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Thursday, 7 December, 2000, 18:46 GMT
December 7, Manchester
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Audience question: Is it that the proposed legislation for police powers on curfews is more about grabbing headlines and publicity than addressing the real issues? You said:
Why should youngsters who are up to mischief or who are intimidating members of the community by their behaviour not be taken off the streets? Perhaps then their parents would be come better informed of their children's activities and would hopefully try to correct their behaviour.
My vote goes to the wise old gentleman in the audience who made the essential point - that it has taken at least four generations to produce the present state of affairs and it will take as many to get rid of it.
We need to begin - not with summary quick-fixes but with contemporary culture - projected in films, television programmes, video and computer games - where the accent is on little other than violence and cruelty and sexual debauchery.
The introduction of curfews is aimed at addressing those responsible for committing crime, the very ones who ignore laws already in place. Do people really think curfews will stop crime? The courts should take a firmer line with juvenile repeat offenders.
Labour's proposal of curfews for under
16s is a serious assault on civil liberty.
Be aware: it is an agenda to introduce identity cards by stealth. How else will the police know a 16-yr-old from a 17-yr-old?
I agree with one of your other correspondents - the big problem today is the absolute lack of parental responsibility. Make the parents responsible for their kids actions if they won't take that responsibility themselves.
I am a teenager in Dulwich and would like to say that I do not think curfews would solve anything. Over the last 4 years of my attendance of secondary school, I have been robbed and approached about 10 times on my way to and from school. Every week I witness 'dodgy' activity and others getting robbed.
I believe parents should take responsibility for their children and if they do not they leave the government with no option than to take action.
Why should all young people be affected by a curfew when it's only a small percentage that subscribes to the yob culture? Zero tolerance on those who break the law as it stands right now would be more effective and only punish those who step out of line.
Don't blame Labour - blame 18 years of Tory misrule. As for the under 16s being out causing havoc - blame bad parenting.
Any body convicted of burglary or other offences which would make them unfit to bring up children properly should not be allowed to have children. This would eventually slash crime figures and would cost the tax payer far less as there would be less people in prison.
Curfews are not new. They have been in action in Hereford for several years. My son has had several curfews and as a parent I have wholeheartedly endorsed them. Before my son had gone down the road of court actions I was let down by Social Services who said he would have to get into a lot more trouble with the police before they could help.
I am 28 years old. From 14 years I enjoyed going to the local leisure centre, climbing, meeting friends and running or cycling back after 9pm. Why should a teenager wanting to do the same now be criminalised?
Isn't it about time the politicians accepted responsibility for the youth culture today? Mrs Thatcher got rid of family values, industry introduced unsociable working patterns, all at the cost of the family. Please get the politicians to realise people in this country blame them for a lot of the yobbish behaviour today.
Blair or Hague the weakest link?
Audience question: Tony Blair is preparing to give up the British veto in 17 areas of legislation. Who is the weakest link, Blair or Hague? You said:
I was surprised to find myself agreeing almost in totality with Roy Hattersley. His opinion on Europe may not be popular in Britain at the moment, but I think it's time the media began to present us with the good news about being part of the EU and dismiss peoples' fears.
When can we improve the quality of debate on EU by (a) setting out more facts to offset the emotion and (b) spending more air-time in reasoned debate. Most of the panel (and audience) had such polarised views that they were either duplicitous or emotional about the issues.
Leon Brittan was talking a lot of contradictory nonsense when he mentioned
how the UK benefits from trade with Europe. The reality is, if he made the effort to check trade statistics, he would find that the UK's trade balance with Europe was always in the red to the tune of £millions every month and has been so for many years.
I feel that this whole furore of Europe has got quite out of hand. It should be quite obvious to everyone that virtually all European nations are intrinsically different and as such there is no possible way in which we can forge closer links with any permanent future. Great Britain did not need anything from the continent when we managed to turn 1/3 of the globe pink under the British Empire, and we certainly don't need anything from them to continue to be a world leader in every major sphere of global life.
The Conservative party has no chance of winning the election, if they continue on their present path, and I believe most strongly, that John Bercow cannot have it both ways. Mr Bercow cannot say that people in the European parliament are UN-elected bureaucrats, and then in the same breath support an UN-elected monarchy.
