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Monday, 11 June, 2001, 10:36 GMT 11:36 UK
June 14, Nottingham
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Audience question: Can the death penalty ever be justified even in extreme cases such as Timothy McVeigh's? You said:
Am I wrong in thinking the law is supposed to be based on Christian morale? I am by no means 'left wing' or a socialist, however the death penalty is injustice in the extreme. Surely it is not up to us to decide whether or not to forgive someone, but it is up to God to forgive, and when to take life away. This is an issue where money is not relevant.
Timothy McVeigh is a terrorist who will not kill again. We should have followed the same principle with our terrorists.
In the USA for every state killing there is a rash of on average 10 murders in the area in which the killing takes place, or the area in which the crime was committed. It is ignorance of such obvious statistics as these that lead people to the misguided belief that capital punishment is a good thing.
Some values are clearly more important than the will of a transient majority - life must be one such value! On this vital issue it is simply not sufficient to say that the opinion of 51% or more of the population is determinate.
I very much agree with the gentleman in the audience on Timothy McVeigh. He will kill no more innocent men, women and children. Did everyone notice all the shock horror of the panel? This, I feel, is the trouble with our great country. Too many "do gooders" in power, who are prepared to release violent criminals back on to our streets. Terrorists are also included in this. Let's have the same courage as the Americans on this issue.
I think it is appalling that there seems to be so much support for capital punishment. Surely we have evolved beyond being controlled by our baser instincts. With regard to a suitable level of punishment, surely it is worse to be incarcerated for life and have all your basic liberties removed, than to escape through death. One is instant punishment, the other is a long drawn out opportunity to reflect on your folly with no opportunity for reprieve.
They're all missing the point. McVeigh's execution is very convenient for the extreme right in the USA. Now he can't talk of the others of his ilk. Now others can continue his grim work.
The last Labour government recently introduced the human rights act. Without common knowledge they tagged on to this legislation a sub section making it impossible for capital punishment to be returned to the United Kingdom. Even the members of parliament on the panel do not seem to be aware of this.
Timothy McVeigh died only expressing regret but never apologising and now he is gone, who won that one? He, as a political activist, had an execution that made headline news round the globe. Surely if this kind of killer is to die it should not even make the news. If the United States wants to kill its criminals, then surely it should take a good look at its politicians first.
Reverse voter apathy?
Audience question: After one of the most boring election campaigns ever held and with turnout lowest since 1918 what does the panel think they can do to reverse voter apathy? You said:
If you want to quell voter apathy the answer is simple. You must recognise that the media has too great a role in the field of politics and it has reached the stage when elections are being decided on whether the candidate is bald or looks good in a baseball cap. The reason people are disllusioned with politics is because politics has done away with policies.
I firmly believe this apathy is a result of a voting system which devalues my vote. What particularly annoys me is the constant moralising about the sacrifices made on behalf of universal suffrage, quite frankly if those that fought for the right to vote were alive today I am convinced that they would now be arguing in favour of PR in order that democracy could triumph.
The problem for the Labour party is that their supporters are used to fighting AGAINST the Tories and not FOR the implementation of their own beliefs. I think that, in order to increase the voting turnout generally, the government and Labour ground roots must accept and understand their very different role and responsibility in government. Janet Daley was right about the negative nature of much of the Labour campaigning - but I guess that this is understandable given 18 years of exhausting battle.
Even though I voted I was very disappointed that in the constituency I live in we had no one out and about canvassing support for any of the candidates, the leaflets we did receive were delivered with the post and we heard absolutely nothing at all from the Labour candidate who was the sitting MP. It would seem that she couldn't be bothered and maybe next time she will lose my vote.
I find it incredible that Janet Daley still uses the idea that political leaders must follow public opinion. Must so called public opinion always be considered right? Is the USA with its gun laws a good example? Look at the recent terrible massacres there in schools, yet public opinion still favours free access to guns.
Would it not be fair to say that the reason many did not vote in this election was due to the ever decreasing standards in British politics today? In an age of self accountability please allow the electorate the chance to vote for a view that won't be 'U' turned at the next politcal sound-bite!
This was the first election I was able to participate in as I was 18 only six months ago. I listened carefully to what all parties had to say, about the past and indeed the future. I was at one point going to vote Conservative, regardless of the obvious mess of the country when Labour took office in 97. Why after criticism off other parties did they back down on the issues that would have grabbed my vote and probably a few more? In the end I didn't vote.
