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Thursday, 6 December, 2001, 14:35 GMT
December 6, Bristol
You can join Question Time's internet debate by emailing your views on the topics discussed in the latest programme to:

You can watch the programme online in Real Video by clicking on Latest edition.

The topics discussed this week were:

Israel condemned for rooting out terrorists?

Audience question: Why is it that Britain and America can go half way around the world to root out terrorists when Israel is condemned for doing the same inside their own backyard? You said:

Well done Melanie Phillips. I could not believe the bias and ignorance of the audience and of the cowardice of panel members in not standing up to defend Israel's right to exist. The soft left are misguided if they think that the problem can be resolved by Israel giving in to Hamas and Fatah activists. History shows that it will only be seen as a sign of weakness.
Peter, Exeter

Melanie Phillips' performance was frankly sickening - her arrogance was exemplified upon questioning the audience as to why they were 'laughing'...I do believe that she needs to wake up and smell the coffee. The tyrannical and oppressive rule of the Zionists in Israel over the Palestinians has gone on far too long.
N Khan, London

I often enjoy Question Time, however last night I was sickened to hear some of the comments that were made in response to Israel's policy in dealing with terrorism. I would like to commend Melanie Phillips for her comments and as a young Jew living in the diaspora I was amazed at the level of opposition to the state of Israel.
Sylvia, Manchester

Like many Zionists last night I cannot thank Melanie Phillips enough for standing up and being counted. I deeply believe that the Jews as a people have the right to a Jewish homeland. Israel is smaller than the size of Wales and has fewer than 6m Jews living there. For heaven's sake let us have this tiny place to call our home. That's not being greedy and shouldn't be an unrealistic demand.

The laughter Melanie Phillips received when commenting that Israel was a democracy made me feel sick. Israel is the only country in the Middle East where there is a free press, freedom of peaceful demonstration, an elected legislature and the right for government ministers to publicly criticise government policy. Israeli Jews and Arabs alike share these privileges.
Jonathan Steel, London

Congratulations to Will Self, himself Jewish, in having the guts to cut through the disgraceful (but expected) inability of the three party politicians around the table to state the facts on the Middle East. Israel occupies the West Bank and Gaza ILLEGALLY and has done so for 34 years in defiance of UN resolutions. The Palestinians have the right to resist under the Geneva Convention.
Paul Wright, Paris

Your audience's reaction last night to the question of Israel's right to defend herself was staggering. It could only have come from an audience who have no idea (thankfully) what it is like to lose family and friends in the most brutal and indiscriminate manner. Nor would they know about living in a society surrounded by countries bent on its destruction, denying even its right to exist. I presume if any of your audience knew of these concerns they might think differently.
Dan, London

With regard to the 'loyalty' test for British Jews. As a British Jew I feel that my first loyalty is to this country which I love. However, in the event of a real conflict between the UK and Israel how secure would my life here be? I remember being told that the majority of German Jews before WW2 considered themselves Germans first and look at the history of what then happened. Many Jews feel they need to support the State of Israel because they feel that there is a place where Jews will always be welcome.
Jennie, Herts

It was validly pointed out that we in the UK did not barge into Belfast and start bombing with tanks and helicopter gunships and F16s against the IRA, so what right do the Israelis have to commit such violent crimes against the Palestinians?
Atif Ahmed, London

Good for Will Self and Diane Abbott. Muslims in the UK have been asked this question of loyalties, yet when the same is asked of Melanie Phillips, she's offended. Have the Israelis forgotten their terrorism when Palestine was under a British mandate? Sharon was one of these. Israel is a nuclear nation which receives billions of dollars in financial and military aid. Blair has to stop this before Sharon becomes even more trigger happy than he is.
Shazia, London

The audience and the panellists entirely missed the point. The US - the effective policeman of the world - has accepted after last week's suicide bombings that Israel has every right to defend itself from terrorism (see comments of Bush and Powell over the past week). That's really all that matters. Melanie Phillips is an outstanding journalist who does her research commendably thoroughly. Thank heaven she was on the panel as yet again the audience, Diane Abbott and Will Self (and amazingly even Ken Clarke at first) seemed unable to distinguish between terrorism and response to terror.
Jonathan, London

I wish to very sincerely thank Melanie Phillips for her integrity and for having the guts to tell the audience how ignorant they are of the facts involved in the Israeli conflict with its neighbours who have sworn to destroy it. They will never succeed but, perhaps, in their ignorance they will destroy themselves. Please thank Melanie Phillips and ensure she is apprised of the fact that her words, her courage are deeply valuable to all thinking persons.
Madelyn Freeman, London

