November 25, Birmingham

November 18, Durham

November 11, Maidstone

November 4, Glasgow

October 28, Southampton

October 21, London

October 14, Sydney

October 7, Manchester

Thursday 30 September, Bournemouth

Thursday 23 September, London

Thursday 15 July, Belfast

Thursday 8 July, London

Thursday 1 July, Birmingham

Thursday 24 June, Leeds

Thursday 17 June, Manchester

Thursday 10 June, Birmingham

Thursday 3 June, Norwich

Thursday 27 May, Bath

Thursday 20 May, Belfast

Thursday 13 May, Birmingham

Thursday 29 April, London

Thursday 22 April, Glasgow

Thursday 15 April, Cardiff

Thursday 25 March, Sheffield

Thursday 18 March, London

Thursday 11 March, Manchester

Thursday 4 March, Maidstone

Thursday 25 February, London


Thursday 24 June, Leeds

Watch Question Time online by clicking on Latest edition. Then send in email views on the topics discussed.

Your emails will be published here throughout the week.

On the panel:

  • Arthur Scargill, leader, Socialist Labour Party
  • Alistair Darling MP, Social Security Secretary
  • Nicholas Soames MP, Conservative
  • Sarah Ludford MEP, Liberal Democrat peer
  • Decca Aitkenhead, columnist, The Guardian

    New Labour versus Old

    Audience question: Tony Blair has declared himself to be 100% proof New Labour, but is New Labour a southern shandy drink?

    Nicholas Soames said: "It's the fate of all governments at a certain stage to find that elections begin to go against them, questions begin to be asked and the great euphoria of the opening days begins to slip away ... People all over Britain feel that New Labour are simply not delivering on what they promised. The euphoria has begun to go, the froth is disappearing and now we're down to a mixed drink of little potency."

    Alistair Darling said: "In the old days you had a choice between a Labour Party that was seen to be anti-business, anti- enterprise on one side and you had a Tory Party that saw no place for compassion, for social justice, for fairness. Now we have shown, over the last two years, that it is possible to govern in the interests of the whole of the country."

    Decca Aitkenhead said: "It's perfectly obvious that Labour would win the General Election tomorrow ... It's also perfectly obvious from what people are saying here and what people have been saying all week, that Labour is alienating its core vote. The Labour Party has done lots of things in office to serve the people who are always regarded as its traditional supporters. But the problem is that it's been ashamed to tell them that. It's been keeping it like a dirty secret."

    Arthur Scargill said: "[Many people] were expecting a socialist pick-me-up drink. What they've got is a watered down shandy of Tory policies. The Labour Party now is indistinguishable from the Tory Party and from the Liberal Democrats. Everybody who has any sense knows that ... New Labour has betrayed the promises it made to the electorate."

    Sarah Ludford said: "There are some southern voters who are not too happy with Tony Blair and his government. Most people have shown that they actually don't want socialism, but what they did want, and what they thought they were going to get in 1997, was a government that would be very different from the Tories. One that would invest in public services, in education, in health and public transport - and indeed would look after the most poor and vulnerable in our society. I think what people are feeling is that the government is looking after the comfortable, the powerful people in our society."

    You said:

    There is a difference between Old and New Labour. The answer is Old Labour at least stood for something and represented someone. Whereas New Labour stand for? and represent? Okay so I don't know who or what they stand for, but does anyone nowadays? They change their minds more times than my heart beats.
    Andrew Neil Mobbs

    Alistair Darling claimed New Labour had proved it is possible to govern the interests of the whole country. That statement is clearly false when applied to issues such as constitutional change and economic integration with Europe. Issues where the country is divided and whatever the outcome, one group will feel victorious over another.
    Dave Tuck

