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Thursday, 28 February, 2002, 11:46 GMT
February 28, Bradford
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The topics discussed this week were:

Minister who lies demonstrably to the public lose their job?

Audience question: Should it not be that any minister who lies demonstrably to the public should lose their job? You said:

I thought Estelle Morris was if anything WORSE than Stephen Byers. Not only was she defending the fact he 'misled' (ie deliberately lied), but incrediby she then waffled on stressing that she feels it's OK to do this if you're bound to be caught out!! I find it hard to believe this view is compatible with being responsible for standards for our children's education.
Helen, UK

Chris Barron of Veldhaun ought to get his or her facts straight when accusing the current government of vote rigging etc. This government have never been accused of vote rigging unlike the previous goverment, and it is also the Tories that currently have councillors serving time for vote rigging along with their cohort Liberal Democrat councillors. And correct me if I am wrong when it comes to real sleaze, ie LYING TO PARLIAMENT and to the courts, please remind me who Jonathan Aitken, Neil Hamilton and Jeffrey Archer are.
Lucy, Luton

If the Labour Party openly condones lying to the country as demonstrated by Estelle Morris then how can we ever trust them to tell us the truth about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, al-Qaeda's attacks on the WTC in New York and so on. Is it any wonder why people are sceptical without evidence other than the word of discredited politicians who accept lying on any issue so that it suits them!
Imran Hussain, Bolton

The rank hypocrisy of Labour politicians far out stinks the previous crass behaviour of Conservatives. If the man had any sense of decency, civility or humility he would have no doubt in his mind about resigning. In fact the PM should be consistent in his actions with his previous behaviour. He should sack him. BUT, most of all it is the awful, awful stench of double standards which sours the whole thing.
Gary Collings, Hong Kong

Estelle Morris seemed to be saying that it was all right for Stephen Byers to lie because he knew that he would be found out. In that case, he must be stupid as well. Why not just tell the truth in the first place. The result is the same and you avoid the stigma of being a liar.
Keith Wiseman, Bury

On the subject of spin, I should like to know why my hard-earned taxes are being used to pay enormous salaries to people such as Jo Moore who are in fact Labour Party employees and should therefore be paid by the party and not by the British taxpayer. What had Stephen Byers done wrong prior to last Sunday's Jonathan Dimbleby show? It would probably be quicker to say what had he done right! Stephen Byers should have gone long ago - BMW, Railtrack and now this. And Tony Blair should follow hot on his heels.
Dee, London

So it's now officially okay for a minister to lie if the lie was so obvious that it would obviously be found out? That was the most ridiculous defence of the 'party line' that I've ever heard... And we should now all focus not on whether Stephen Byers lied but whether he can get the job done... It seems to me that not only is Stephen Byers definitely a liar, but also that he clearly can't get the job done. If this isn't reason enough for him to resign, what is?
Stu Bell, Wadhurst

Was it not the Tories, who when caught telling lies to the house, not to just a TV personality, called it being "economical with the truth". Mr Byers is having to deal not only with the useless Tories, but also with the left-wing media who resent the successes of New Labour.
Fred Marsden, Formby

Over the past few days I have spoken to approx 20 odd people where the case of Stephen Byers has been mentioned. Many of them, like myself, voted Labour. The majority were of the opinion that Stephen Byers should have resigned for telling lies, and as he didn't he should have been sacked by the prime minister. With the number of questionable happenings recently people are beginning to doubt the judgement of the prime minister and his attitude to wrong or seemingly dubious actions taking place in the government.
M Johnson, Cardiff

Byers has lied and he should go. The incompetence of the man is beyond belief he can neither lead by example nor manage. But I suppose by keeping him in office it diverts attention from the incompetence of his peers and makes them look better than they are!
Robert Carter, Northallerton

I think Stephen Davies makes a good point when he asks: what had Stephen Byers done wrong prior to last Sunday's Jonathan Dimbleby show? It seems to be the trend today for the press and the media to push any politician over any triviality until they say something that can be used against them. It makes you wonder who has the real power. The only people who are really up in arms over Stephen Byers are the press and Tory supporters.
John Lee, Nuneaton