Some people in this discussion seem to believe that if Israel withdraws to 1967 borders and dismantles the settlements there will be no problem anymore. However this ignores the fact that things were not patently not OK before 1967, otherwise why would there have been a war? I think people like Melanie Phillips who support Israel, should have the courage to say that Arafat and his followers do not deserve a state, however politically incorrect that might sound.
Timothy Murphy, London

The state of Israel relies on the "pro-Israel" media editors and writers, like Melanie Phillips, to spread their lies and manipulate the British people's way of thinking regarding the Palestine/Israel conflict. Last night, and from hearing the views of the audience, I was proved wrong. I was pleasantly astonished to see that the majority of the audience understands the brutality of the Israeli army against Palestinian men, women and children. Israel's brutality is a daily occurrence. I say to the audience, on behalf the 1000's of Palestinian people killed and injured THANK YOU, THANK YOU, and THANK YOU.
Mahmoud Al-Barghouthy, Leicester

The ignorance of the audience astonished me. The problem with the Arab/Israeli conflict is that both sides try to demonise the other and this was reflected by the audience. The basic facts are that the Palestinians started the intifada and the Israelis have used disproportionate force to stop it. The Palestinians released all the militants when the intifada started, but "targeted killings" of these militants are still wrong.
Nick Dommett, London

I thought that it was terrible that Melanie Phillips believes that Israel is the democratic power in the Middle East, that is just silly. Israel are the cause of most of the trouble and they are only making it worse!!! Melanie Phillips wake up!!!
Giles, Shropshire

Even on this comments board the truth is distorted. The Israelis were the aggressors in the 1960s not the Arab states. How can this occupation and its treatment of people be justified. If any aggression occurred after the return to those borders recognised by the UN, Israel would easily defeat any Arab country and I don't think there could be any complaints about the heavy-handedness of their response. With regards to Israel and its bastion of democracy: This is true when compared to other countries in the region but I don't think that its large Arab Israeli minority would agree with this description.
Tareq Abu-Rish, Rickmansworth

The audience in Bristol on last night's show both angered and dismayed me. In addition the ignorance shown by Dianne Abbott concerning Israel just adds fuel to the flames started by the mostly anti-Semitic media. When will people realise that Israel is a tiny country surrounded by hostile Arabs that have sought to drive them into the sea since day one? They must defend themselves because if they show any weakness or lose any face it will be the end and this is obviously what lots of people over here seem to want too. There should be absolutely no sympathy for an injured stone throwing Palestinian and least of all, any so-called understanding of the suicide bombers. Some of the comments on this page are equally abhorrent.
Andrew, London

Those who have denounced Will Self should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves. Mr Self has clearly taken the time to understand the cruel modern realities of the Holy Land: It takes the utmost in courage and integrity for a Jew to criticise Israeli behaviour and acknowledge Zionist terrorism past and present as one of the root causes of this conflict, together with Palestinian terrorism. It is people like Mr Self who will ultimately bring about a just peace to this tragic situation, not the cowards who deny Palestinian rights and dwell only on Palestinian terrorism.
Dr Ian Steer, Oxford

I don't usually agree with Melanie Phillips in her newspaper columns, but I think she was very brave for refusing to be bowed by a hostile and really rather ignorant audience. The comments on this page are much more representative of what I consider to be public opinion, and so I really question the programme's selection processes!
Paul, London

Will Self's insinuation of the dual loyalty of British Jewry - a canard with a long provenance - needs to be termed by its proper name. It's rank anti-Semitism.
Oliver Kamm, London

Will Self posed an interesting question to the Jewish community. A few weeks ago Margaret Thatcher posed much the same question to the Muslim community. Thank God I'm Protestant English - at least I don't need any stupid religion to tell me what's right and wrong!
Stuart Selwyn, UK

I would like to congratulate Will Self for having the courage and confidence to speak the truth regarding the Palestinians. As a Jew myself I cannot condone the type of extreme prejudice shown tonight by Melanie Phillips, her approach was simply a disgrace. I pray for peace.
Sean, Manchester

The arrogant attitude of people like Melanie Phillips is partly responsible for the situation we have today. I thought the audience engaged in a meaningful and objective debate but the idea that the state of Israel is beyond any form of criticism is most unhelpful. Whether we like it or not Osama Bin Laden was right when he said that the West (especially the US) will only know peace when the Palestinians know peace in their own land.
Abi Bilesanmi, London

If the audience in Bristol is a true sample British society today, then God help this country. It is shocking to see how na´ve and ignorant people can be even after the horrific attacks of September 11th. It was sickening to see the overwhelming agreement that Israel is a terrorist state and the comments that the United States is guilty of war crimes in Afghanistan! Do these people not understand that the suicide attack on the towers in New York was as well an attack on London and for that matter Western civilisation as a whole including the audience themselves?
Guy Setton, London

