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Thursday, 21 February, 2002, 17:01 GMT
February 21, Maidstone
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The topics discussed this week were:

Audience question: Why does the prime minister think that more tax and spend will solve the problems of the NHS when it hasn't worked for the last 50 years? You said:

If more money is the answer to all the problems of the NHS why is it that Scotland, which already spends 20% more on health, does not have a first class health service? I should like an answer to that before I am asked to pay even more tax. Trouble with this country is that, unlike Germany where I lived for three years, what you pay bears no relation to what you get in unemployment, sickness etc.
Carol Scott, Huntingdon

Why do we need to raise tax to fund the NHS? Why not get rid of the spin doctors (surely if the Labour party need them they should pay them, not the public)?
Mark Butterworth, Mossley

It is a fallacy that the NHS is under-funded. The money it receives should be spent more efficiently. Doctors are well paid and so are many nurses. The problem lies in the wastage of money on a many tiered management system instead of spending on patient care and providing more clinical staff. The health service should be autonomous instead of a political football.
Mary Kallagher, King's Lynn

If we want a better service we must be prepared to pay for it. Is it not ridiculous for the UK to send patients to another country for treatment? If the French had not put a lot of resources into their health system they would not have a first class NHS today. I think all the political parties should take the bull by the horn and say that they are going to raise taxation in order to have a first class NHS. For the Tories to say that they are actually going to reduce tax, they should know that that type of deceit can no longer work in modern politics.
Samuel Awe, London

Until we address the causes of so much sickness in our society, no amount of NHS spending will remedy the problem. Why do the government claim that high taxes on cigarettes are for health reasons, whilst allowing tobacco companies to add chemicals to cigarettes that make them more addictive? Why is there no health warning on high sugar products, and why aren't they taxed heavily? Why is there no action to reduce stress from overwork?
Martin, Tibenham

The NHS must be reformed in its structure. The reason it is failing is that it is not profit-based. Should we make money out of people's illnesses? The truth, however unpalatable it may seem, is that it is the only way to ensure that resources are used in the most efficient way. In a profit-making company, employees work hard for promotion and to avoid the sack. Both these essential features are largely missing from the NHS. Somehow or other, and it is not easy, they must be implemented.
Christopher Bowring, Wokingham

I was an old school nurse who trained on the wards. Mayhap it is now deemed better to be a university nurse but they have no practical experience. Under the old system yes, bias was there, but at least the newly qualified nurses knew how to deal with extreme situations. The new nurses have no understanding of the problems they will meet.
Bob Liddle, Carrickfergus

To Michelle, Cramlington: Lottery funds should not be used for basic services that are the responsibility of the government to provide and properly manage. To suggest otherwise plays right into their hands. The Lottery then becomes a tertiary tax and the reason for failure in public services is because YOU are not buying enough Lottery tickets - not their fault. The Lottery should remain the preserve of additional, non-government provision.
Paul B, Oxfordshire

At last, a senior politician brave enough to admit that taxes must be raised if public service spending is to be increased. I just hope he reverts to the "Old Labour" policy of taxing those who can better afford to pay. But isn't it a pity this wasn't said before the election?
GCW, Kilmarnock

How arrogant can Mary Archer get? She thinks that this country cannot afford to look after the aged/infirm in their need - but is very happy for the state to pay to keep her millionaire husband in prison for his criminality!
John, Aberdeen

At last it has been realised that the NHS can only be funded through taxation. This is the fairest way to fund the NHS. The vast majority of the general public will not mind paying more to fund the service. The extra money will help make improvements to the NHS, but this is not the only answer. Many changes need to be made, as has been said.
Steve Fuller, Brighton & Hove

Why can the government not use money from the Lottery to fund the NHS instead of hiking up taxes - surely the Arts have been given enough funding that we can now move onto something which the whole country can benefit from instead of the select few.
Michelle, Cramlington

Funding of the NHS is a major concern for many people. Asked if they would pay more tax to pay for the NHS the vast majority would say that they would. The problem comes with the government's methods of raising this tax. It has to be by stealth - that is higher tax for those least able to afford it. It is hi-time that the government raised the tax levels for high earners.
Ian, Manchester

I think the government should think seriously before raising taxes! Many people on a low wage, myself included, start to wonder if our money is being resourced effectively. The NHS is in desperate need of financial rescue - we have to pay for this through increased taxes.
A Evans