Politics are not taught in school - at 18 you don't understand the process! Why? Younger voters don't turn out because there's no choice - what's the point? One vote per person - my vote should count but it doesn't! Baddiel spoke the most sense - be honest and people will follow - has he considered becoming an MP?
Members of Parliament are supposed to be representatives of their respective constituencies. Maybe voter apathy has something to do with what seems to be complete disregard for what their constituents think. They are no longer representatives of the people, but of their party.
Is the problem with apathy in the 18-25 age group surely not associated to lack of policy directed at them? If you are part of a young affluent married couple with no children, what is there to vote for?
So, according to Janet Daley, apathy in the USA is OK because it's always been that way but a relatively low turnout in the UK is the fault of a negative Labour government? Ms Daley seems to be suffering from a long-standing national delusion that the US's rotten, apathetic electoral system is a beacon of democracy to the world.
Politicians used to be seen locally knocking on doors - they were real people. Now they can't be bothered or are too afraid. No wonder people don't come out and vote for them.
No one who is a member of a political party should be electable to parliament. That way we just might get the views of the PEOPLE across.
I believe that ever since the publication of the first opinion poll forecasting another Labour landslide, people were not inclined to vote. All the polls were consistent and although most were based on a small number of voters the percentages held up. The way to get people out to vote is firstly to make it compulsory, part of your civic duty. Secondly, to ban the publication of polls 30 days before voting day.
I agree with compulsory voting - but there should be additional options:
In my opinion less than 30% of voters do so by conscience. The rest merely vote for what they feel is their "class" representatives. Witness the number of people who vote in the same manner as their parents despite widely differing experiences, education and lifestyles. Are young people today not rejecting the long held views of what defines class and therefore do not see that the major political parties represent their hopes and aspirations.
Clare Short just told somebody that you no longer had to get a postal vote signed to authenticate your identity. Unfortunately she was wrong. This is very definitely still a requirement!
The only topic I have not heard mentioned, when debating 'voter apathy', is the reform of politicians. For example capping salaries and earnings. Maybe the electorate would think differently about voting for people who are undertaking the job for society and not for themselves.
Many views were given by members of the audience as to why people perhaps didn't vote in this election. The panel dismissed all of these points. The thing that politicians must realise is that views have been given by the electorate! These are honest opinions and are not open to debate! It's the truth! It's time that politicians listen instead of forming their own beliefs.
The lack of interest in voting has little to do with the politicians or media - whatever their egos might suggest. The first Labour landslide simply reinforced the message that voting did not matter because the winner is a foregone conclusion. This latest 'landslide' will make this worse and the drop in voter participation has a lot to do with the number of older committed voters who have died. Basically with the result already known - why should anyone vote?
Can Michael Portillo bring the Tories back?
Audience question: Is Michael Portillo the only person who can bring the Tories back from the edge of political oblivion? You said:
It would be a great shame for the Tories to choose Portillo as their leader before the euro referendum. Whomever the Tory leader is at that time they must surely lead the official 'no' campaign and will surely lose and subsequently be forced to resign - much as Blair would have to resign should the 'yes' vote fail to materialise. Portillo would be much better saved until after Widdecombe or Duncan Smith have lead the Tories to the euro defeat. He can then pick up the pieces of a party that will both need him desperately and finally be willing to listen to a semblance of reason.
Portillo is a brilliant choice for the Tories - if they absolutely, definitely don't want to win. He would be as useful to them in the next election as Thatcher was in the last.
I find it difficult to believe that Michael Portillo would make a good prime minister because he does not strike me as having been successful under Margaret Thatcher or John Major. He was a disaster in helping to implement the poll tax and a lame defence secretary. Kenneth Clarke, however, although holding views on Europe which most people disagree with, is seen as being a very competent minister.
Not if they want to win. After having a total disaster of an election based on the Thatcherite issues of the pound and aslyum why do the Tories want to run another election on those types of issues? They were totally out of touch with what the average Briton was thinking.
Now that New Labour have adopted the True Blue colours, maybe the Tory party might consider a similar image change - Mr Portillo and co waving the red flag for the socialists?
Stranger things have happened.
To get a clear indication of the direction the Conservative party intends to take I suggest a Portillo/Clarke ticket v a Widdecombe/Redwood would be the most enlightening combination.
Labour ministers the new fat cats?
Audience question: Are the senior Labour ministers the new fat cats after taking pay rises of up to 40%? You said:
I really cannot see why people insist on referring to the recent decision by Tony Blair et al to take the full salary due as a RISE. It is not! Do we have such short memories that we forget that for the first period in office, the government took only 60% of that due. What short memories we the public and the gutter media have! Although I don't agree with some of this government's policies, I do agree that they should get the going rate for the job they do.
