Doesn't that suggest something? Discuss. And I don't doubt that you will...

This week's panel
21 Sep 06 |  Question Time
What you've said
22 Sep 06 |  Question Time
Jack Straw Q & A
28 Sep 06 |  Question Time

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