    Neither Old Labour nor New, neither the traditional unions nor the "free enterprise" hand-up types have addressed the issue of what in both Britain and the USA are called "perma-temps," that is, that percentage of the working population (up to 30% w/seasonal variation in the States, perhaps 20% in Britain), those who work for substandard wages with no benefits in a very broad range of manufacturing and service slots, and are most generally rented out as chattel to labour brokerage firms. The rate at which these people are rented out is typically double their base rate of pay, which if employed direct would add up to a livable pay packet for most workers. In practice, both the TUC and the US AFL-CIO make absolutely no mention of their stance relative to these completely disenfranchised and routinely abused workers who (as subcontract labour) are completely outside the laws of workplace safety, health, hours regulation, pay scale regulations, and benefits schemes. Flexible, just in time, expendable, use once and throw away, temporary, contingent: this faction of the workforce is completely ignored by both sides of Labour, and on both sides of the Atlantic, which is all the more odd as they are the most exploited in the traditional sense of labour exploitation.
    Walt O'Brien

    Alistair Darling's statement that the Labour Party is providing financial assistance to every single child through child benefit has missed one important point - he may well be responsible for record rises in the benefit, but as a single mum on income support, child benefit is classed as income and deducted from income support. Therefore my children do not benefit from this extra help, even though we are on subsisting on the bread line. I receive £80 a week for two children. That is all. Another way the system is taking advantage of our vulnerability is by enforcing the payment of maintenance through the Child Support Agency, and deducting that too. The result? The welfare state pays out less and my children stay on the poverty line. I have a degree. What is the government doing for me?
    Ginette Van Praag

    Labour doesn¿t stand up for the poor, disadvantaged or the working class anymore. Blair should quit and take up as the leader of the Tories, where he will feel more at home. I won't vote Labour until Blair has gone.
    Antony Little

    I firmly believe that a huge number of people do not vote in elections because they are utterly disillusioned with the politicians and system of media-driven politics that we suffer. It is hardly surprising that the main parties appear so similar when they all go to such great lengths to 'spin' their images to such a degree. Effectively, they all sound the same because they all manipulate statistics, use stock phrases, rubbish their opponents and hide the unpalatable truths from us, the electorate. They have lost or trust and, therefore, our support.
    Paul Courtnage, Hampshire

    Tony Blair said: "While I am leader of my party and prime minister of this country, I will never again have Britain forced to choose between a Labour Party that ignored the importance of business". But in the Regulation Impact Assessment for Social Security Secretary, Alistair Darling's Welfare Reform Bill (Clauses 70 and 71), states that these clauses will cause the closure of 66,000 small businesses. So which is it? Are Labour encouraging business or not?
    Barry Getty

    Labour's historical role is to extend democracy and equality. Since in power they have achieved devolution, national minimum wage and the highest increase in Child Benefit. You can argue about the daily issues, but on the whole they are keeping their word.
    Paul Carroll

    I have two points to make:
    a) Let's give Labour a chance to turn this country around. Rome was not built in one day.
    b) Let's all stop moaning about what Labour is not doing and let's give Tony Blair the message that you can't get blood out of a stone. So let's all put our hands in our pockets and pay more taxes to help all these changes come about a lot sooner.
    Andrew Wallace

    This government is demonstrating a frightening amorality in their choice of target. Their logic seems to be to play entirely to the prejudices of the swing "middle-England", Daily Mail-reading voter. Who have they attacked? Single mothers, pensioners, the disabled and immigrants.
    Paul Bowman

    Audience question: Is in the increase in direct action, as witnessed in the City of London, another sign of alienation of the natural Labour supporters?

    Nicholas Soames said: "I think this manifestation on the streets of London was a really terrible and very serious event. I don't think that that was outraged Labour supporters. There is a stream of anarchism underneath the surface which can be extraordinarily over-excited when faced with the police."

    Decca Aitkenhead said: "I thought what a fantastically admiral enterprise to just go into the city and have a go at bankers. I was rather startled to see them so demonised for that act. And the spectacle of bankers hanging out of windows pointing 'That's a Rolex' at their wrists and littering photocopied £20 notes down on them rather I thought proved the point."

    Arthur Scargill said: "It's certainly an alienation amongst the people as a whole, with what we call mainstream politics. They've no faith that the political system in Britain will put right the wrongs that everybody can see ... I support them totally."

    Sarah Ludford said: "On the whole it's good to protest and to have demonstrations ... It's a great shame that a small minority spoils a peaceful protest. There are questions about the policing of this demonstration."

