Thursday 12 November, Glasgow

Thursday 5 November, London

Thursday 29 October, Birmingham

Thursday 22 October, Cardiff

Thursday 15 October, Leeds

Thursday 8 October, Bournemouth

Thursday 1 October, Manchester

Thursday 24 September, London


Thursday 29 October, Birmingham

The panel was:

  • Brian Sewell, art critic
  • Sir Norman Fowler MP, Shadow Home Affairs secretary
  • Diane Abbott MP, Labour
  • Menzies Campbell MP, Liberal Democrat spokesman on Foreign Affairs
  • Rabbi Julia Neuberger, chief executive of the King's Fund

    Here is how you are reacted to the issues raised in the debate:

    Prince Charles and Camilla

    Audience question: "Is it not inhumane to deny Prince Charles the same human right which most of us take for granted, that is, to live with the partner of his own choice?

    Julia Neuberger said: "He should be entitled to live with and marry whom he chooses. The Church of England is going to have to come to terms with that. If he becomes king she should become queen."

    Norman Fowler said: "They're entitled to marry. I would not have any difficulty with it. This whole affair: we need to draw a line under it."

    Menzies Campbell said: "There's hardly a family in the country that doesn't have some member or other who's been through the divorce court. If it makes him happy and makes him a better candidate to be the king then this is certainly something he should be entitled to do."

    Diane Abbott said: "You have to look at them as people. They've been together now a very long time. They clearly genuinely love each other."

    You said:

    He should be allowed to marry anyone he chooses, however the important point for me is that the monarchy should be abolished, their lands and riches reverting back to the English people. The royal family is a drain on precious finances and are of little use for anything but ceremony.
    David Henderson

    I am in the opinion against Prince Charles and Ms. Parker-Bowles marrying together. And they should not get married. This would be a bad example for the national moral. Common people, that is not royalty, always have looked up to the royal family. For virtue, for example, for guidance and enlightenment. A marriage betwwen these two, would put across the wrong message. And moreover if we consider the plausible possibility that she (Camilla) could the day of tomorrow become Queen.
    Finally, I consider that the Prince (Charles) should abdicate from the throne and leave his children to the the throne. Then, he could make his own life, his own values, and won't affect a people. Tradition and custom are above an egotist's desires and modus vivendi. And remember that what the law breaks, only custom corrects.
    Roberto Riveros, Colombia

    I think that Prince Charles should be left alone.
    Edwin Lucas

    King Edward VIII had to abdicate for wanting to marry a divorcee. He was unmarried and eligible to be King. Charles and Mrs. Bowles are both divorced and the English church does not allow a 'sullied' personage either to marry in its churches or to become king. Charles should be passed over for his eldest son no matter what the queen says. We ejected Edward, now let's follow tradition and eject Charles. Let at least some of the honourable traditions of this precious, sceptered isle remain.
    Marcellus Cassius, Canada (born and raised in England)

    Of course they should be allowed to marry. The argument that this would make Charles unfit to be King and head of the Church of England is rubbish. People seem to forget that the Church of England only exists because a King wanted a divorce. Admittedly none of Henry VIII's wives were themselves divorced before they married him, however to allow the King to marry more than once but not his Queen is surely sexist! And this argument would still be valid even if Diana were still alive.
    Fran

    If Prince Charles is allowed to become king then Camilla should stay in the background,otherwise Prince William should take the throne.
    Gloria League

    The established monarchy of the United Kingdom has had one purpose since becoming limited and constitutional in 1688: namely, the maintenance of Protestantism (Bible Christianity) in the realm. The monarch's duty is faithfully to serve his people in moral leadership and defence of the Biblical Faith.It is an awesome responsibility for any individual, but the Prince of Wales has been trained precisely for it since birth and knows his appointed role very well. If he wants the entitlement to marry contrary to the teachings of Jesus Christ, which many now claim he should be free to do, let him abdicate like Edward VIII. As things stand, however, there can be no question of the governor-to-be of the Church of England publicly endorsing an anti-Biblical lifestyle which undermines his raison d'etre.
    Alex Thomson, Cambridge