If Israelis carry out crimes or terrorist actions, they (and their sponsors) are arrested and brought to justice. If Palestinians carry out crimes or terrorist actions, they (and their sponsors) are free to wander, arrested and then released through revolving doors and are considered heroes. If Israelis are the victims of these cowardly acts, and the Palestinian Authority does nothing, who do the panel feel should protect innocent Israelis in future?
Ian Shiner, London

Lesley (email) conveniently forgets that Israel was created as a result of Israeli terrorists who bombed the Palestinians out of their homes and their land. Would Lesley give up her own house in this way? These people believe they can toss other people out and treat them like scum because they believe they are chosen ie superior. Presumably the rest of us are inferior.
K Urban, London

The suggestion by a couple of tonight's panel that Israel targets Palestinian areas INDISCRIMINATELY is distressing. One may not agree with Israel's military response to Palestinian violence, but one has to, at the very least, concede that it is TARGETTED. Those who claim otherwise are speaking out of (at best) ignorance and (at worst) malice.
David, London

It was interesting to see Melanie Phillips' answer to Will Self's loyalty test. Much has been said of UK Muslims fighting for the Taleban, but in the event of a war between UK and Israel whose side will UK Jews be on?
Phillip Butt, London

The Arab-Israeli conflict is so replete with lies, fictions, myths and half-truths that one might write a book just enumerating them. I would urge the anti-Israel members of the audience (and some on the panel) to realise that the Palestinians were offered a state in 1947. They refused and instead chose to declare war on the newly formed Jewish state. Arafat also turned down Barak's generous offer last year at Camp David, once again choosing terrorism and violence over peaceful co-existence.
Oliver Finegold, Herts

Much of the discussion particularly by Miss Phillips was on an emotional plane. Jews particularly with their history ought to understand the plight of the dispossessed Palestinians. Also on a strictly rational plane, the Palestinians have not much more to lose and are prepared to take greater risks. Israelis will also be judged by a higher standard of behaviour and sadly they have not learned the lessons of past adversity.
Venk Shenoi, Gloucester

To understand why you cannot equate the response of the British government to the Irish bombings with that of the response of the Israeli government to Palestinian bombing it should be noted that the existence of the UK has never been threatened. Those that bomb Israel do not merely want their own state they want the total destruction of Israel. As a consequence Israel feels that it must do whatever it needs to in order to survive.
Jennie Ross, Harpenden

In response to some of the comments posted to this website could I ask that the participants either contemplate or enlighten me on the following: Why do Israelis consider the historic territories of Palestine to be their backyard? Which Arab states are oppressing Israel? What form does this oppression take? How do you explain the fact that if you take the USA and Britain out of the equation the policies and practices of Israel are roundly condemned by any free-thinking and just society around the world?
John Kelly, Brentford

The fundamental issue that Will Self was getting at was the loyalty test, a slightly more subtly posed version of the Tebbitt 'Britishness' test. In fact, that should read English test, for we now know that the forces Will Self was hinting at are the same ones that are very successfully driving a wedge into the Union of our nations in order to undermine the historical strength of the English hegemony within the British Isles. Those forces are, of course, the forces of Zionist imperialism, which new model is dressed up as globalisation and, more arrogantly still, as pertaining to the "civilised world".
Mark Stevens, Iver, Bucks

At the risk of accusations of being anti-Semitic (which I am most assuredly not, nor anti anyone else for that matter!), I think the overwrought reaction of Melanie Phillips towards Will Self and, similarly, some of the excited responses on your website are a bit of a give-away. Will Self asked Melanie Phillips as to where her prime loyalty lies. It is a fair question because it is the source of many of the problems around the world today, not just with Judaism, but also with other religions and sects. So many people seem to be Jews first or Muslims first and then a token nationality afterwards, which may or may not benefit from a small part of their loyalty. The minute anyone passes comment on this phenomenon, accusations of bigotry start flying.
Paul B, Oxfordshire

Israel like America has the right of self-defence. They have the right to use military action to attack the terrorist network that has attacked them. Unfortunately this is not what Israel is doing at present. Israel is attacking the Palestinian Authority. When Israel occupied all of the West Bank and Gaza strip it was unable to prevent terrorist attacks on Israel. They now expect the weak Palestinian Authority to achieve more than they did. No doubt the Palestinian Authority could arrest a number of terrorist sympathisers but whether this would protect Israel from further attacks is questionable.
P Cracknell, Chelmsford