William Hague, Michael Ancram, David Willetts, Liam Fox, Michael Portillo, Ann Widdecombe et al have all received their full salaries as members of the opposition shadow cabinet for the past four years. How dare they criticise the prime minister and the cabinet who have not drawn their full salaries for the past four years thus saving the country nearly £2m. No wonder the Tories lost the election, they cannot wait to hypocritically criticise others whilst operating blatant double standards themselves, long may they stay in opposition.
Why shouldn't Mr Blair have taken the pay rise? It most certainly is a huge amount of money. However we have to remember Mr Blair's job, and I would strongly back the point of Mr Baddiel when he did actually mention that this money is going to somebody who runs our country!
It is so easy to jump on politicians for earning more money than, say, teachers or bricklayers. With the greatest respect, they are running the country, not building a house, and the rewards should be commensurate with the responsibility. Otherwise their skills will simply be lost to private sector business. We need capable people in government and if that means paying them well then so be it.
My dad who is a doctor gets paid very little for what he does and if he had made as many mistakes as Mr Blair then Blair and his cabinet would have made sure he was struck off the NHS register and not given a 41% pay rise.
Tony Blair was corect to take the pay rise but he should have made it quite clear to the country that he and his cabinet had refused the pay rise in the past. We as a country should be willing to pay our leaders what they deserve so as to encourage people into politics.
It would seem that this country is still in the grips of gender inequality. We have women paid less than men and then we see for ourselves on national TV a man obviously acting in a threatening manner to a woman because she dares to disagree with him. The government should continue to attempt to break the cycle of gender inequality.
I am furious to hear Clare Short talk about Tony Blair's pay rise not being a significant amount. In the grand scheme of things, it isn't, but his pay rise itself is more than double my annual teaching wage and although I am aware that company directors are paid more, it is business profits which pay for their wages and not public taxes which are more greatly needed for public services. .
How dare Clare Short say £49,000 is not much money, it is more than some people might see in their life time.
Do you think that Mr Blair's huge pay increase if 40% is justified when most of us are lucky to get 2-3% and do you think that he would have done so well in the elections had he told us of his plans to boost his salary by so much?
NHS forced to waste resources?
Audience question: Does the government's conversion from waiting lists to waiting times indicate that the NHS has been forced to waste resources chasing political targets? You said:
I was asked three times in just over a year by me local hospital if I wanted to remain on the waiting list for an operation. To stay on the list I had to reply. I am sure that, for whatever reason, some patients did not reply and were removed from the list and that distorted the figures to benefit the government's objectives.
How come there are no waiting lists/waiting times, here in Belgium? Here, you only have to wait if you need a transplant when none are available. The British system seems such a terrible mess!
My comment is regarding the NHS as it was compared to the German health service. This comparison is unfair because taxation in Germany is far higher than in Britain. In addition to the amount German employees pay into the health service, their employers must also match this contribution. When will the British people realise that there is no such thing as a free lunch and if they want better services they have to pay for them!
Further to Janet Daley's comments on ownership of the National Health service. I certainly agree that far too many decisions regarding the NHS are politically motivated, but I fail to see that corporate ownership would result in medical considerations taking priority.
General comments on the programme:
David Willetts is a typical politician, and sums up why politics is such a turn off for many. One week after the election, he is prepared to ditch everything he stood for last week! Why can't they say: "Well yes, we did get the message, but we still BELIEVE in what we said to you."? Maybe then, all politicians will avoid being thought of as dishonest, and the electorate will know who to vote for.
What a refreshing change it was to see David Baddiel on tonight's Question Time. Not only did I find his comments highly interesting, but at times I felt he used a lot more common sense than any body else on the panel!
Welcome back Question Time! But what a lacklustre audience tonight - apathy rules!
I found Clare Short utterly refreshing. She spoke her mind and convinced me that she would not toe the party line if she did not agree with it. Janet Daley on the other hand seems to be living in her own distorted world - put her in charge of the Tories - oblivion will soon follow!
What is David Baddiel doing on Question Time? His facile quips have nothing to do with sensible political debate. I would rather see a nurse, a teacher, a bricklayer or an unemployed person contribute to discussions on government policy than a mildly successful comedian.
Is there anyone in the Labour party that does not come across as being arrogant or is this an entry requirement?
I was stunned, not necessarily at the use of very bad language from a member of the audience tonight, but at the lack of reaction from either the chairman or members of the panel. Maybe if Anne Widdecombe had been on the panel...?
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