    We are continually told that the Royal Family 'operates' to a set of protocol rules. If that is the case then Charles should abide by the rules of protocol. If marrying an adultress is acceptable within those rules then he should marry Mrs. Parker Bowles. He should also be man enough to relinquish his claim to the throne and pass the future rule of the kingdom to his son William. A previous member of the House of Windsor had to abide by these rules, why not Charles?
    Alan Hancock

    It is no ones business but theirs. If they want to marry then so be it. Everyone else seems to think they have a right to interfere. No. They can have an opinion but that's all it is.
    Michael Ebdon

    The marriage vow is that the husband and wife will stay married "for better or for worse". All who break this vow, except if they are the innocent party in the break up of a marriage due to the one reason of sexual infidelity of the other marriage partner, should not be granted marriage in a church. This should apply to the people as well as Royalty.
    Colin Powell

    Should they be able to marry? Why not? I haven't heard them say that they want to marry though or have I missed it? If they want to and it makes them both happy, without having a strong negative effect on anyone else, then that can only be a positive thing.
    Elaine Wright

    I think Prince Charles should be allowed to marry Mrs Parker Bowles, although I am strongly against her becoming the Queen of the United Kingdom.
    Sarah Le Boef

    No, not as head of the Church of England, he cannot marry a divorced woman whose husband is till alive. Also it would send a bad message to the people of England that having a mistress is OK. Not a good domestic example in any part of the world.
    Winona Stroble

    I think they should be free to marry. Keeping them apart when everyone knows they are having a relationship is hypocritical and pointless.
    Reidy Flynn

    I'm not against Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles getting married. But if the Prince of Wales does get married to Camilla, he must let the throne go directly to his son, Prince William. I think that Charles and Camilla should get married, but with some terms. Camilla Parker Bowles can never be Queen of England, that is a certain thing. It is a disgrace to the late Lady Diana Spencer, princess of Wales. I think it is for the best that Prince William should take over when the Queen dies, which I think will not happen very soon. She could even live as long as her mother. This is my opinion and I think it is the right one for the British monarchy and for England.
    Stefan Fr. Stefansson

    His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales should marry Mrs.Camilla Parker Bowles. Pince Charles is a good prince and will make one of the greatest kings the United Kingdom will see. Mrs Camilla Parker Bowles should be Queen.. Love has no class.
    Joseph Ocampo

    Isn't this the way the Church of England started?
    Steve Jelly

    I believe, in the interests of the British Monarchy and its constituency, the British public, that Prince Charles should be encouraged to marry so that IF any illicit affair is ongoing or could be, it would not be a scandal, it would not further damage the Royal Family. I believe it would show courage to stand up for what he believes - surely a necessity should he be King. I believe his sons would support this kind of forthright approach. The ONLY questions would be "when" it is proper in terms of time; and in what manner in terms of type of ceremony.
    Rashida Bah

    I find it appalling that Charles and Camilla engender any respect at all. Let's see, the future Defender of the Faith is an adulterer, but then the C of E was begun by an adulterer. The possible future Queen was unfaithful in her own marriage. Frankly, I find them an embarrassment to the British Crown.
    Katherine Wishart

    By all means Prince Charles should be free to marry Mrs Parker Bowles, but at the same time should give up his succession to the throne and allow William to be King.
    Joanne Powell, New Zealand

    I thought Charles treated Diana terribly, so now the idea that he would go off and marry the woman who helped destroy Charles' and Diana's marriage saddens me a great deal. I suppose, Charles has a "right" to marry Camilla now that Diana is no longer with us, but I think it is ludicrous to contemplate that Camilla should be someday be the Queen of England. I always admired Diana and continue to do so. She was a great person and an outstanding human being.
    Jim Tammaro, USA