Stephen Byers did lie to the people of this country on national television. By admitting to that lie in parliament, when he made his so-called apology, he obviously believes that he is covered by parliamentary privilege. Tony Blair claims to be a devoutly religious person. Presumably his idea of religion allows him to support a known and admitted liar. No wonder the people of this country are so cynical about politicians. Can we ever believe what Stephen Byers says again and can we ever trust Tony Blair's judgement in the future?
Howard May, Stourbridge

In general, the so-called sleaze before 1997 involved greed for money and/or sex, both of which can be seen as human failings in any walk of life. Since that time, sleaze has mainly been about spin-doctoring, cover-ups, vote-rigging, political manoeuvring (both locally and nationally) and control-freakery, all of which are distasteful and unacceptable in politics, and which inevitably result in the very poor perception of politics and politicians, especially by young people.
Chris Barron, Veldhoven

I agree with Matthew Parris that Mr Byers has lost control of his department, lost the trust of his civil servants, and of the public. He should go now.
Frederick Thacker, London

Despite my reservations about Stephen Byers continuance as minister of transport after lying and thinking that admitting it will get him off the hook I am far more concerned about what action he has or hasn't taken to improve the transport system. From my experience the trains are getting more inefficient, buses seems to have no time table and the roads in and out of London are very nearly grid-locked, even on Sundays.
Kaye McArthur, Henley on Thames

As Estelle Morris didn't actually say 'no' in her blustering over the question should Byers resign it would be reasonable to assume that she thought that he should. The most serious aspect of the whole business is that we have a prime minister who actually condones the fact that a secretary of state in his government lies on TV to millions of viewers and dismisses it as being unimportant.
Colin Bridger, Camberley

Abi Ekoku suggested that the prime minister will be judged on his decision to back his cabinet come the next election. Unfortunately, elections seem to run on a personality basis. If people have no faith in the decision of the prime minister when dealing with his or her Cabinet, it can be a long time before people have the opportunity to voice their disapproval.
Gareth Crawshaw, Olney

Stephen Byers is a public servant. He was employed by the public to serve them. If he has lied to his employer, then his integrity to do the job for them has gone. If he had said sorry and that he had done wrong, then maybe he could have a second chance. However, he has avoided the charge and has not apologised for it. He should go. The public are his employer, and the public have spoken.
Sean Clunn, Faversham

How fascinating it is to hear Labour politicians state that Byers did not lie but that he merely made an error!! Byers must go. He cannot be trusted. He is utterly incompetent - any authority that he might have had has now been totally eroded. Also, how very quickly this totalitarian government has tried to shift the media coverage by suddenly discovering that there is time to debate fox hunting.
Ralph Maddams

I found myself listening to Estelle Morris's defence of Stephen Byers with incredulity. She seemed to be saying that lying is all right, as long as you are really bad at it. With this kind of attitude from our "whiter than white" government, no wonder it has earned itself a reputation for sleaze to rival the Tories.
Richard Evans, Watford

David Dimbleby's comments toward Ms Morris, were, in my opinion, totally just (in that the aforementioned lady avoided any question of her colleague as having "lied"). If I, in my younger years, had submitted anything close as a defence, I am quite confident that there would be a punishment against me. To renege on a statement, is to admit that something different is true, and by definition, is therefore, a lie....not a mis-truth, but a lie.
Darren Voysey, Crediton

I feel that Mr Byers should set an example to the young people, and send a clear message that if you lie there are clear consequences of that action.
Lord Collis, Sherborne in Dorset

The reason the Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs won't let the Byers story rest is because neither of these parties are a credible alternative.
Nora Bedford, Newark Nottinghamshire

Mr Byers' actions were given more than their fair share of coverage on the programme. However, perhaps the panel could have given some reasons as to what Byers has achieved in terms of the government's manifesto commitments which warranted, in the words of Iain Duncan Smith, the "red carpet" treatment.
Mark, UK (watching online from Germany)