I am in the Royal Navy and have just returned from Germany. How many people making comments on this site have lived on mainland Europe?
How comfortable are you to take kids in a top quality restaurant in UK? In Germany they would welcome you!
I feel Brits can be very insular, why? We in Europe have got loads to offer and we could have more, just start talking.
When will the 'little Europeans' lift their eyes to the world around them? EU-critics have a positive vision for co-operation and friendship between Britain and the entire world. Thanks to globalisation, every country in the world can be our economic and cultural partner. This is the 21st century - regional blocks like the EU should be consigned to the history books where they belong.
One member of the audience said that she saw nation states as obsolete. So why support the EU? It wants to be a nation - albeit a bigger, less democratic one. A nation on the Yugoslavia model, where disparate countries and cultures are merged into an unpopular federation. That's not much of a vision for the future of Europe.
We in Éire, Denmark, Finland, "to name a few" don't want a federal Europe, we want lasting peace and prosperity for all in Europe not some super state!
It's the attitudes like that of the current British people that started two world wars in Europe! I sincerely hope that they pull their heads out of the sand and stop pretending that Europe is not there and they're not a part of it! It's not going to go away.
Thank heaven for people like John Bercow! He was the only panellist who didn't waffle and he dealt with the European issue head on. Let's see more politicians of his calibre who can express themselves and are passionate.
Far too much power has been given away over too many years for too little return. It's time we helped our own farmers and fishermen instead of sailing over the waterfall of a European super state.
I was horrified by the reaction of the Question Time audience to the issue of greater integration in Europe. The nationalistic element were almost hysterical in their views, and seemed unable to listen to the facts as they were presented.
Like Edward Markham I also noticed that the vast majority of the anti-Europe - closed minded - geographically challenged - majority of the audience were of the older generation. Give me my euro currency, a European ARMY and whatever else it takes to put us at the front of a solid, safe, expanded, EU and save us from the amazingly short-sighted, nation state obsessed audience members and all like them.
I am so pleased that there are some people who are prepared to look forward instead of backwards. There is no long-term future for nation states. Alone we are powerless. United we can make a world fit for our children. A federal Europe could make a big difference. Enlarge the EU, maybe, in the future it could become the Global Union!
As for living in the past, in France they see the British as a joke. there is a continental joke that goes thus 'In Germany they say things are goinf to be good today, in Spain they say things will be good tomorrow, but in Britain they say it was alright yesterday' that says it all!
1) I'm proud of being British.
I have long become inclined to the thought that we would genuinely be better off as the 51st state of the US. We would be able to offer a very real benfit to the US and to Europe as the gateway to Europe for the US making us as valuable to Europe and to the US as Hong Kong was to China and to Britain and still is, not to mention the rest of the trading world.
I agree we should have closer ties with Europe. I also wish to remain close to the US - but on more equal terms. The USA have done very well from European disintegration and this explains their reluctance to bless closer links with a potentially bigger economy than their own. We can't isolate ourselves from our partners - otherwise they become competitors.
There is a desperate shortage of rational, unemotional, scientific debate on "Europe". This is not about national heritage and the face of the Queen on coins. Let's hear the reasoned economic arguments for and against increased integration. How will it help business? Will it help some aspects of our society more than others?
If the Labour government is so sure the British public is behind them in the quest for more and more European involvement, including monetary union, let them hold a referendum now. Huge amounts of money are being spent on preparing to go into the euro, and if this promised referendum ever comes about, one ploy will be to say how much money would be wasted if we did not continue.
I will not be voting Conservative in the coming election 2001 after tonight's performance. Leon Brittan showed what a great man he was and the people in the party today can offer no wise ideas - just cut tax and keep the pound what a shame.
I was very pleased to see that the person - John Bercow MP- who defended the Tory stance towards Europe and the present conference in Nice - is a young man. It is a fallacy that it is only the older generation in Britain who have difficulties in accepting the slow but inevitable progress towards a European super state.
I am appalled at the level of xenophobia which your audiences display. The ignorance of the Tory party on issues such as Europe are reflected by a public who echo the narrow minded, nationalistic rubbish of the press.
Would we feel differently if the Channel was concreted over?
I am not a member of the Tory party and have never really liked Leon Brittan, but after watching tonight's discussion on Europe I find I am in total agreement with much of what he says. I certainly admire him for following his convictions and not simply towing the party line.