    I feel that Prince Charles should be left to do what he wants.
    Richard Olsen

    Of what consequence is their relationship? We enter 2000 and still wrangle over such plain people who just happen to be well known and have influence - not by dint of their own skill or effort. The Monarchy should report to the Dept of Tourism or equivalent.
    Brian Davies, Perth, Australia

    Why should Prince Charles have fewer rights that his future subjects? Freedom of marriage is as great a right as freedom of speech.
    John Atkins, Malaysia

    It would be interesting to admire Prince Charles from afar and his qualities are there to see and hear. He has shown himself on many occasions to be a good father, landowner, critic (architecture), pilot (helicopter) and the list is extensive. Knowing that no man is perfect and we make mistakes from time to time, which provide us the feedback to improve and change, it is important to consider the inner feelings of the man. If the process of change within Prince Charles is such that he wishes to marry again, to someone who loves him and he in turn loves her then I would respect that choice. Long live the Prince!
    Richard Bramwell, Portugal

    I think Prince Charles has an awful cheek being seen in public with her. I will never accept Charles as King, in fact, in recent years I am beginning to wonder what I ever saw in the Royal Family. I will be very, very disappointed if the British public ever accept that woman as Queen. Let's stand up and insist that Charles will never be King. He doesn't deserve it at all.
    Jane Jackson Porter

    Charles and Camilla should definitely be alowed to spend the rest of their lives together. It is just archaic to think otherwise. The monarchy and church have to keep abreast of the times.
    Anne Roarty

    What the Royal family do or don't do is really of little interest to most people now. It has lost its dignity.
    M.Hedge, Canada

    Yes Prince Charles and Mrs Parker Bowles are entitled to marry and I would wish good luck to them. However, I would not feel happy with her then being crowned Queen, it just would not seem right. Perhaps the best thing for Prince Charles to consider is abdicating his right of accession and standing aside for his elder son to become our next King. That would perhaps be the safest way for the monarchy and would not give cause for offence to anybody. I am by the way an ardent monarchist.
    -David Lloyd

    The Prince is not an ordinary human being - he is the son of the head of our country, the Queen. They are supposed to set an example to the rest of us and if he marries Mrs Parker Bowles then he should abdicate the throne. If HRH the Princess of Wales was not to be queen as the mother of the future king Prince William, then how can a woman who has no morals become our future queen. If he loves her then he should marry her and go and live a very low key life and let his son rule as king.
    Julie Wood

    Charles should be allowed to marry on condition that he renounces all claims to the throne. Camilla Parker Bowles should never at any time be considered to be an acceptable person for Queen Consort. Charles has a choice to make - to stay as he is with his mistress or allow William to become king in his place. The next thing that we will be hearing is that Camilla's children should be given titles because they are the mother of the king's wife! Let's get real here - Charles and Camilla behaved in a lousy manner from the moment Charles asked Diana to marry him. He lied to her, betrayed her - spoke publicly about his lack of respect of her. Yes Diana is dead. But the facts are still the same. Charles can be king without Camilla but he cannot have both. Now he must be man enough to make the right choice for Britain and for his sons and their mother's memory.
    David Hughes

    He's a grown man and probably the best King in Waiting for many years. We're lucky to have him, let him find happiness where he will and it would be vindicitive and foolhardy not to make her an HRH upon marriage.
    Glen

    I do not believe that a divorced woman should become Queen. This does not mean that HRH Prince Charles should not marry Ms. Parker-Bowles, just that she should not be Queen.
    Arthur Love

    Of course Charles and Camilla should be able to marry. The Church of England is after all based on divorce. Regardless of that, I believe that Charles and Diana's marriage went wrong for whatever reasons. As far as we know, we have only one life to live which is too short not to be happy. Maybe we should judge ourselves before we judge others.
    Fay Brewster