I find some of Estelle Morris's arguments in defence of Stephen Byers not only patronising but insulting. She appears to be implying that 'it is OK to lie if there is little chance of being found out'. That Byers lied on TV is acceptable, what was unacceptable was that he should have realised that journalists would know it was untrue.
Richard Sliwa, Birmingham

It seems that New Labour are so obsessed with spinning their way out of trouble, they don't recognise a lie even when its told by a senior minister.
Richard Leak, Scarborough

When there is a minister live on air who will not directly answer a question and the only response that she will give is to spin the conversation in a direction away from the answer that the public knows she is hiding, then what is the point of having her on the programme? I think that asking a question such as this is a waste of time because we all know that they all will back themselves into the smallest corner to avoid giving an answer.
Christopher Doe, Nottinghamshire

If Byers does not go, New Labour can expect a RECORD low turn out next general election. Stephen Byers is a tumour that will spread and tarnish Parliament and no amount of spin can rectify this.
Aaron Murdoch, Merseyside

Why is everyone picking on poor Mr Byers? Is he just a scapegoat who is acting as a diversionary smokescreen to hide the continuing failings of many of his other colleagues in government? In the private sector not only would he have gone a long time ago but so would his 'boss' ...who, apart from failing to control the 'business', is guilty of persistent absenteeism!
Nigel Pierlejewski, Huntingdon

Stephen Byers is a public servant. It is quite clear that he has deliberately misled the taxpayers and Tony Blair should sack him, before he brings further embarrassment to the government. The man cannot be trusted.
Tariq Mahmood, Dudley, west Midlands

If Martin Sixsmith resigned, then where is his signed resignation as this is the official policy in the Civil Service? This government is more interested in what they can get away with, rather than doing the right thing. This has been seen time and again. Their expertise is in managing bad news, rather than not generating it in the first place. There seems to be an increasing view that we are being manipulated by this government.
Greg Hayes, London

Mr Byers must go, and sooner rather than later. His position is untenable with that of a minister of the Crown. His dept is a failure, and he has tarnished the reputation of the Home Civil Service with his, and J Moore's antics. Pack him off!!
Joe Holmes, Nr Christchurch

Mr Blair says the country is tired of this story - NO, we are tired of deliberate lying, double standards, lack of decency (after all Jo Moore should have gone after Sept 11 fiasco), dictating to the impartial Civil Service and incompetence.
Nigel Dunn, Watford

Why should a government minister who tells lies resign? I thought that was part of the job spec?
Joe Donkor

Can the panel, or anyone for that, explain what it is that Stephen Byers did wrong. In all the coverage we have not been told. If it was for lying on the Sunday show, what did he do prior top that?
Stephen Davies, Redditch

Have I got it right: a spin doctor and her assistant at the Department of Transport were asked to resign by their superior, and gave the impression that is what they were going to do. The minister, Mr Byers, relayed this information, quite correctly to us all. Now Mr Sixsmith is trying to wriggle out of it, and the papers continue to clamour for Mr Byers resignation? Why should he resign?
John Honneyman, Harrogate

Of course Stephen Byers should resign, (or be sacked). Once you have politicians obsessed with the day to day news headlines to such an extent that they feel the need to personally announce the resignation of their senior staff, it is clear that they do not have their attention where it should be. And when they can't even get that right, what hope do the trains have!
Michael Shaw, Brighton

History tells us that a government will fall when the leadership gets out of touch with the ordinary voter - Tony Blair must know this. How can he back such liars as Mandelson, Vaz, Robinson and now Byers - surely he must realise that by backing these corrupt ministers he is undermining his own credibility. The enthusiastic way he displays his contempt for the electorate is breathtaking - if he was even remotely in touch with 'Mondeo man' he would behave with decency and dignity and quickly distance himself from these corrupt, self-promoting liars. This is the beginning of the end for Tony Blair.
Ian Kirk, Poole

I think Mr Byers should step down. He has been caught out too many times for the public to trust him with such an important mandate.
Richard Black, Twickenham, London

Electronic tagging prevent youth crime?