Having watched last night's show I once again struggle to believe that the audience truly reflects public opinion. I hope this is the case or else I can only come to the conclusion that on the Israel/Palestinian issue the majority of people are ignorant or worse. I believe that most Jews, inside and outside Israel do support the setting up of a Palestinian State. I also believe that if and when this happens - the next step will be war!
S Collins

Israel is out of line pursuing such an indiscriminate line in retaliation and control. How can it be so uncaring for the Palestinian citizens who basically are living within their land as refugees? Surely there are alternate methods of persecuting the organisations that commit such terrorism.
Tom Tabori, London

How Melanie Phillips did not walk out of tonight's programme I will never understand. The insulting behaviour of Will Self was a public disgrace. It is about time that intelligent people like Diane Abbott and Ken Clarke learned a bit about the history of the Middle East conflict. It is the Arab States that defied United Nations resolutions for twenty years prior to 1967 and did not allow Israeli shipping to pass through the Suez Canal or Jews to enter Jerusalem to pray at the Western Wall.
Austen Biss, Hove

A decent Jewish author, Will Self, was told to be ashamed of himself and Diane Abbott as well as the audience were branded as ignorant by Melanie Phillips. I felt outraged by Ms Phillips's arrogance because I could have been in the audience and laughed at the fact that she seriously believes that Israel functions on a democratic system. The sober fact of the matter is that Israel's democratic system is fundamentally based on war and terror.
S Main, Ealing

Does the panel realise that the Palestinians were offered their own State by the UN in 1947, but instead bitterly rejected the offer and declared war on Israel in May 1948 - the aim being to destroy the entire existence of Israel. It is obvious that this is still the aim of the Arab world. Melanie Phillips was the only person of the panel that seems to realise this. Why?

The Arab Israeli conflict goes back to the biblical story of Abraham and Sarah his wife who sent into exile the child of her husband by her Egyptian maid Hagar because she wanted priority for her own son Isaac. According to the story Abraham agreed to this unworthy request and so the half brothers became leaders of different nations who remain enemies to this day. When they remember that they are brothers then we may at last begin the process of reconciliation.
Jenny Clare, Easingwold

A ridiculous comment on this page says that the Palestinians are poor and helpless and they are right in letting off suicide bombs. For decades the hostile Arabs have been attacking Israel, who just want to be in peace and not bothered. Israel has built up world class armed forces, as they have had to constantly protect themselves from Arabs. They are capable of taking out every Arab country as they are intelligent friendly people, capable of producing and using technology. How else will they stay alive?
David Glasspool, Dartford

Does anybody ever stop to ask themselves why Israel occupied the West Bank in the first place? On four separate occasions the surrounding Arab countries declared war on Israel, with the sole intent of destroying it and killing all the Jewish people living there. The only reason countries like Egypt have made peace is because they realised they could never win.
E Pine, London

I have never been so shocked by blatant anti-Israel and anti-American feelings. The things said about Israel were disgusting, and thankfully they where said only out of pure ignorance. It makes me laugh how one moment people say that the terrorist attacks suffered by Israel can't be compared to the attacks suffered by America etc, and the next moment they say that Israel should not act the way it does but it should act the way England did in dealing with the IRA. So one moment no comparison and then the other moment a comparison. I must add that I love this programme, keep up the good work.
Yosef Sande, Chichester

For all the criticism of the Israeli reaction to terrorist acts you have to admire their disregard of world reaction when action needs to be taken. At least they don't try to go about it in an underhand way which the government can deny all knowledge of when questions are asked. Britain and the United States take note...
Ray O'Brien, London

I'm not Jewish, but I certainly sympathise with Israel defending themselves against terrorists. When will these left wingers realise diplomatic talks do not work with extremists? Military action, if done responsibly, is the only way to deal with extremists.
Nick, London

Israel and the western democracies are attacked by terrorists therefore these terrorists and their supporters have to be eradicated even by giving up a small amount of so-called human rights. Human rights do not help you anymore if you are governed by terrorists. For a change Kenneth Clark spoke sense while Diane Abbott and Will Self better shouldn't have said anything!
Andres Benguerel, London

I feel that for Sharon to justify his action in indiscriminately using force against Palestinians shows that he is a terrorist at heart and not a head of a powerful sovereign state.
Puntino, London

Congratulations to the panel for their courage in speaking the truth regarding Israel/Palestine. Israel's flagrant disregard for international law and the Geneva Conventions in expropriating illegally occupied land simply must be confronted. We should not only deal with terrorism but its causes. When the Israelis have withdrawn from the Occupied Territories in full, as they are obliged to, I am sure peace will prevail.
Dave Alker, Bristol