    I think Prince Charles should be allowed to marry her if he wants to. America wouldn't be having this Monica Lewinsky problem if Clinton were happily married.
    KR, USA

    I cannot imagine anything worse than being told who you may or may not marry.We are all saddened by the loss of Diana. However, she is gone. Assuming that the future King of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is as human as the rest of us, his role (as well as his life) would be enhanced. This, I believe, could only benefit everyone.
    Colin McMahon

    We are from time to time led to believe that marriage was forced on the Prince of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer. How, then, can it be a betrayal of anyone's memory for a human being to marry the woman he has loved for many years? Her good works and deeds are the fruits of the person she was and that cannot be sullied by the acts of others. We are a bunch of pompous arrogant snobs if we believe that the Prince of Wales is not entitled to the happiness in public that we assume Camilla brings him in private. This, after all, is only the happiness the majority of us feel we are entitled to. Who are we to deny it to others by our narrow minded opinions? The Prince of Wales is not the state itself - he is merely a human being that will one day represent it.
    David Mair

    I agree that the Prince should be free to marry - under the same restrictions as any other C of E members who marry divorced people. I don't think that the Church's laws should be changed for them - for some time I've felt that the Prince was working to be a reverse Henry VIII, and such changes would confirm the idea. However, Prince Charles is not our monarch, and when he is he will not be an Absolute Monarch. In other words, I do not agree that Parker Bowles should become Queen. I think that would be a terrible insult - a mockery not just of Diana and her sons, but of Establishment, People, and Christian Doctrine. So, since I have been a monarchist and very loyal to the Royal Family all my life (I am English), I feel that if the fulfillment of our troubled Prince's earthly passion for his lady-love will prevent further immediate tragedy - then we should not interfere. However, I do not think that he should be flattered into believing that he has succeeded in forcing acceptance of her either onto us, or onto the young princes. He has already put a very great burden on Princes William and Harry by making them our hopes for the future.
    Julia Bell

    Yes, he can marry Camilla but he must also give up the crown. If he loves Camilla so much he can follow the steps of the former Prince of Wales and Wallace Simpson. Camilla does not qualify for the title of Queen. She is a D-I-V-O-R-C-E-D woman.
    Deborah

    Sure let them marry. But Prince Charles should give up his right to the throne in favour of Prince William. Then we will see just how in love both are.
    Bob, USA

    Yes, they should be free to marry. They can reign together.
    David Gaarder

    Prince Charles should be allowed to marry, but only with the consent of William and Harry. After all, the needs of William and Harry should come first.
    Kim Broders

    If Prince Charles is allowed to marry Mrs Camilla Parker Bowles, then the family and supporters of King Edward deserve an apology. King Edward had to abdicate his throne for the woman he loved because the people would not accept a divorcee to be their monarch's spouse. Yet, Charles will be allowed to rule with a divorcee? I don't think so. Biblically, it's wrong to divorce. Charles, in the eyes of the church, is now a widower. However Camilla is a divorcee and considered an adulterer in the eyes of the church. If Charles marries Camilla, he too would be an adulterer. Apparently the United States is not the only country whose leadership has moral and ethical issues confused.
    Rebecca

    I don't disagree with the fact that Prince Charles should be free to marry whomever he chooses; however, I am totally opposed to the idea that in doing so, Camilla would be eligible for any kind of a Royal title, or, God forbid, ever become Queen! What an appalling thought. I honestly hope that it never comes to pass.
    R. Futcher

    I think that what Charles does with his personal life is his affair and that the public should leave him alone.
    Jean Plam

    Everyone should be free to marry whomsoever he or she likes,but honoring Mrs Bowles with a royal title would not do.
    Almas Neazi