Audience question: This week the police have expressed concerns about the electronic tagging of young offenders claiming that it won't work. Do the panel believe that electronic tagging will prevent youth crime? You said:

I don't think this will ever work. After a recent holiday in Orlando, Florida, en route to the airport I saw what I can only describe as a kind of chain gang, all dressed in orange jump suits and the average age was about 13 or 14. They all had bibs or tabbards with the words 'Juvenile offender' clearly displayed and they were all using huge vacuum cleaners and brooms, sucking up the gutters and cleaning the roadway and pavement area. This must have been the USA version of community service. "What a cracking good idea" I thought.
Phil Lewis, Whitstable, Kent

When it comes to talk about jailing young offenders we need to think long and hard about this. The government should take some radical action, by accepting that putting more and more people in jail does not work. In fact, jail does not work for the majority of convicted people. If we can accept that, then we can start to find other ways to try and tackle crime more effectively. Some crimes do warrant long sentences. However, others do not which are currently attracting short sentences. These have almost nil effect on the offender. If we could be so brave to turn our approach to crime on its head, then we would stand a chance of working with it, rather than against it.
Peter Bodkin, Glasgow

I was sorry that nobody discussed what it actually means in the lives of the 'tagees'. The young people will effectively be under a curfew. If they breach the curfew stiff penalties will apply, including imprisonment. However, as one member of the audience suggested, targeting efforts to actually address the offending behaviour, and recognising the changes which can take place in people's lives, has a lot of value.
Caroline Vernon-Jackson, Sheffield

It's about time that certain members of the panel actually left Westminster and to feel how it is to be broken into or mugged now and again (not for the price of a Rolex watch) - they might have a different opinion.
Ian Reid, Blackburn

Tonight the Labour representative said: "I have looked at the statistics, and the same 20 people are committing 90% of the crimes." How could they possibly know this without knowing who the 20 youths are, and, I am sure, any chief constable would give his right arm to eradicate 90% of crime in one fell swoop. Is this a case of a politician plucking numbers and percentages out of the air, and if not, let's have a Camp X ray set up immediately to house the so-called terrible 20.
Neil Youds, Liverpool

I think the parents need tagging too, to ensure they take responsibility for their children and their actions.
Jim, St Austell

If they can tell where people are going to be with the tags then it is simple. It doesn't have to involve the police. If they move 10 feet from their house then they get a custodial/community service sentence made against them. If their house is unsafe or unstable then they agree to go to a centre or agreed area between work or school time, if not then they go to jail or a juvenile centre.
John Jagger

I believe that tagging is a good idea for deterring rising crime in our youth today. Those that argue against it, believing the tags would be worn as 'badges' and seek to build a reputation deserving of the tag have got it wrong. For one thing if there is blatant disregard for the rules they have to adhere to, the criminal can be picked up immediately. Reputations amongst criminals get built by actions and daring-do and not by getting caught before or immediately after any crime is committed.
Neil Price

We are really struggling with a 17-year-old on the fringes of crime, who clearly has terrible problems and has been quite psychologically damaged since the age of five. There are no resources for him. We have begged and pleaded for help, but there is nothing. We have to stand and watch and the official view is that we are waiting for him to do something really serious and then he can be detained. There needs to be a proactive, preventative course of action. I would welcome my son being tagged, curfewed and required to be at a specific address. I would also welcome somewhere that young offenders could receive help. All the facilities for therapeutic help stop once a child reaches the age of 15.
Jackie Mundell, Swindon

When Estelle Morris says there are probably only 20 people in each borough committing 90% of the crime...I think in my borough they must all live down my street.
Chas Branson, London

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Lost our sense of decency, morality and good taste?

Audience question: Spike Milligan was a real comedian. Comedians these days rely on profanity, raw sex and gratuitous insults to get their laughs. Have we lost our sense of decency, morality and good taste? You said:

Thank heaven for Matthew Parris. He confirmed my own thoughts about humour. I never found Spike Milligan or any of the Goons funny. Harry Secombe had a lovely voice but I cringed when he behaved like a goon. And poor old Spike - depression is excrutiatingly painful - wasn't bad as a musician and comic writer and poet. But he didn't make me laugh. Sorry, Spike! But then I couldn't stand the Monty Python team's kind of humour which had its roots in the Goons, didn't it?
Mary Rutley, Epsom