We should be at the table taking a leading role in European affairs, not pushing anti-European policies just because it is populist and likely to gain votes.
I consider our power of veto in the same way as I consider our nuclear deterrent. Both are weapons of last resort and the nuclear deterrent was praised for keeping the peace in Europe for 50 years.
Judging from the views of a large section of the audience tonight, my thoughts that many 'Little Englanders' do not know which continent they live in, are confirmed e.g. the oft used phrase 'We are holidaying in Europe this year'. Is Skegness and St Andrews included in this destination alongside San Tropez, Sienna, etc.
I would like to say that Mr Bercow was spot on, in what he said concerning Europe. Many people wanted to join the EEC on the basis of trade, and not to share a currency and many other things like an army.
For those that say we won't lose power to Europe if we surrender further to Europe, I have this to say...we already are. From the laws themselves to the law courts, Europe is overuling decisions right left and centre.
I continue to be astounded by the anti lobby, particularly this muddled idea of sovereignty, which always seems to be linked to the notion of being "governed" by Brussels. Do people really think that Brussels is any more remote from daily British life than Westminster? - or, more to the point, than Whitehall?
I am a continental European who has been living in England for over 14 years. What I have realised in all these years is that the British press and British TV hardly made any effort to educate the people of Britain about Europe and the EU.
Quite often I had and I still have the feeling that Britain would rather prefer to become the 51st(?) state of America rather then a full member of the EU.
I am very concerned that the government assumes that they will be handing us over to the United States of Europe, whilst being ashamed of being British, let alone English.
I want to be able to vote for the people who will be running THIS country and not having to submit to unknown and unelected people in Brussels.
I'm a Belgian working in the UK and I have only one reaction to the Euro-haters in the UK. If you don't want to follow, GET OUT. It will be in the interest of Europe. It will not be in the interest of the UK but who cares?
What a stupid slogan anyway - "saving the pound is saving democracy". It's a real insult to all the members of the European monetary union.
The British attitude towards Europe is just hysterical and sentimental. In Belgium, people are not concerned about the introduction of the euro at all. In fact, Europe is not even an issue here. It's a complete mistake to think that any country would suddenly 'disappear' because of the European 'super state'. National feeling and cultural identity is much stronger than the forces of European institutions!
How unbelievable is it that nearly all of the older generation can't even listen to any of the arguments in favour of Europe, they still see Europe as the enemy rather than economic allies, who could bring us all much greater wealth and prosperity.
National identity and Britishness, like any other culture, is the product of hundreds, even thousands of years of human development. Do these 'nationalists' and those that use the British identity bandwagon think that our identity is no more robust than the head side of a coin? Do they really think our culture so weak that it can be wiped out by legislation?
If you could honestly choose where your taxes went, would a proportion of them go to (insert here any number of what can only be called malicious government programmes) or to the most respected and honoured of all monarchies in the modern world?
I personally think that the BRITISH royal family is just that and should remain so.
Before the election when Labour was in opposition Tony Blair vowed to give proper information on the debate on Europe. Since the election we have had nothing but rhetoric in the House of Commons.
Roy Hattersley is seriously out of touch with the British people if he thinks that we all want to be a big pasrt of Europe. Look at how the French reacted to the BSE crisis - they defied the law and banned our beef. This was outrageous. Why would we want to be linked with these people as one nation, they clearly do not wish to be linked with us.
This country needs Europe - those who say we don't are simply living in denial. Only in the context of Europe will Britain really be great again in the age of globalisation.
I am disgusted how the panel is continually weighted against eurosceptics. Tonight's bias was exceptional. The main thrust of the audience was ignored and John Bercow deliberately outnumbered. I am proud to believe in true democracy and I am proud in that context to be classed as a 'Little Englander'.
I think the people of Britain could draw a much clearer opinion and/or a decision on the subject of further European integration if we were properly informed of the benefits.
If the French and Germans really think that Britain has too much power in Europe, then as far as I am concerned, they are quite welcome to throw us out.
The panel constantly talked about the Europeans having a different view of Europe. We host a lot of ordinary people from many European nations through the year who express the same reservations about the EU as are expressed in this country. Politicians are the main beneficiaries of the project and do not engage or fully inform us of matters in Europe. We are able to understand these matters and our politicians ignore us at their peril.