We fully support Melanie Phillips and Ken Clarke on the question of Israel but the reaction of the audience to the mention of Israel being a democracy shows the great lack of unbiased reporting of the Israeli position by the media. The constant showing of the Palestinian point of view allows total falsehoods of the Israeli position to become established 'facts'. The Israeli policy of targeted attacks is the exact opposite of the Palestinian terrorist policy of attacking innocent civilians.
Liz Lea, Wilmslow, Cheshire

People often forget that Israel's territory comprises only 0.5% of the Middle East, the rest of that land is made up of hostile Arab states, many of whom have expressed their desire to see Israel 'driven into the sea'. In such a situation how can any one criticise a democratically elected government for defending its citizens against terrorism?
Stuart Williamson, London

The only way the Palestinians are going to be listened to is by violence and as they have absolutely no power, no money, no weapons to respond to the Israeli destruction of their homes, their land, their life through bombings by F-16, tanks, then suicide bombings is their only answer.
Christine, Southampton, UK

Ken Clarke has a very short memory stating that tanks were never in the Catholic streets of Northern Ireland.
Michael Mulrine, Aylesbury

Israel has been oppressed by Arab states and terrorist for decades and must be free to take any action they see fit to secure their freedom. For two pins I would dessert my own country and fight for Israel. At least they still have a perception of what is right and what is wrong, something those in power here have totally lost sight of.
Dave Charles, Romford

Israel is too often for defending its citizens. It is surrounded by huge aggressive states which will not accept its validity to even exist. Many do not want Israel to share anything with the Palestinians, but want to see it destroyed indefinitely. However, someone must break the cycle, and I do believe that as the stronger party in this conflict it should be Israel. With Sharon as a leader it is doubtful whether this will actually occur.
Louise Hassell, Birmingham

The whole point about the Israeli/Palestinian question is that Israel has not been condemned as it rightly should have been for its uncompromising colonising imperialism settlement of Palestinian territory.
Alan Craw, Newbury

Melanie Philips hasn't got a clue. The Israelis are the real terrorists. They use bombs and tanks against young kids throwing stones. If the Israelis get out of the illegally occupied land, stop building illegal settlements and give Palestine back its land then there would be no problems.
Brian Thompson, Warrington

Tonight's episode of Question Time contained an audience which was heavily biased against Israel. Nobody in the audience spoke up for Israel. Many people made ignorant and ridiculous comments and clapped when they heard similar from the panel. Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East - it has the obligation to defend its citizens against terrorism. Melanie Phillips was on her own tonight, surely that can't be right!
Karen Lever, London

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Allied strategy in Afghanistan vindicated?

Audience question: Is the apparent surrender of the Taleban in Kandahar a total vindication of the allied strategy in Afghanistan? You said:

When are people going to start realising that this war in Afghanistan goes so much further than Bin Laden and the Taleban. I'm absolutely amazed that there are politicians out there that are so blinkered and do not realise that this conflict is absolutely necessary. These terrorists go far beyond the freedom fighters we had in the 70s and 80s. These terrorists are set on destroying the western world and have already taken steps to build nuclear weapons to achieve their purpose.
Phil Rodell, Bedford

When (supposedly) Osama Bin Laden attacked the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon the USA said this was not an attack on America alone, but on many other countries. The British government agreed with this. Yet they want Osama Bin Laden and others to face justice in the USA. Surely if it was an attack on other countries as well a more appropriate place would be the International Court of Justice.
Lisa, Lancaster

What a delight to have the truest spirit of the Labour party represented by Diane Abbott on Question Time last night! Such a voice of compassion, intelligence and clarity during such a period of neanderthal aggression and the anti-democratic racism demonstrated by the US. The UN should have been the mediating force here, not a bee stung super power. Covert troops should have been used to target Al-Qaeda, not B52's to target everything. A great combination of guests last night. Diane Abbott for prime minister!
Jemima Kiss, Brighton

I was appalled at the one sided nature of the debate on Afghanistan. The debate was dominated by people from the `Stop The war' campaign, the sort of people who would have sat on their hands and done nothing after all those hundreds of British people died. Of course the policy has been vindicated, you only had to see how relieved the people of Kabul were when the Taleban left. We must finish the job, and destroy the Al-Qaeda organisation, which cannot be reasoned with. We must get humanitarian aid in, and not walk away, as we did 10 years ago.
Paul Goddard, Southampton

What it all comes down to is moral principles. We should be looking at our actions and the actions of others less relatively and from a more ethically and objective point of view. For example, terrorists attacking the US is 'wrong' and the US attacking Afghanistan, for whatever reason is wrong, because violence causes harm, anger, distrust and destruction.
Lucia Caistor-Arendar, London