I think that the day politicians become involved in comedy will be a truly sad day for us all. As someone said on the programme last night if a comedian is not funny then people won't watch and they won't be in the public eye anymore. Maybe we have to look at our own actions as well before calling on the government for more censorship.
Isla Schofield, Norwich

We have all lost a very good clean, honest, and decent comedian in Spike Milligan. So many comedians nowadays can only talk about sex and insult normally people in the public eye. Spike had his own type of comedy, which did not offend anybody. Although not a great fan of his, he brought a lot of pleasure to millions of people for many years. He will be sadly missed.
Steve Fuller, Brighton & Hove

While everyone is so concerned about political correctness, especially pertaining to comedy, rudeness and swearing are none the less acceptable. I personally find uncouthness politically incorrect. For me, the cleverer the joke, the funnier it is. Uncouthness is a 'cover-up' for comedians who have nothing to say. Unfortunately this brainless attitude is spilling out into other areas of entertainment on the television, especially on the BBC, leading us into an abyss of filth only meant for morons. Question Time is in fact one of the few programs on the BBC that I find mentally stimulating.
Helena, Luton

The questioner in the audience was quite correct - politicians should certainly take a lead in setting standards for comedians. Tony Blair should immediately set up a department for comedy and humorous affairs. Within the present cabinet the competition for the position of secretary of state would be very fierce. But I think that Mr Byers would be the perfect man for the job.
Daniel Goldberg, Buckinghamshire

Shock! Horror! I actually agree with something Matthew Parris says. I have never found Spike Milligan funny.
Alba, Scotland

When young people see anti-social behaviour by sportsmen and bad language by comedians, is it any surprise they do the same on the streets and in our schools? Both comedians and sportsmen should set examples.
Nathan Jones, Hereford

Whilst it is true that comedians reflect society, the question asked was have we lost our sense of decency, morality and good taste. The answer is yes, yes and yes.
M York, Kettering

Comedians use profanity etc as an expression or in context with what they are trying to get across. The root of the question seemed to be that the level of indecent behaviour is seen generally right across the media world. At 24 much of my life has been influenced by the 1980s. As a result I detest money, capitalism, commercialism and all that promotes personal growth of material possessions. I believe it is the striving to accumulate personal assets that has broken down the morals of society over the last 15 - 20 years.
Christopher Maunder, Yeovil

Perhaps the gentleman who asked the question should visit St Georges Concert Hall in Bradford tomorrow night Friday and watch Johnnie Casson, one of Yorkshire's and the country's funniest comedians with no smut, filth or bad language.
Roger Davis, Halifax

Comedians reflect society and its ever-changing attitudes - they are products of our world, not its creators. Swearing can be used to make a point if used in context. Someone mentioned Billy Connolly, well what about Eddie Izzard, or the late great Bill Hicks. Hicks never compromised and continued to swear like a trooper up till his death, and no one, comedian or not, has spelt out the truth with such venom and honesty as Hicks did. A good comedian makes you look differently at the world and yourself, whilst also making you laugh, and sometimes swearing is an essential part of that.
Alastair Fell, Buxton

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Faith schools reinforce segregation?

Audience question: Do faith schools reinforce segregation and lead to intolerance? You said:

I wish to agree with the comments of Matthew Parris. Why should we, the British tax payers fund schools that are based on faith? These schools, by definition, teach that those who do not attend them (the non-believers) are doomed to burn in hell. This is the divisive politics of religion. Religion should be kept in your home!
Sudesh, Luton

Thank you Joanne Harris for pointing out that a good school with proper discipline providing a decent moral education does not have to be a 'faith school'. Secular schools can teach tolerance of faiths just as faith schools can. More so, in fact, because they do not elevate one religion above the rest.
Matthew Lamb, Bristol

I have known instances of parents with no religious inclination falsely attaching themselves to a local church for as long as it takes to get their precious children into a 'good church school'. A very interesting take on the purpose of faith schools, I think!
Ama Okafor, London