Support attempts to incite a revolution?
Audience question: Does the panel support recent newspaper attempts to incite revolution? You said:
I remember the debate on the monarchy which was televised. The result concluded that out of the whole of the UK, Scotland, I am proud to say, was the only area that was overwhelmingly against having a monarchy.
Roy Hatterley's desire to abolish the monarchy on the basis that it is an outdated institution is somewhat astounding. Were the country being run according to his values we would still be in the era of nationalised industry and militant unions. The monarchy will stay a part of our country and will adapt accordinly to continue to make a positive contribution.
There can be no justification for one family to have such tremendous power and privilege by birthright in the 21st century, never mind a place as our head of state. It may only be symbolic now, but its a matter of principle. Neither can our 'national heritage' be an excuse - it's a sad state of affairs if they are the best thing about the country.
As a UK born person brought up in New Zealand I believe that the UK should keep its monarchy. It is a symbol of the English and has many great facets. Brits should be proud they have such a stable, coherent and fascinating history and fair government. God save Her Majesty!
The hope of revolution is strong in all Britons. Revolution should not be the abolition of the monarchy, more a change in the overall governing of our country. Too much time is spent squabbling over party politics rather than real issues.
The monarchy is not a democratic institution. Nobody has ever voted for them, so why should they rule?
The monarchy should not be abolished. Her Majesty has seen every state paper for the last 48 years and is Britain's leading statesperson. This makes Her Majesty better fit to govern that Her Majesty's Minister Mr Blair.
Living in Sweden means I live in a modern country, but also in a 1,000-year-old monarchy. In a changing world, not least with globalisation and integration in Europe, the monarchy is part of Sweden's typical profile and invaluable heritage.
The monarchy is a symbol of the unity of a country and, to me, an unpolitical institution far away from the tragedy the American people face after their presidential election.
As an ex-pat living in Canada, I watch in horror the debacle over the US presidential elections. I am thankful for the monarchy, the Queen is dedicated in her duty as Head of State - could the same be said if we had a presidential system? 'The devil you know is better than the devil you don't'. The monarchy is not the best system, but it is better than the alternatives.
As a United States citizen who has just endured eight years of misbehaviour in this nation's highest office, I can look enviously upon constitutional monarchy. Britain, Canada, Australia, et al are fortunate to have a political system which reserves its highest political office for someone other than a politician.
The Manchester audience was sharply divided between Europeans and Little Englanders - like contemporary Cavaliers and Roundheads. How encouraging! At last we can begin to see the battle-line.
The debate has been a long time coming, but thank goodness we can now start arguing that this country must break free from the past and embrace a democratically elected Head of State. A president would not be omnipotent, but merely a ceremonial figurehead. A rich, white, upper class, CofE Head of State chosen by accident of birth can never hope to represent today's Britain.
As a staunch traditionalist and monarchist supporter even I believe that there is a need for reform among the Royal Family! Earlier this month I was disgusted by the way the Queen Mother's fall (with all respect to her!) became a more important headline then the severe flooding in England, or the elections in America!
Would we really rather have a Bill Clinton and family than our Royals as head of state? All human beings are frail but at least our Royals have no power in the governance of the country - long may they reign!
I do believe the monarchy should be preserved, but perhaps changed, more along the lines of the Continental monarchies.
I fought for this country in WW2 and swore allegiance to the sovereign. I would certainly not have put my life on the line for any temporary politician, I would need someone much more stable and permanent. I suspect that the younger generation does not share these views because they have never been put to the test!
Under no circumstances should it be lost. The Americans have a saying - 'if it's not broke don't fix it' - and I agree. They are 100% better than the government. God save the Queen.
The monarchy provides Britain with an identity in the world just as the statue of liberty does for America. The monarchy encourages tourism and also encourages ties to other countries because they are able to make visits on Britain's behalf which leaves the prime minister free to take priority on more pressing issues.
I absolutely think that the monarchy should be abolished. The idea that someone should automatically someday be head of state simply because of their birth is long outdated. Fortunately, today's monarchies are checked by the will of the people, but they inherently don't allow absolute sovereignty to be in the hands of the governed.
When people in the debate about the monarchy start talking about how much money the Royal Family brings into the country, it is a very pathetic last resort idea.