    You said:

    Being a banker in the city, I find it quite strange that Decca states that it was admirable of the protesters in the City last Friday. One wonders whether she would have said that if she had actually been watching them set about the McDonalds on Cannon Street or attack the various buildings along the way? I have no doubt that the protest started out to peacefully put a point across, of which it was very effectively doing at 08:45 in the morning by holding up the traffic. But after five hours an alcohol-fuelled mob really took hold. I secondly find it quite shocking that a number of protesters were carrying babies in their arms. If Decca found it quite galling to watch the bankers throwing photocopied bank notes out the window etc., I expect she would find it equally galling to watch the protesters hold up a fire engine trying to attend to a fire that they had set outside a bank?
    Jay Smith

    Human cloning ban

    Audience question: Is the government right to be swayed by public opinion and call a halt to limited human cloning?

    Nicholas Soames said: "It's a completely inconsistent decision with the decision taken on GM foods ... They've taken the advice of their experts, and extremely expert advisors, and decided, because they know in the light of what happened with GM foods, there's going to be a terrible row about it - so they've decided to call a halt to it."

    Alistair Darling said: "As with GM foods the government's decision is that you do need to proceed with what is new technology, new science, with a great deal of caution. There's no question that nobody wants to see the cloning of human beings. [But] perhaps we should look further at the possibility of using the science behind cloning, to see whether or not it could replace diseased organs - kidney, livers, heart and so on. In other words, bringing a great deal of relief to people who may have to live in a great deal of pain."

    Sarah Ludford said: "I think the majority of the public would support the kind of research, the limited research that is being talked about, which it must be stressed is not experiments on foetuses. It is tiny bundles of cells that are being talked about, which might allow medical advances on things like organ transplants, growing human skin for skin grafts ... "

    Arthur Scargill said: "We will not get any medical advance unless we have scientific research and cloning is part of that research ... I'm in favour of it going ahead."

    You said:

    It seems to be general opinion that Labour had based it decision on what it assumed was public opinion, rather than what would be in the best interests of the country. It is my belief that the government should have made the decision based on the facts and explained to the public (who may be ignorant of all the facts) what led them to the decision. Making choices based on newspapers and corporate influence will gain Labour less favour from the public than doing what is in the best interests of the country as a whole, and explaining what has led them their decision. In their blindness to chase votes, they seem to have removed themselves from true public opinion.
    Duncan Shaw

    The government decision to reject scientific advice to allow cloning of human embryos for medical research, has been greeted with derision and called "amoral", by leading medical practitioners. Would not the true cost of cloned tissue banks, ultimately storing all parts of the human body, for all tissue groups, make the existing costs of the national blood bank, appear insignificant? Surely such a monumental cost would, by definition, be detrimental to the standard of national basic health care! Or have leading medical practitioners identified long-term savings, by promoting that patients can be deprived from nourishment and hydration (Social cleansing of the elderly)? Should they reconsider the term "amoral" or do they perceive national resources to be infinite?
    Kevin Kenny

    Greg Dyke appointed BBC director general

    Audience question: Should a Labour Party paymaster inform and educate the nation?

    Alistair Darling said: "The BBC governors appointed Greg Dyke ... Greg Dyke will be impartial."

    Nicholas Soames said: "It is of course the responsibility of the governors to ensure the impartiality of the BBC. But I think at a time when there is a good deal of anxiety about, about propriety in public life, I think it's a very risky choice to select as the director-general of the BBC, a man who gave £50,000 over the last five years, to the party which is now the party of power."

    Decca Aitkenhead said: "Assuming that £50,000 isn't enough to buy the job, and presumably we're not suggesting that it is, then it wasn't a reward for loyalty, and as the Labour Party didn't give him the job, then they couldn't possibly have been rewarding him anyway. So we're not suggesting that there was a cause and effect between the £50,000 donation and him being the new DG. In which case, all we can conclude from the fact that the money was given, is that we will all be sitting around now saying, 'That's not a very good situation'. If he is the man for the job, so much the man for job that they were prepared to give him the job in spite of all these questions being asked, then we have to assume that he is the man for the job."