The problem with the argument about faith schools seems to be the universal position that schools of "my faith" are fine, schools of any other faith are divisive. It's an "unwinnable" debate.
Paul B, Oxfordshire

Education is said to be learning about different cultures and beliefs, unless of course they happen to clash with the state's views of what is politically acceptable. What is the difference between that and what they do condemn? Estelle Morris seemed to be able to understand the duplicity of this point, although I do not assert she is doing this out of Christian motives rather political sagacity.
Keith F Prosser

One of the reasons we send our children to our local Church of England primary school (which in our largely Asian neighbourhood is also the most multicultural school) is that I don't want teachers like Joanne Harris teaching them that faith is something to be confined to a place of worship on one day of the week. If a faith is to mean anything it must affect the whole of life, including education - something I am pleased that my neighbours from the Muslim faith also believe strongly.
Andy Jolley, Birmingham

Faith/religious schools are one of the biggest problems in Scotland and Northern Ireland and in England ie Liverpool etc. If there were integrated schools in Scotland and more especially Northern Ireland, the majority of the problems would be sorted out. Here in Dunoon, we only have one grammar school, and all faiths must use it, or travel by ferry other means to reach their own denominational school. Most choose not to travel and use the local grammar school, and the level of Sectarianism is negligible.
Alexander Smith, Dunoon (Scotland)

I am a student teacher and will never take a job in a faith school. I think all schools should be neutral with regard to religion. If a child wants to practise a particular religion then it should be done in the place of worship not in school.
Daniel Neale, Canterbury

Religious faith is something that should be chosen by adults not indoctrinated into children. Schools should teach religions as academic subjects and not seek to produce adherents to any single faith.
Mark, Spilsby

Estelle Morris should rethink her views on single religion schools. England is a multicultural country whether she likes it or not. She should preach tolerance and not indifference. The panel on the whole should realise that after years of racist and social abuse, the Muslim community has no choice but to safeguard their heritage much the same way as Christians and Jews do.
Waliur Rahman, Dudley

The reason why so many people who hold religious beliefs choose faith-based schools is not only to support that belief but also because they do not wish to have their children bombarded by secular and liberal views on issues like evolution. Let's not forget that millions of people in the UK have faith and deserve to be able to be educated in a place that supports that. Finally most schools with major exclusion problems are state schools not faith schools. Maybe that is why faith schools are so important, due to high discipline and standards. Is that a bad thing?
Nathan Jones, Hereford

The problems caused by ethnic discrimination would diminish if all religious studies were incorporated into history lessons.
John Pearson, Keswick

Single faith schools are a relic of the past. To have more single faith schools is a move in the wrong direction (albeit for the best of intentions). Single faith schools are about brainwashing children in religious dogma. Schools are for education. Churches are for religious instruction.
Mike Ashton, Middlesbrough

The choice in Britain is not between single faith and multi-faith schools - it is between single faith and secular schools. Children are tolerant not only through socialising with people of different faiths and cultures, but by having a system of values which enables them to interpret their experience free from fear of those who are different. All the major world faiths, at their best, instil such a value system. Far from being divisive, more good faith schools would lead to greater tolerance and understanding. Secularism is deeply intolerant of, and threatened by religious faith, and this is reflected in the current debate.
Peter Trow, Fareham

I think schools should be mixed and there should be no special schools for religions, unless it's out of school time. But also create one lesson through the day for all students to learn about their religion in separate rooms. They would have to learn to tolerate each other from an early age, with the co-operation of the teachers.
Raghad Al-Mudallal, Welling, Kent,

I work in a Church of England school and I do agree that the acceptance of 'a faith', to whatever degree pupils participate, promotes a positive ethos. I find it outrageous for Estelle Morris to imply that if we do not allow minority faiths to have their own schools then we should not be allowed to retain our network of CofE schools, which for the most part, in this county, are fully inclusive. I do believe however that faith schools could be just that - schools where children from families who do have religious convictions, particularly Jews, Moslems and Christians, could all learn together and perhaps just worship apart. The God they all worship is surely one in the same?
Sara Cole, East Sussex

Acceptance/tolerance of other faiths/lifestyles is the responsibility of the parents. The remit of the national curriculum is (I hope) to educate our children to a level whereby they can understand facts and figures presented to them (ie language, arithmetic, problem solving etc.) The 'life skills' aspect of education should be provided by parents.
Barry Ward, Aberdeen

The debate about faith schools is completely ignoring a classic example very close to home, in Northern Ireland. There, all Catholics and Protestants attend their respective religious schools and look what happened there. Do we want the same thing to happen over here?
Rod Dixon, Hollywood

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Ideals of British sportsmanship suffer another nosedive?