I was amazed at the audience reaction last night to action against terrorism. It seems that you have created a fringe programme for militants and not one that represents the views of the majority of British people.
D Taylor, Nott's

As an American working in England, I sometimes find it humorous that people are marching against our campaign in Afghanistan. Do you think you are making a difference? Is the American government going to care about insignificant people marching on another continent? NO. Do you think you are going to change ANYTHING? NO. As ex-American military, I can tell you we do have the best intentions for ALL. People are free now.
Chris Mcdonald, Cambridge

I don't really like Will Self but I think he hit the nail on the head when he said that the Americans were ready to use the nuclear alternative. I believe that if Tony Blair hadn't intervened they would have!
Tom, Doncaster

Shame on Diane Abbott! Not a word about the change we are seeing daily in Afghanistan as men and women start to experience freedoms that we take for granted. I don't see much US flag burning on the streets of Kabul - might just be that they are grateful what the US with our assistance has done for them. Giving ordinary Afghans the chance to live without the hated oppression of the Taleban!
Simon, Bournemouth

A member of tonight's audience suggests that the USA have infringed Afghani rights. He should consider that they are actually restoring rights that had already been removed by the Taleban and Bin Laden who repressed the population and declared an illegal war on the world at large. No one wants the loss of life, but Afghanistan and the world has a chance of emerging a better place. Sadly freedom has never been free. The price is high.
Bill, Manchester

As a regular viewer it appears that from listening to panel members and audience members that the memory of September the 11th has faded fast. The allied coalition did not deliberately set out to kill innocent people in Afghanistan, unlike the people who committed the atrocities in the US.
Rob Charlton, Middlesbrough

As a serving army officer I have a sworn duty to carry out my orders. However it should be pointed out that in standing shoulder to shoulder with the USA, we are participating in an illegal act. The US under international law has no right to invade a country and remove its government. After all until Sept this year most US citizens would have had no idea where Afghanistan was. Their aim to lift out Bin Laden is illegal.
Richard Amey, Church Crookham

I fully support US policy in Afghanistan, and the right of Israel to defend itself against the Palestinians, but question why we took no military action against Irish Republican terrorists in the Republic Of Ireland after September 11th.
Chris Cornell, Polzeath, Cornwall

I cannot believe the anti-USA views expressed on the show. Where do you get them from? I, and the majority of those in the UK, support the actions taken. Have these people forgotten Sept 11th? Any action to combat this type of attack is justified.
Terry Knights, Huntingdon, Cambs

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Health service in terminal decline?

Audience question: Is the proposed use of foreign and private hospitals to treat NHS patients a sensible way of reducing waiting lists or an admission that the health service is in terminal decline? You said:

Surely the point is that the NHS does not have a bottomless pit for funding. As the expectations of the public increase, due to the breakthroughs in healthcare, the resources of the NHS will need to increase as well. All these new treatments, medicines and operations cost a lot of money. Someone needs to make the decision as to whether it is better to replace a heart, replace a number of kidneys or give the time to many people who need the reassurance that talking to their doctor gives.
Ric Lambert, Peel, Isle of Man

When Ken Clarke says we have to make the health service more 'responsive' etc could he please say what he means? We need concrete ideas which tackle the problem thoroughly. I liked the Daily Mail columnist's suggestion that it would be helpful to look at the health services in the different countries of Europe which do work! It wouldn't seem a coincidence that Britain pays (much) less income tax in comparison to other EEC countries.
Anna Wood, Brussels

As an English-born citizen living in Canada what is important is to be able to choose your doctor. Where he or she works also matters in terms of resources, research and availability of up to date technology. A good medical/surgical team cannot function to its maximum excellence without these!
Janet Dysart RN, Vancouver, Canada

It irritates me to hear the constant reiteration of the claim that the health service can not be improved until we can train more doctors and nurses. There are thousands of NHS employees (including myself) who took early retirement or opted for other careers after interference by people like Ken Clarke brought the morale of staff to a new low from which it has not recovered. New "managers" were brought in, presumably from failed industries, and dedicated but already stressed staff were treated like factory floor workers.
D Henry, Edinburgh

The NHS is unique because of free choice of doctor (GP) by the patient, free choice of patient by the GP - and free (ie no-financial-cost-at-the-time) initial diagnosis and treatment of everyone who comes to a doctor whom they trust when they are ill or think they are in need of medical advice. This has never been extended (as the same basic principle) to independent financial advice, and independent educational advice at all age groups over school-leaving age because it is impossible to finance out of taxation.
Cllr Dr Michael Jameson, St Albans City