I believe the public should take more responsibility by leading healthier lives - exercising themselves and their offspring to a higher level and having a more healthy and balanced diet. Therefore people are getting ill less often and creating a smaller demand on the health service leaving greater resources to be used elsewhere within the NHS.
Patrick Bennett, London

Does the panel consider that the NHS is the right 'vehicle' to advance health care in this country? Is it capable of receiving ever-increasing funding and delivering grade A healthcare to the community? Should society consider abandoning the NHS and adopting another public healthcare model?
Simon Windsor, Bristol

Does anyone realise that the idea of raising NIC contributions to pay for NHS reforms is a con. Every time the government has reduced taxes they have increased NIC contributions by a larger amount than the tax reduction. Any bets on how much fuel and cigarettes will be increased to pay for NHS?
Chas Bailey, Swanley, Kent

Yes, we should be paying more for our National Health Service and our schools too. Throwing money at these problems will only be the start of a general overhaul, but without this first vital step we can't move forward.
John Crowther, Hastings

I do not mind paying extra taxes but they must be 'ring fenced' and not put into the general pot. The process must be transparent and not like the lottery funds where they are used instead of government funding.
Jim Harmer, Basingstoke

You get what you pay for, need I say more. It's a great system but it needs more money. I pay $500 for three people in my family a month. Back home I used to pay a third of that a month and I still think you're getting a great deal for that money. Pay more and it will be a great service.
Chris, USA (ex UK)

No, taxes should not be raised. The whole purpose of the NHS needs to be re-thought and its place alongside private health care re-defined so the two are complementary and not conflicting. Raising taxes will just mean more spent on the same old problem.
Simon, Vancouver

The nation's health does not depend on the NHS but rather on individuals taking responsibility for their own health and government making it easier for people to do so. We live in a country where the food is of appalling nutritional value, where people are trapped in stressful occupations and where pollution is increasing. All of these things have an immediate and direct negative impact on our health.
Mark, Manchester

Why are we constantly told of failures and so little about the great successes arising from the hard work and dedication of NHS staff? No one can deny the need for improvements and the challenges to increase funding. For myself I can only record my thanks for relief from pain and the ability still to find life worth living - mainly through the efforts of the NHS.
Norman Chubb, Cheltenham

There is absolutely no reason why it should be assumed there should be a tax rise in order to pay for improvements in the NHS. Taxes are high enough and have been raised enough by Labour. They should concentrate on reducing wastage of money on spin doctors, and quangos and reduce wastage within the NHS caused by bureaucracy. Taxes don't need to go up!
Mark Biggart, Glasgow

I think taxes should go up, but only if it is used for the National Health Service...remember when Labour said the price increase from cigarettes would go towards the NHS. Who's making sure this is happening?
Barry, Birmingham

Why when I look at my pay slips do I see a deduction for NH Insurance, something I seem to have paid for all my working life ie 30 years?
John Kelly, Glasgow

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Audience question: How does 'Garbagegate' compare to the sleaze which dogged the Conservative party during the Major years? You said:

Ian Hislop is absolutely correct when he says that Tony Blair is obsessed with very rich businessmen. He has surrounded himself with cronies (the majority of whom are also very rich and no doubt do wonders for his ego) which could well be the reason for his appalling lack of judgement when dealing with issues which effect the 'Joe Bloggs' of this country. His so-called 'Third way' has led nowhere. He might as well have followed the 'yellow-brick road'.
C Bridger, Camberley

It was highly entertaining to see Harriet Harman completely stumped by the 'Steelgate' question. Government spokespeople seem hopelessly exposed without their spin doctors.
Keith, Ipswich

Harriet Harman was completely lost for an answer. Having attempted to justify the PM signing the 'Steelgate' letter as being in the national interest she was asked a follow up question. How could it be in the national interest to recommend a foreign owned and registered company that was campaigning in the USA for tariffs against British steel imports? I have never seen this particular lady ever stuck for words. But she was and eventually could only reiterate it was in the national interest.
Jack Biggs, Weymouth

Blair is obsessed with globalisation, free trade, and big business. We know that these three things are more important than the well-being of even his own electorate. Steel workers in Britain should feel solidarity with those in third world countries who are being literally killed by 'free' trade.
T Chant, Devon