Audience question: Do the panel think that the ideals of British sportsmanship will suffer another nose dive when the captain of England rugby union leads his team out in Paris this weekend? You said:

I used to enjoy Question Time. I feel it is now somewhat boring, it is unbalabced in its questions and the time attributed to subjects that I am sure the public is totally tired of. Many of the panellists are too politically biased with all the consequential rhetoric. David Dimbleby seems to be over zealous in questioning when it should be the audience making the running. Let's take the polarised politicians out of the frame and let's have some less biased sensible opinions.
Anthony Nicholls, Cambridge, Glos

The job of a captain of any team is to set an example. As a former rugby player, players expect the referee to take control and exercise authority. Martin Johnson should have been RED carded, banned for the rest of the season and had the captaincy withdrawn. Having watched various games, it appears as though referees were frightened to lay down the law from the start, and that includes stamping, and squint scrum feeding.
CJR Fentiman, Edinburgh

Many young people revere sports and music celebrities over and above all the figures they see in the media. Some, together with a few older people - who should know better - will see England's endorsement of Martin Johnson as an indication that this sort of behaviour is acceptable, or at least is unimportant. Even if this does not happen directly, the tone set by this and other similar events has a detrimental long-term effect on society's attitudes towards, and tolerance of, violence and crime. The fact that the rules of 'the system' allow Johnson to play is a risible excuse.
Mike Turner

With regard to Abi Ekoku's comment that sportsmen must be considered as nothing other than sportsmen (and not priests, or politicians or other forms of leaders), I would argue that when sportsmen reap the benefits of publicity and inflated wages that come as a result of corporate sponsorship, television deals, they cannot but take on the role of teacher towards the audience.
Russell Hope, Penge

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General comments on the programme:

A disappointing show because Estelle Morris talked far too much. Unfortunately she managed the old trick of veering away from the question and into an area she wanted to talk about (eg wonderful civil servants) which even David Dimbleby found it difficult to prevent. So, So many words, such little substance. Depressing. I wonder if politicians on the show ever consider that the audience would like to listen to what other panellists have to say?
Anne Robertson, Malvern

It was nice to see Mr Dimbleby being more assertive, and really challenging the panel. I hope this continues in further programmes.
Pete, Norwich, UK

Why is it that most weeks Question Time has two or three Tories on the panel? Counting in Mr Dimbleby sometimes there are four Tories ganging up on one Labour politician - who said that the BBC is Labour biased? By the way I thought Dimbleby was very very rude to Estelle Morris and really showed himself up by becoming hot under the collar and red faced, he looked like he was suffering from studio rage, how can he expect us to believe he is impartial?
Lainy, Bedfordshire

Congratulations to the BBC for selecting Abi Ekoku to appear on Question Time. I thought he was extremely articulate and represented rugby league and sport magnificently. His answers were well thought out and his debating skills were excellent.
Steve Eckersley, London

I feel that perhaps the audience did not represent a true cross section of the views held in and around Bradford. Had this been achieved ie the local youths at the centre of the discontent attended proportionately to the population of the city, the ensuing debate among the panel would certainly have discussed in detail the problems of mono-race mini towns within Bradford and the surrounding areas. My own opinion on the matter is that cities such as Bradford, Preston, Burnley, Oldham etc are in need of a modernisation of the school system.
Matthew, Keighley

I have noticed over the recent months that David is taking a more proactive role in directing the questioning. Rather than being biased, I find his ability to interject into the debate refreshing and also allows the panel to squirm a bit now and again.
Richard Hall, Harrogate