Ed Davey said the electorate should remember that Labour broke its promise not to raise taxes when they vote at the next election. Does he think that we will all vote Liberal Democrat to have even higher taxes? The NHS needs wholesale reorganisation from the top down and just throwing more and more money at an already bad situation is not the answer.
M Ferguson, Chelmsford

To the woman who worked for the local health authority, who spoke against Kenneth Clarke and had the perseverance to persist with her point of view after his dismissive reply: You spoke very well, your tenacity made me swell with admiration. You said your piece and then had the force of mind to reiterate your point of view after Ken bent your question to his own needs. Well done, I wish that I, and many more, had your conviction.
Nick Buckmaster, Winchester

The idea of using foreign hospitals to treat NHS patients is sensible and clearly economic. Those of us who have had to buy specialist medicinal drugs in the UK (where they are often unavailable on the NHS) know that the market price in France is typically 40% of the UK price. A private consultation is France is usually 30% cheaper. If the NHS is paying these inflated prices, then something quite serious has gone awry.
Lloyd Davies, London

Why doesn't the government reduce the number of non-nursing employees, as in my opinion most of them are totally irrelevant, and put the resources back into real nursing with real nurses and doctors.
Hazel Harding, Barnsley

Ed Davey said the electorate should remember that Labour broke its promise not to raise taxes when they vote at the next election. Does he think that we will all vote Liberal Democrat to have even higher taxes. The NHS needs wholesale reorganisation from the top down and just throwing more and more money at an already bad situation is not the answer.
M Ferguson, Chelmsford

We are told that the Conservatives are uncaring! How is it that the only people you meet at charitable functions where you have to pay are Conservatives, and that the greater proportion of workers for charities are Conservatives.
Geoff Ayre, Southend-on-Sea

A friend of mine who works in the NHS says that no amount of money is going to make the NHS work efficiently.
Richard Price

Tonight's debate has revealed the sick capitalist world we live in. Finding the cash to bomb poor and defenceless civilians in Afghanistan, whilst starving the NHS in this country. What sort of society are we? Tax cuts for the better off must be consigned to the political rubbish bin. Fund OUR health service properly Blair!
Leighton, Wirral

Why not get the private sector to fund the training of doctors and nurses - then recruit them into the NHS? This would save the NHS millions every year instead of the NHS paying for training and the private hospitals reaping the benefit.
Francis O'Brien, Harlow

It seems to me that whilst it is a sensible option to allow people desperate for operations to have them abroad, the net result will be that the countries treating our patients will become richer, whilst we will never invest properly in the national health service which we clearly need. The man in the turquoise shirt (and Diane Abbott) was absolutely correct - if we are prepared to pay more tax for our services, then they will improve.
Marian Clarke, Reigate

People will pay slightly more tax, if they believed the money was to be well spent! When will someone look at the inefficiencies of the civil service, and bring it into the modern world eg analyse what GPs are having to do that is not directly related to their actual time with patients and take away everything that is not essential to be completed by them.
Craig, Reading

The National Health Service has well outgrown its expectations since it was set up in 1948. The amount of treatment that is available now has, in my view, caused the ever-growing waiting lists. I cannot help but think that giving all the extra money to the NHS will do no good, unless we can recruit many more thousands of doctors and nurses, and keep them in the NHS. The general public has got to be prepared to pay more in taxes to bring the much needed improvements to the service. We all rely on it, so we all have to be prepared to contribute more.
Steve Fuller, (City) Brighton & Hove

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Conservative Party narrow-minded?

Audience question: When did the Conservative Party become too narrow-minded to have Ken Clarke as leader? You said:

Ken Clarke's narrow vision doesn't extend beyond Britain's full integration within the EU. Surely his rejection as leader shows his party isn't so narrow-minded and sees a whole world of opportunity for Britain beyond the confines of the EU. Why would they want a 21st century leader whose ideas are stuck in the 1950s?
Stuart Coster, Hatfield, Herts

Ken Clarke is a fine example of a Tory politician - a former health minister who now makes large sums of money working in the tobacco industry! Also if he were a committed MP he wouldn't have time for this extra work. It would have made no difference who the Conservatives voted as their leader, they will not form a government for several generations to come, and it serves them right.
John Adams, Cheltenham

The current Conservative Party cannot be so narrow minded if it embraces Will Self's views on Europe and the Euro!
Alan Marshall, Southampton

The Tory Party became incapable of electing Ken Clarke in June 1983. Margaret Thatcher's victory in the general election made her unassailable as the leader of her party, hence the shaping of the parliamentary Conservative Party in her image for a generation to come.
Robin Massey, Nottingham

I think Mr Purslow should realise that most politicians speak eloquently when they are caught on the right foot, however it is when you catch them unawares that they start to be more 'economical with the truth'. And with 18 years of the Tories concentrating their efforts on such economies of truthfulness rather than the economies of the state, it is just as well he's sitting in that chair, rather in the Commons.
Richard Price

Please ask Ken Clarke to take over leadership of the Conservative Party! He is the only man to trust to speak the truth and eloquently (unlike the current leader) and get Labour out. Please get me to vote Tory again.
M Purslow, Swindon

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Ms Filkin over zealous?