Blair's obsession with foreign businessmen damages UK jobs. Perhaps more people will now realise that globalisation wrecks lives - not just in Asian sweatshops but in the UK as well.
T Penwarden, Exeter

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Audience question: As the average student spends 20 a week on alcohol are their financial difficulties self-inflicted? You said:

I was struck by the almost universal presumption on the programme that somebody (ie the tax payer) other than those responsible should pay. The situation in the US is referred to so often, but no one seems to recognise that in the US, the norm is that PARENTS save up for their children's education by starting college funds. It is not all rich people, but anyone who wants to provide the opportunity for their child to go to a good school.
Nick Parsons, Buckingham

Mr Atkinson's comment that tax payers should pay more for student support because students are the country's future and will in future pay his pension overlooks the hard reality that most people not in index-linked tax payer-funded pension schemes cannot afford to contribute enough to their pensions to have anything like an adequate retirement income.
R Appleton, Farnborough

20 per week on alcohol? Well we must socialise, live and develop ourselves socially as well as trying to improve ourselves academically. The sooner young people learn to mix and discuss issues the better. 200 per month for rent should be the types of figures politicians should be commenting on.
Kenneth Mckie, Glasgow

I am disappointed to note that an unknown source (sorry, my mistake, I didn't catch her name), stated that many students are spending too much money in their chosen lifestyles, and that they should learn to budget. I would like to ask how can a student budget with an annual income of 3815pa and with an average rent of 46.66pw? Forgive me if my figures are wrong but 3815pa works out to be 73.66pw. Rent, over a period of 38 weeks 46.66, leaves a whole 27pw to budget with.
Kerry Carmichael, Bristol

As a university lecturer I believe that everyone should be able to access education because of the personal and social benefits gained. But the over-emphasis upon personal economic gain for graduates seems to be driving policy on student finance and, in tandem, the attractiveness of a university place. Higher Education is seriously under-resourced and under-staffed. Ironically, at a time when the government urges people to become teachers and urges people to go to college, there are not enough lecturers to cope.
Dr Sue McPherson, Manchester

I would just like to reply to Robert Pointer's (ridiculous) comment on students. As a medical student I have lectures Monday to Friday, 9 till 5 - the same as any full time job - and he is saying on top of that to get a job? This is the sort of comment I would expect from someone with no idea about the current state of student finances. It surely is not feasible and anyone with an ounce of common sense would realise the detrimental effect this would have on performance. It is about time the general public stopped being so ignorant about student affairs and did more to help their situation. Remember we will be the ones running this country a few years down the line.
Lee Klungarvuth, London

Why does Tony Blair want 50% of the population to go to university? This is what he wants - it's his target. How then can he claim that getting into university is not getting any easier? I fail to understand this! Also, if he wants 50% of students to attend university, why is he making it more difficult than ever to go? No more grants, instead we pay fees - it's an absolute mess!
G Marriott, N Wales

In response to Mr Atkinson's comment of trying to get young people to vote. What is the point when most people suffer from the wasted vote syndrome as soon as they become part of the electorate because of the voting system in this country. More young people are voting for smaller parties but are getting no representation because FPTP does not allow anyone but the two main party supporters to have representation.
Chris Wong, Norwich

Of course Scotland can afford to help their students more generously than we can in England because, under the Barnett Formula, introduced when Scotland was regarded as a deprived area, English taxpayers contribute huge sums of money to the Scots and this will continue for the next 15 years.
H Norcross, Farnham Royal

I am in my first year of University in London, and am living in halls of residence. My student loan does not even cover my rent, on top of which I have to buy food, books etc. Is this fair? I do not have too much of a problem with tuition fees as my earnings when I graduate will be greater than those of a non-graduate, and it is fairer than a graduate tax. However the loan scheme is grossly unfair, and needs to be modernised.
Andrew Dean, London

I think it very hard for students now. Our children are being encouraged to start their working lives in debt and many of them will never be able to afford a mortgage due to having loans to repay. Parents are encouraged to save for any care they may need in later life but by doing this they or their children are having to pay out more on tuition fees etc. What is the answer?
Mrs Stella Standing, Worthing, west Sussex