    I think Charles made a mistake in marrying Diana, and there has been trauma and sadness for everyone as a result of it. With that degree of incompatibility, it was inevitable one or both of the partners would look for a new love or go back to an old one. If we can just leave the past behind for a few moments, there is nothing to indicate that Camilla won't make a perfectly dignified Queen consort. It's not her fault at all that Diana died, and it's only one-quarter her fault that Charles and Diana split up, if you also count the part played by Camilla's husband, who obviously wasn't making his side of the marriage work either. I am sure Charles and Diana would have come to blows with or without Camilla's help!
    Inge Cubitt

    If Charles wishes to marry Camilla Parker Bowles he should forfeit the crown. He must adapt to the requirements of the monarchy, not the other way round.
    Mrs J. Ormsby, USA

    Ron Davies's resignation

    Audience question: "Why is it that when an MP is the victim of crime they're being cracked down on?

    Diane Abbott said: "We can rely on the Sunday tabloid press to give us more details on this case. I just hope it will die down."

    Norman Fowler said: "The extraordinary thing is that we don't actually know what he's accused of. Going for a walk on Clapham Common is not a criminal offence."

    Menzies Campbell said: "If Ron Davies had asked my advice I'd have said to him, "Go from the cabinet and go from Wales immediately." I think in his own interests there ought to be a more full explanation."

    You said:

    I feel that Ron Davies should be allowed to sort out whatever issues he is dealing with himself and given the privacy in which to do this. The press hounded Diana until she broke down in tears on several occassions. Are we going to allow the same thing to happen again with someone who is clearly having a major crisis in his life? Pursuing people for more information when they are feeling desperate anyway can only further their suffering and even push them over the edge. I'm sure that we are all curious to know more about the precise circumstances surrounding this issue, but at the same time would want privacy ourselves if in the same position. No one seems to addressing his emotional state at the moment and that he clearly needs some time in which to decide where he goes from here.
    Helen Cooke, an almost qualified psychologist, Leeds

    It's only morbid curiosity that's keeping people interested in Ron Davies's reasons for resigning. He thinks that whatever he has done is good enough to resign and that's all that people need to know.
    Stuart James Bushell

    The economy

    Audience question: "Should the government come to the aid of Rover to avoid huge job losses?"

    Norman Fowler said: "They should look at the whole position and see what they can actually do to help. The government should look at all the opportunities there for aid."

    Menzies Campbell said: "The international car market is a very very competitive place. If the government pursued a better economy policy for the whole of the United Kingdom then Rover would stand a much better chance."

    Diane Abbott said: "There are things that the government can do. I think it was a mistake to hand over setting interest rates to the Bank of England. I don't think people elected a Labour government last May for us to stand back and see thousands of jobs go."

    Julia Neuberger said: "I think it's irresponsible for a government to stand back and say, "It's not our fault". I think there's a limit to what governments can do when you're in an international decline."

    Brian Sewell said: "Production levels at Longbridge could be considerably higher if the British public wanted to buy Rovers. The German market supports German cars...the British buy cars from anywhere. Rover have killed their own market."

    You said:

    BMW have only made the Rover car sales situation worse by threatening job cuts at Longbridge. How many car buyers want a car biult by workers with low morale and lower prospects? The blame for Rover's current situation must therefore lie with the BMW management team, and taxpayer's money should not be allocated to Rover if other businesses cannot also apply for aid.
    Frank Wayman

    In relation to the discussion on the automation industry, Brian Sewell is correct. The market dictates the sales of the vehicles. But this is forced on by the attitude of the manufacturers. They dictate how the market goes from price to performance via their pressure on the country by making threats through job cuts etc.
    Robert Reid

    The Jenkins report on electoral reform

    Audience question: "Would proportional representation give extremist parties leverage in a potentially close contest?

    Menzies Campbell said: "What Roy Jenkins has suggested is a system which_will have the overall effect of giving us a much more representative parliament than the one we have at the moment."

    Diane Abbott said: "I would rather watch paint dry than talk about PR. Or course first past the post is imperfect but it is the least imperfect system that I can see. It worries me that under PR quite small parties, and perhaps extreme parties, could actually hold quite disproportionate swing."