I can see no place in modern society for an archaic system that allows one lucky family to live in idle splendour whilst millions live in poverty, especially when it is the many who are financing the few.
As a born Brit, I say ABOLISH THE MONARCHY. Or, if not then have the monarchy pay taxes, dues, fees, interest like the rest of us. Have the monarchy stand at the end of the line like the rest of us. Prop them up in a nice castle to keep the tourist trade going but take away the demeaning, debasing snobbery.
I welcome the comments made by the Guardian regarding the monarchy but am intrigued by comments made on tonight's programme about a continuing evolution of its role. Evolution being what it is, surely there will come a day when the monarchy has evolved into extinction?
We will never progress from the shackles of the past until we abolish the monarchy.
In Europe, in Britain we are buried in past glories and 'little England (Britain)'
mentality. While it is important to remember the past and learn lessons, the biggest mistake anyone can make is to LIVE there!!
The monarchy performs an extremely useful function in our democracy - the monarch holds a symbolic highest office to which no politician can aspire. The last thing we need is an elected head of state who'll think himself omnipotent.
I am totally disgusted with Roy Hattersley's comments about the monarchy. What in heavens name are you all thinking about? Have you not considered what the monarchy brings in in capital to this country?
Large tax cuts in the face of failing public services?
Audience question: Having seen this week's grinning advertisement by Messrs Portillo and Hague regarding tax cuts, does the panel believe the electorate still wants large tax cuts in the face of failing public services? You said:
For all those who wish to pay more tax. Please do so - I'm sure all contributions would be welcome. (Cheques payable to Gordon Brown). However, don't force the rest of us to give up more of our hard earned income to support your personal agenda.
So that informed opinions can be put forward on the question of the merits of tax increase or decrease could the public be given more technical information on how resources are allocated. In my opinion this subject should form an important part of higher education as it affects everyone at some time or another.
In the discussion of the level of government spending in the economy mention was made of whether voters wanted to pay more or less tax. I would suggest less. But no mention was made of the fact that when we pay tax we lose the ability to choose how we spend our money. I want more freedom to choose how I spend my money and therefore prefer less government control of my money.
Roy Hattersley's opinion regarding higher tax for the rich is honourable, however there needs also to be a far clearer method of tracking how increased taxes are put into public spending and most particularly that this spending is reflective of the needs of people. By all means increase tax but ensure the money really does come from the rich to help the poor and support ground level work in deprived communities.
I feel that we need a tiered tax system in this country which is fairer. This will allow for greater public expenditure on health, education, crime prevention and public services. I think this should be implemented as soon as possible. Realistically - no one should need to earn more than £100,000 a year.
My doctor has just told me I have a serious illness. I can see a consultant on the NHS in 18 months or pay £100 and see the same consultant privately next Tuesday. What is the point of Tory proposed tax cuts if this is the best the NHS can do after three years of Labour investment. What we need to do is to spend, spend until we provide a health service for all the people in our country.
So John Bercow thinks that £8 billion can be saved through savings in red tape. What the Tories need to do to convince us of that by saying precisely how those savings are to be made. It is not good enough to be given vague hints. If John Bercow is certain the savings can be made then he must know more than he letting on. Come on - come clean.
I watched the programme and was amazed at the stupidity of some people in this country, we seem to believe that someone else will pay for the health service, schools, law and order etc. Taxation is necessary, just look at the railways, if we saved money on the repairs to our home the same way the conservative government did on the rail network don't be surprised if your house falls to pieces.
There is a simple way to pay for the health service, schools, law and order etc, without raising taxes. Withdraw from the EU and save millions of pounds per year to be spent on our services instead of wasting it on Europe.
In relation to tax cuts, one which should be abolished entirely is inheritance tax. People save all their lives, paying tax on everything they earn then paying additional tax on any interest earned so they can live out their lives in comfort and pass any residue onto their families. Then when that person dies the government takes up to 40% of the savings in inheritance tax.
We are all paying far more money in stealth taxes than ever before. They took money from our pensions. Petrol and local taxes in parking etc have gone through the roof, but they will not, with all this money in the Chancellor's kitty, give us more police, better public transport, schools or NHS improvements.
Why should the well paid pay even more than the 40% they already pay? I have worked hard at my career and am being rewarded for it. Let us get away from the nanny state and become masters of our own destiny!