Audience question: Was Ms Filkin over zealous in the execution of her duties or do politicians have a lot to hide? You said:

Surely, Ms Filkin has been too zealous for the politicians. The obvious solution is to appoint on a permanent basis.
M Green, London

I used to complain bitterly to friends who wouldn't vote in general elections, as I felt that it was one's duty. However, for me, the Filkin affair is the final straw. I will not be voting again. As far as I'm concerned our political system and those who work in it are totally discredited, and frankly it's not worth bothering anymore. The Commons is doing a fine job of creating apathy towards politics, and I simply have no respect left for any of them.
Mike Ball, Eton

The Filkin affair is just another example of why the British public holds politics and politicians in such contempt. No wonder so many people don't vote. They should grovel back to her, apologise and offer her her job back. After all they wouldn't object to her if they had nothing to hide.....
David Pearson, London

Since Elizabeth Filkin is understood only to have followed up some 10% of the cases referred to her, it is hard to see how she can be judged to have been over-zealous. Far more likely that in particular, this control freak government goes out of its way to oppose any person or system which dares to interfere with its craving for virtually absolute power.
Alan Smith, Solihull

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General comments on the programme:

I have not watched Question Time for a long time. I watched this Thursday, and it all came back to me why I stopped watching ... it infuriates me and keeps me awake when I go to bed! Why so? Because of the total predictability of the comments, the overwhelming ignorance and sheep-like manner of the audience, and the boorish bellowing which greets the occasional truthful and challenging (to the audience) comment from a panel member, such as Melanie Phillips.
Bill McCudden, Aylesbury

If Question Time is going to be a serious political discussion programme, it could do without the predictable knee-jerk reactions of tabloid writers like Melanie Phillips. There is also a danger at times that it becomes a contest for the most applause - many of the audience are just there to cheer their side.
David Clelland, Glasgow

Please PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE stop the audience clapping during the programme - it's worse than a panel game!
David, Loughborough

Although I don't agree with much of what Will Self says, at least he is prepared to voice his opinions. I think it would be far better if you invited more panellists who are prepared to speak their minds rather than career politicians who won't commit to anything that might upset their careers.
Ian Hamilton, Barnsley

Go Will!
Rosie, London

Diane Abbott's talents are wasted in the Labour Party. I suggest she moves to the Liberal Democrats and uses her good political sense to keep at least one party from shifting to the now omnipresent 'centre-right'.
Ama, London

I have never enjoyed a programme as much as Question Time. I have lived in many countries and this is the first one where there has been a public forum where issues can be debated with such clarity. I watch it avidly. Keep up the good work and I hope to see you in Liverpool soon.
Feargus Bryan, Liverpool

Hearing Diane Abbott and Will Self shows that there is some hope for the oppressed inhabitants of this planet. It is not surprising that our newspapers print filth when people like Melanie Phillips contribute as writers.
John McCormack, Glasgow

A very lively Question Time, but how on earth was the audience selected? They seemed to be violently anti-American, fanatically anti-Jew, and archaically Old Labour.
Alan Smith, Solihull

There are nearly 700 MPs in the House of Commons and lord knows how many lords and ladies in 'that other place' plus countless people in the public eye with something to say, yet the guest list on the programme is so boringly repetitive.
Mark Newberry, London

Melanie Phillips, congratulations for your brave and courageous stance. A lesser person would have left the stage, I take my hat off to you.
Gillian Rose, Glasgow

I thought that Ed Davey was very impressive throughout. He was articulate, engaging, and bright. Certainly brighter than the Tory front bench at the moment. Perhaps it is time to let the Lib Dems have a go.
Simon Radford, London

As usual Ms Abbott and Will Self are quick to heckle the actions of those who have to make life's difficult choices. Why do they seem incapable of offering plausible alternatives to the actions they find so lacking?
David Barclay, London

Melanie Phillips, what a breath of fresh air to hear someone with a brain talking on your show.
Andy Bird, Birmingham

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