    Brian Sewell said: "The whole of my voting life my vote has been utterly worthless because I have lived in constituencies with safe constituency MPs. Most of us could leave the country when there is an election and the results would be the same."

    Norman Fowler said: "I am the only Tory MP left in Birmingham. I don't like that... but it's the first past the post system working."

    You said:

    Isn't it strange that Lord Jenkins, a long-time supporter of a change from FPTP, should recommend an alternative so complex as to persuade us to vote for leaving things as they are? The fundamental problem with PR is that it tries to accommodate (and thereby encourage) diverse opinion. This is the antithesis of democracy. Democracy requires that we come together with a consensus of public opinion. Only then can a large majority be satisfied. The only way to force candidates to represent us, the voters, rather than their party activists is to allow us to reject ALL candidates. The simple expedient of having an extra box to vote for "none of the above" should be introduced immediately. See how that goes before trying weird and elaborate alternatives. Parties have already usurped too much power. Don't let them take away what little we still have. Keep it simple and give power to the people!
    Brian Shaw, Cheshire

    Electoral reform should be about much more than PR. Whatever system we have, not enough people are using their votes. General Pinochet might have ruled Chile, but General Apathy rules Britain. People want to feel they have a real voice in their government, but have been let down by all political parties. Modern electronics should be employed to replace the Victorian system of ballot papers and big metal boxes so that more use could be made of the referendum in deciding major issues, especially those involving constitutional changes.
    Kevin Webster, Lincoln

    Advocates of Proportional Representation constantly emphasize the importance of a "fair" system in which the views of the electorate are faithfully represented. This, so the theory goes, will enhance democracy. In practice, however, evidence has proved that this ideal is extremely difficult to realise. A system which by definition will seldom if ever give one party an overall majority makes it necessary for post-election deals to be reached for a government to be formed. Such deals would have no democratic element to them, and would almost certainly result in minority parties wielding vastly disproportionate power over parties with a much stronger democratic mandate. Whilst this scenario might suit those whose parties have lacked popular endorsement, it is certainly not representative or democratic.
    Nigel Fletcher

    PR is all very well, but it has the disadvantage that tiny parties can hold the government in a stranglehold. We have been "blessed" with PR here in New Zealand for about 2 years now and in that time the Government has not been able to actually DO anything at all. That may be a desirable state of affairs for some people but it's not for the general population, because the power vacuum is filled by the Civil Service, and the Industrial Plutocrats. Remember PR was originally designed by the Authorities of Occupation so that Germany was so emasculated politically that it was impossible for another Hitler to come to be Chancellor.
    Christopher Sawtell, New Zealand

    With regards to the electoral reform debate, would it not be practical to remain with the first past the post system and reform the House of Lords to be selected under each term of election. By proportional representation.
    Dave and Sarah Marks

    I am disgusted that Ms Abbot and Mr Fowler are so disinterested in democracy that they dismiss the Jenkins Commission report out of hand.
    Malcolm Cook

    Argentine President Carlos Menem's visit to Britain

    Audience question: "Can we really have a meaningful relationship with Argentina while the Falklands question remains unanswered?"

    Diane Abbott said: "As far as the Falklands question is concerned, at the end of the day we have to respect the wishes of the Falkland islanders... The actual war was unnecessary."

    Norman Fowler said: "The time has actually come now for reconciliation. I wouldn't talk sovereignty."

    Brian Sewell said: "We are very unlikely to let the Falklands go until we are quite sure there are no fish there and we are quite sure there is no oil."

    You said:

    I have lived in Argentina for a little while and get the impression that whilst the Argentines genuinely feel they have a right to the islands, they would also like to work towards a negotiated solution. Argentina has progressed significantly over the past few years and in many ways is a better place to live than most other parts of the world. Once the islanders lose whatever fear they had, closer relationships between Argentina and the islanders are both inevitable and desirable. The UK should do everything to promote making this.
    John Hopgood






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