    You said:

    From the moment that Rupert Murdoch began his campaign to stop Mr Dyke getting the job, that should have told us that he was perfect for the job.
    Alan Roy

    With Greg Dyke being appointed the new Director General of the Blairite Broadcasting Corporation doesn't this prove that British politics has been and always will be corrupt?
    Ollie Cochran, Essex

    Crisis in Northern Ireland peace process

    Audience question: Has Mo Mowlam lost the confidence of the Unionist community and if so should she resign?

    Arthur Scargill said: "There's got to be a completely new approach to the whole question of the situation in Northern Ireland ... Until and unless we bring the troops out of Ireland, give Ireland back to the Irish, we'll never have a peaceful solution."

    Sarah Ludford said: "The alternative to carrying on with the Good Friday Agreement is, what? ¿ The executive needs to be set up and there needs to be decommissioning. The exact time scale of those two things and how closely they come together in time, is for those on the spot to sort out ... Mo Mowlam on the whole does appear to have the confidence of most people in Northern Ireland. She's shown huge commitment, a lot of courage. And I think she's brought a great deal of admiration across the spectrum."

    Decca Aitkenhead said: "Trimble's outburst tells us far more about his relationship with the Protestant community than it does her relationship. He is the one under pressure with his community."

    Alistair Darling said: "Mo has shown courage almost beyond belief and fortitude in the job she's been doing for the last two years."

    You said:

    All the panel opinions quoted supported Mo Mowlam. However, the first priority of any MP, let alone minister, must be the maintenance of law and order, and the protection of the law-abiding against criminals; otherwise what's the point of democracy? If Mowlam really has lost the confidence of the majority of the community that she is committed to doing this - and this government's record of appeasement of terrorists, and their choice to pressurise those who support democracy rather than those who support violence certainly indicates it - then she certainly ought to go, and Blair with her.
    Alex Swanson

    Wimbledon prize money

    Audience question: Was Tim Henman justified in his statement regarding female tennis players in their pursuit of equal prize money when he said, "That's probably a bit greedy"?

    Arthur Scargill said: "Tim Henman talks like a prat, quite frankly. It must be right that women, at Wimbledon or anyone else, be treated equal with men."

    Alistair Darling said: "I'm more bothered about people who are at the other end of the pay spectrum, but for what it's worth I think he was particularly silly in what he said."

    You said:

    The dismissive attitude of the Question Time panel towards the views on female tennis players' comparative remuneration expressed by Tim Henman, merely illustrates the extent to which the disease of unthinking political correctness has infected the political establishment. Tim Henman's comments were entirely justified - these already overpaid women are nothing more than greedy whiners trying to take advantage of the ' female takes all/girl power ' climate in which we now live. The female game does NOT attract the interest or finance of that of the men - the values of the respective circuits proves that. As with so many so-called 'equality issues' there only has to be mention of the words 'women' and 'equality' and the usual PC rubbish kicks in.
    Mr. Y.P. Pitsiaeli

    If as seems to be the common view, equal rights is the key issue, then I would like to ask the next panel if they think women should compete against men. As this would result in true equality. Women would then have the right to earn the same prize money, the Women's Tennis Association could disband as a sexist organisation and Tim Henman might not end up with too much egg on his face!
    Ben Barclay

    Tim Henman was only quoted as having said that the female tennis players were being greedy, however the whole of Tim Henman's quote was not discussed. Tim Henman's position on this matter was clear. He stated that the female tennis players were being greedy if they wanted equal prize money, unless the female players would start playing matches for the best of five sets as the male tennis players do. Tim was not alone in this opinion. Even the presenter Sue Barker felt that equal pay for female tennis players would be unfair to the male tennis players for two good reasons. She said that first of all female tennis players do not play best of five sets for their matches and also the male tennis players have consistently attracted more bums onto seats for their matches than the female tennis players have.
    James Hitchings

    General comments

    Your proposed change of format for the next two weeks will certainly be interesting. However, is there not a danger of these being little more than Party Political Broadcasts, albeit in the presence of informed 'hecklers'? A much more interesting format might have been for Mr Blair and Mr Hague to be in the same programme. Then we might have seen some real open debate between the parties. And it would leave an empty slot which could have been filled by a debate between the outgoing and incoming BBC director generals. Now, that could have been truly informative and perhaps given the public a chance to reflect on realities of the recent hype in the media.
    David Perkins





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