Why are students complaining about studying and debts? People who didn't go to university are holding down FULL TIME jobs, as well as fitting in study for a degree, and looking after children. It's about time students stopped complaining and got off their bums and got a job.
Robert Pointer, London

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Audience question: Following the events in Yarl's Wood and now in west London should the government be seeking new alternatives in managing asylum seekers? You said:

Tell me Harriet Harman: Just what are the skills that we cannot do here for which we need these asylum seekers together with an extra 75,000 legal immigrants this year? Could they be the skills that businesses here don't bother training their existing employees for - and know that they don't need to when the government will provide an endless supply of ready trained cheap employment? Or is it just the skill of voting for Labour?
G Foster, Norwich

When are people in this country going to realise that asylum seekers are necessary to this country - for the lawyers to make more money? Since Labour came to power we have witnessed a decrease in numbers of teachers, doctors, nurses, police etc. But we have witnessed an explosion in the number of lawyers and law firms. For every asylum seeker appearing in court there are two lawyers, an interpreter, a social worker etc. Guess who is paying for all this?
Christina McCarthy, London

The audience member from Maidstone who reckoned a B&B was raking in 250k/annum from the DSS, seemed to me to have been cut off rather quickly. None of the panellists seemed to have a reply to this lady. Could it be that our so-called peers can no longer have a debate in our country for fear of political incorrectness or EU Brother rules?
George Walker, Aberdeen

Given the developments this week, it is disgraceful that there was not a member of the panel who could give an adequate response to this issue. The "bulldog Britain" attitude is just shocking and it is time that there was an opportunity to present an accurate picture of the asylum seeker situation in terms of the funding (which is from the UN and does NOT come out of the NHS or any other public sector service in this country) and in terms of the reasons for coming to this country - which are not as insular as the audience might think.
M Kerr, Glasgow

I think there is an interesting link between education and asylum policy. If the target is met there will be 50% of our population who will be over-qualified and therefore unwilling to do certain, unskilled work. We will need migrant workers in these sectors and thus a more open asylum policy.
Michael Redman, London

Is it not a fact that under international law and the Geneva Convention, asylum seekers must claim asylum in the first safe haven or sovereign state in which they arrive? When are we going to enforce this? Post guards at the ports and at the Channel tunnel and immediately repatriate asylum seekers back to the safety of France.
John Clark, Gateshead

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Audience question: Considering the recent 'metric martyrs' case how much of our British heritage do we have to give up to be an integral part of Europe? You said:

Having listened to several news items and debated the subject at length, I would like to know what the ramifications of the 'metric martyrs' ruling are for the British legal system as a whole. When Lord Laws said that any law passed in Brussels reigned supreme over an act of parliament does that mean all our laws will now be subject to change to bring them in line with EU policy?
Vince Rostron, Rugby

The imperial system with live on for a long time, perhaps under a metric disguise. At the leading edge of technology, microprocessors and other integrated circuits are designed to a basic pitch of 0.1 inch. Not quite so up to date, the nautical mile, being equivalent to 1 minute of a degree of the earth's circumference, is a lot more use than the kilometre for navigation purposes.
John Smith, Lincoln

The British people were never asked if they wanted UK law to be overridden by EU law. We are victims of treacherous, monumental deception by successive governments.
Bernard Maddox, Stevenage

It demonstrates a strange insecurity in the British psyche that when a change in measurements or currency (and I'm sure any referendum for the euro will undoubtedly fail) vents so much hostility. Surely a country's heritage, identity and sovereignty are more than how it weights and pays for things? Will all this disappear if you use centimetres? Why does Britain constantly skirt the sidelines of Europe - dragging its heels, opting out of this and that. Why is the Union seen as such a threat to Britain?
Terence McAteer, Dublin

Britain is presently in an imperial mess that badly needs sorting out. We use imperial units for some things and metric for others and it would be madness to revert back to imperial as someone suggested. The reason for this mess is due to the snail's pace of the changeover and the suggestion by Nicholas Soames that we prolong the agony for a further 10 years is absolutely outrageous!
Phil Hall, Northampton

I think the 'metric martyrs' should be called the metric morons. We have had decimalisation in this country for 30 years - just how long does it take to get to grips with kilogrammes? We all seem to cope when we go abroad and children understand the metric system. Besides, there is (currently) no ban on buying or selling produce in pounds and ounces. As far as court cases are concerned it is the so-called martyrs who are dragging out the process - not the government or Europe.
Dave Roberts, Swansea