This was the worst panel ever. The 'Chocolat' lady had nothing to say except a few self-satisfied glib comments. The rugby union guy said some very illogical things - especially about politicians lying as an accepted part of life. The Tory boy - well when could the Tories have had a better opportunity to tackle a government with its back against the wall - well not from that Tory spokesman. Matthew Parris seemed off colour and not full of his usual wit. Maybe it was because he felt overrun by Estelle Morris. She is definitely my biggest gripe - the others are gremlins to her Godzilla.
Maria Griffin, London

Why did Estelle Morris go on and on knowing that no one cared about what she said? She just epitomises the pathetic way some politicians behaves. Apparently, double standards are prevalent in government - politicians can lie and get away with it, whereas if civil servants do not do exactly what they command, they will at best victimised, and at worst get the sack.
C Lang

What on earth are Patrick Whittle, Michael Wells and J Ruby on about? The BBC is showing its neutrality precisely by holding government ministers and their actions to robust scrutiny. Just as they used to when the Tories were in power. Thank goodness that we live in a country where we can call a government minister a liar, when he quite clearly is one. And where Mr Dimbleby can pin down a government minister and force her to answer a straightforward question (rather pathetically, I felt) without fear of retribution. The first half of last night's show was compelling. Unfortunately, it then seemed to peter out into 'The Estelle Morris Show'. Pity.
Daniel Goldberg, Buckinghamshire

David Dimbleby was excellent last night in his treatment of the disgraceful Estelle Morris. Any respect I had for that lady disappeared last night. Her incoherent rant about the difference between lying and misleading and the wonderful relationship she had with her civil servants was perhaps the worst performance I have ever seen on TV. This is the person we have placed in charge of our schools! What hope is there for any integrity in public life in the future if that is the standard we're setting?
Alisdair, Edinburgh

David Dimbleby has consistently behaved partially as chairman, with the habit of interrupting and bullying certain members of the panel so that they cannot express their views. Last night he did this extensively to Estelle Morris on the issue of Martin Sixsmith.
F Mak, London

I feel I must defend Mr Dimbleby against accusations that he "sided" with Mr Pickles against Estelle Morris over the issue of Stephen Byers. The fact that he agreed with Mr Pickles was entirely coincidental. Mr Dimbleby was raising a very important point in catching Ms Morris out over her attempts to dilute the argument with petty distinctions over the words "mislead" and "lie". He saw through that, and fought for an honest answer, just what many of the audience were calling for!
Russell Hope, Penge

Irrespective of my position as a St Helens RL supporter I must comment that Abi Ekoku provided one of the most balanced, intellectually sustainable contributions to your programme, ever. Estelle Morris, by claiming ignorance of popular culture on at least two occasions, simply served to emphasise the growing chasm between the govt and the people.
Martin Hughes, Luton

It seemed apparent tonight that David Dimbleby is as heartily sick as most of us of whichever government minister is on the panel trotting out the usual rehearsed script instead of giving an honest answer to the question. A good panel and audience on this evening's programme.
Mary Kallagher, King's Lynn

Whatever made anyone think that that 'Chocolat' woman had an intelligent contribution to make to any serious discussion?
Paul Jeffery, London

I must protest at the aggressive way in which David Dimbleby is chairing Question Time tonight. His belligerent attitude is spoiling the programme. One expects a chairman to show some degree of neutrality. What a turn off.
Patrick Whittle, Portsmouth

I enjoy Question Time but I object strongly to David Dimbleby pointing to the audience and calling on "that WOMAN there". In my view, it would be infinitely more polite to refer to "that LADY there". Please could he be asked to be more respectful?
Ian Black, Crail

Why have the Tory party been given two representatives on the programme, ie Messrs Parris and Pickles? Why does Mr Dimbleby so often protect floundering Tory ministers on the show from probing questions, while he lays into Stephen Byers when he's not around to defend himself?
Michael Wells, Rushden, Northants

I must complain over the conduct of David Dimbleby during the Stephen Byers question. He clearly took sides against Mr Byers and Estelle Morris. This is simply not acceptable. I have never witnessed such bias on a BBC programme. He must remain neutral.
J Ruby, St Austell

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