Maggie Thatcher was right when she said that if you lower the taxes for the higher earners then they are more inclined to remain in the UK and pay the taxes, as opposed to leaving the UK and NOT paying those taxes.
I would of course like to pay less taxes and expect better services, as Tories are promising. But what I would not like to see is bankrupt Britain. Tories effectively made the country bankrupt last time, don't let them do it again.
I'm a student and for the past three years of this Labour government I've found they promised all sorts of things, overtaxed everything by too much and now the election is coming up they say "there could be tax cuts". All they seem to be interested in is getting back into office again, while listening to the public only when it suits them.
I am amazed by Roy Hattersley's comments over willingness to pay 60% tax!!
If this was the case, £60,000 out of £100,000 would be taken out of earnings, resulting in more tax evasion and need to work within more tax efficient environments.
It is about time that tax gained from the working population is properly deployed and utilised more effectively.
I am in business and what was not said, which is critical to the success of this country, is the importance of business to our economy - tax is a positive disincentive to wealth creation. Public spending on the other hand, forces up tax and reduces the potential for wealth creation.
General comments on the programme:
I thought John Bercow was outstanding. His input was reasoned, succint and highly articulate. I think, however, that David Dimbleby is increasingly showing himself to be the 'weakest link' and that it is time for him to say 'Goodbye'. Having been a devotee of the programme for many years I find I am becoming increasingly irritated by his obvious leanings to the left.
John Bercow excellent? I probably did not watch the same programme. And his poisoned compliment to Sir Leon Brittan, ending in him saying he was flawed, was out of order. Yet who knows. Would I prefer him or Widdecombe to lead the Conservatives, I don't know...
How interesting that we get two people from the Tory party, John Bercow and Leon Brittan, on the show and we still see them disagreeing with one another. The Tories ready to fight the next election as one party, I don't think so.
I notice it was four versus one on the panel once again on the EU issue. Looks like it's going to be the same next week. When will there be a Labour eurosceptic on the panel? Europe is NOT a left/right issue and I wish you'd stop trying to pigeonhole it as such.
Again, no Liberal Democrat but two Tories on the panel? Let's have some fair representation please!
A most enjoyable programme with a nice spread of clever civilised panellists.
I am sure I am not the only one who has spotted a general trend in Mr Dimbleby's style of late - that of being anti-Tory. Invariably he attempts to ridicule the Conservative representative on the programme and is swift to challenge them over issues ahead of the weekly government representative or someone from another political party.
Watching tonight's programme I was very impressed with the performance of John Bercow. He is definitely one to watch for the future! His views regarding Europe echo mine. I do really get very tired of the very predictable reaction of the audience when it's always '...well the Tories had 18 years to do this that and the other etc...' These are narrow-minded people who only choose to see a blinkered version of past events, rather than looking at the wider picture.
I refer to Roy Hattersley's comments that he wishes to abolish the Lords. Is it not very hypocritical of him to have accepted a peerage in the first place. He should have stayed in the Commons, or retired gracefully as a commoner.
One of the best Question Times ever, good panel with intelligent debate from all sides.
Do you think it would be possible to encourage politicians and their audiences to say "SOME of the people of this country" when voicing an opinion - any opinion!? I do become very irritable when I hear my opinion vouchsafed by someone I've never met, and disagree with.
John Bercow was excellent. He expressed himself with total clarity & honesty and totally showed up the rest of the panel as third rate has-beens and non-entities. The Conservative party should bring him to the fore of the forthcoming election campaign as he would be a huge asset.
Why, when this is the most important programme that the BBC broadcasts is it impossible to hear what is being said? For the past four or five weeks the sound has been interrupted for a very large part of the programme.
I would just like to compliment John Bercow on his performance on tonight's programme especially as he was up against two very good elder statesmen.
I find the adversarial style of politics in this country very depressing, where any proposal by either side is instantly rubbished by the other side. When will politicians work in the interests of the country rather than their parties? It was refreshing to hear the views of Leon Brittan and Roy Hattersley now that they have been liberated from The House of Commons.
When Leon Brittan explained the aims of the Nice meeting, the first response from a member of the audience was a disgrace to civilised debate. Why did David Dimbleby not reprimand the member of the audience for the use of such insulting behaviour and language.
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