As we haven't entered the single currency, why should Brussels tell us what we can or cannot do with reference to selling fruit in pounds and ounces.
Darryl Wilson, Northwich

I think the High Court and the EU are 100% correct, measurements should be shown in both imperial and metric. We turned metric over 20 years ago. I do not wish to be forced to use an old outdated system because some idiot cannot upgrade their scales to display Kg. This proves what a backward nation the UK now has become, that a lot of people out there cannot cope with change of any sort.
Neal, York

One panellist said that EU law over rides British law - this being the case how are HM Customs allowed to impose restrictions on bringing in tobacco from the EU.
Len White, London NW2

If European law is being followed for the selling of fruit and veg then why is it not followed on cross border shopping?
Andy Thomas, Derby

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General comments on the programme:

Thank you for Ian Hislop. I thought his response to Mary Archer was excellent and I admired the way he held his ground when she responded. The sheer arrogance of the woman astounded me, as did her attempts to make a joke about her husband's incarceration. But what on earth was she doing on the programme anyway?
Lynne Farr, Bolton

How annoying to be told just before it was due to start that curling was taking precedence. The programme is on late enough already. No apologies, but then what do you expect from a 'public' corporation. Then to add insult we get the adverts. And for those who wanted to record, too bad, they lost three quarters of the programme. I'm still glad I stayed up. Ian Hislop was great. Let's have more of his type rather than those pompous politicians!
Bill Peabody, London

When can we expect to see Mrs Biggs from Brazil on the panel?
John , Buckie

I too thought Ian Hislop was the star of the show, but didn't Mary Archer and Harriet Harman both look fantastic?
George Gibbons, Ipswich

Sad to say I found this QT fairly and uncharacteristically pedestrian. Sadder still is that the only moment which was at all lively involved Ian Hislop being cruelly and quite unnecessarily rude to Mary Archer who was there in her own right and in fact made some thoughtful remarks notwithstanding this pointless attack. What Ian hoped to achieve I don't know but on all levels he failed to do so. Clearly, the chair should have intervened.
Geoff, Bedford

Contrary to one of your correspondents, Mary Archer was not asking for it by inviting Mr Hislop to have a "free kick". She was appealing to his sense of fair play not to attack her husband, not then present. But a ranting Mr Hislop reckoned that Jeffrey Archer "is the reason why" Mr Blair "gets away with it". Nobody is more responsible for the utterances of Mr Blair than Mr Blair himself. Or are we to believe that Mr Archer is also responsible for Mr Hislop's rudeness and more?
MSA, London

I think Mr Hislop should confine himself to lightweight satirical game shows. He was clearly out of his depth among an educated intellectual panel and his comments lacked substance, style and were basically cheap. His aside to Dr Archer was most regrettable - a tacky shot to enlarge his ego. In contrast Harriet Harman, Dr Archer, Nicholas Soames and the headmaster (excellent) provided an informed and stimulating debate. Please do not include minor comedians again.

Lyn Davis

This week's programme was brilliant. If the BBC wants to revive public interest in its political programmes, it should have more people like Ian Hislop on, who speak their minds on an issue instead of barraging us with waffle and spin while avoiding the questions asked, which sends the majority of the audience to sleep.
Joe Sipple, Oxford

Why oh why is this programme screened so late at night? Anyone who has to be up early for work just cannot see it. It is a current debate programme so does not lend itself to recording it to see later.
Keith Hull, Huddersfield

What a pleasure to watch. Ian Hislop made the programme come alive by being honest, truthful, and saying openly what he truly felt. This programme NEEDS people like him on more often.
Sarah, Braintree

Good on you. Mary archer thought she could turn you into a pillar of ice with her icy stare and 'I dare you' attitude! I could have been cheering on the British curling team or down hill racers, I was so vocal.
Ann, Omagh

I thought in light of recent shows, with the constant undertones of any high profile politician being very selective in their responses, I found it a true delight to hear Ian Hislop speak. He should have a permanent seat!!!
Richard Taylor, Warrington

I thought last night's was one of the best programmes I have seen because of the views and comments by W Atkinson and I Hislop. Their comments seemed to be appreciated by the studio audience and myself. They were honest and sometimes funny and not the usual waffle of politicians. Bring them back together again some time PLEASE.
J Hunt, Derby

I was in the audience last night and Ian Hislop was by far the best panellist because he speaks his mind. True, he can afford to as he keeps his job regardless of what he says, unlike Harriet Harman. As for Mary Archer, she was asking for trouble inviting Ian to take another 'free kick'. Clearly he was going to, he said nothing that was untrue.
Allison Woolley, Chatham

Ian Hislop has got nerves of steel. I don't know how he managed to keep it up with Mary Archer glaring at him, but what on earth did that woman expect? He tore her to pieces and she deserved it for her arrogance in assuming that she could continue to play the stiff upper lip all her life. Great television, shame about the rest of the panellists.
Alisdair, Edinburgh

How can the Question Time panels seek to be representative of opinion in this country when you have two Conservatives and no Liberal Democrat. The discussion concerning taxation and public services was one of the key planks in the Liberal Democrat campaign.
Jeff Evans, Newport, Gwent

Was it necessary to have the wife of a convicted criminal on last night's Question Time? I thought Dr Archer's light-hearted attempts to mock the law and justice in public and in the presence of the solicitor general really quite appalling. What qualified her, apart from the notoriety of her husband, presumably, to appear on this programme? I feel this was an appalling lack of judgement (and taste) on the part of the BBC. In the event, thank goodness for Ian Hislop! Apart, thank you for what continues to be quite a good live programme.
Henry, south coast

Fantastic show made all the better for the inclusion of Ian Hislop.
Mark Poole, London

The programme is superb and a weekly 'must see' for me. As a pleasant change from the dogma and rhetoric of politics, I would like to see a panel with Ian Hislop, Paul Merton, John Bird, John Fortune and Stephen Fry.
Mr Aris Mednis, Ilfracombe, Devon

Oh how we need people like Ian Hislop to keep the government up to book with his incisive wit and sharp tongue. I would also like to commend Dr Archer for her composure after a sharp remark from Mr Hislop.
John Clark, March, Camb's

I wonder if the contributors complaining about the postponement for curling are the same people that complain about wasted lottery money on sports funding that fails to produce results! Finally, after an 18-year interlude, GB won a gold medal. Congratulations to all, and to the Beeb for allowing us to watch it live. Bless the internet - we can always enjoy QT at our own convenience as I am doing now. Live and let live!
Rick Davis, Radlett

Thank heaven for Ian Hislop. Neither female panellist lived up to their billings and were incoherent. Perhaps it would have been more enlightening for us all to have watched those wonderful Scottish ladies winning gold.
Steve Flanigan, Blackpool

Another good show worth staying up late for. The only downside was Ian Hislop being so rude towards Mary Archer - his comments were un-called for.
Beverley William Ley, Paignton, S Devon

Why, oh why did the BBC postpone one of the only TV programmes worth watching for curling, of all things?
Michael Perrins, Hertford, Herts

Who decided to postpone Question Time? A small audience is thus reduced to infinitesimal. I have paint drying. I am off to watch that...much more interesting than CURLING! The postponed time is much too late.
PJW Holland, London

Suddenly CURLING is more important than the state of BRITAIN'S NHS. More rubbish and comedy supplied by the panel and the question master. This is not real life.
Brian Thomas, Aberdare

Yet another example of Dimbleby's inability to handle the panel. Hislop's rather petulant attack on Mary Archer was just not necessary. Well done Mary for dealing with it so 'fragrantly'.
Adam Hamlington, Harrow

The treatment of Mary Archer by Ian Hislop was downright disgraceful. Question Time should only allow panellists on the programme who are going to show respect towards others. Hislop should say sorry for his lack of consideration, something which clearly upset Dr Archer and obviously made her performance for the rest of the programme suffer.
Daniel Hamilton, Canterbury

Congratulations for including Ian Hislop on the panel. It was plain to see from the audience reaction that for once you had somebody who expressed what many people think more clearly than most panellists ever manage, and better than the audience themselves.
Sajjad, Norwich

What on earth was Mary Archer doing on the programme? What was her perceived value? Her stilted manner of speech was excruciating. Ian Hislop - as usual - stood out by a mile as the star panellist.
Peter Lilley, Hove, East Sussex

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