April 27, Newcastle

April 13, Edinburgh

March 30, Belfast

March 23, Maidstone

March 16, Truro

March 9, Nottingham

March 2, London

February 24, Leeds

February 17, London

February 10, Birmingham

February 3, Brussels

January 27, Southampton

January 20, Liverpool

January 13, London

December 16, Leeds

December 9, Manchester

December 2, Cardiff

November 25, Birmingham

November 18, Durham

November 11, Maidstone

November 4, Glasgow

October 28, Southampton

October 21, London

October 14, Sydney

October 7, Manchester

September 30, Bournemouth

September 23, London

July 15, Belfast

July 8, London

July 1, Birmingham


November 18, Durham

The panellists were:


The topics discussed were:

Tony, control freaks and Ken

Audience Question: Does the prime minister's intervention to try to stop Ken Livingtone's name from being added to the Labout party shortlist for the mayor of London prove that he's not a democrat?

Deborah Orr: It certainly proves that he is a control freak. A man who has lived by gesture politics is going to be reborn by gesture politics. If he's good enough to be in the Labour party he's good enough to stand for the Labour party.

Mo Mowlam: I've supported all the candidates that have stood. I think democracy is operating. I will work with whoever gets elected by the people of London. We have to ask why it has deteriorated like this. You don't stand for a party if you don't agree with the principles. Nobody agrees with 100% of the values of their party. If we were such control freaks, why did we go through the pain in the last few days?

David Willetts: He's proved himself to be an incompetent control freak. The mayor of London ought to be entitled to formulate his policies on transport in London.

Jonathan Edwards: I wonder if Blair isn't quite sure of his own agenda. He's got quite flustered over the whole thing.

Malcolm Bruce: Is Tony Blair Labour? He doesn't trust the members of the Labour party. You almost feel that he'd prefer Jeffrey Archer to Ken Livingstone.

You Said:

This whole issue shows that the Labour government is determined to stop the most charismatic figure in London politics from having a fair crack of the whip. Ken should stand as an independent, and face Jeffrey Archer in a fair fight.
Grant Floyd, Littlehampton

Mayor for London is a farce. There should be a referendum for Londoners to decide who they want. A non-political person should run for mayor of London.
Elaine Walters, London

Surely when you have a prime minister who creates a rod for his own back by publicly showing his dissapproval for one of his own democratically elected MPs , then its only him that creates the mess. Playing into the hands of both Ken Livingstone and the opposition. Its surprising how he has remained unvocal about each and every one of the 50 or so MPs that voted against him in the disabilty bill recently. After all each and every one of them were elected on the labour ticket. Something he would rather quickly forget.
Tony Kindred, Birmingham

Doesn't the Labour party realise that Conservatives are happy with Ken because he will cause problems for Labour. Conservatives like myself respect Ken Livingstone more than Tony Blair who is a conservative as far as I can understand.
Debi Provenzale, Goring

It's all very well discussing the merits of a London Mayor, but what about the other 48 million in the UK that the issue does not concern? Is the election of a Mayor of London not just a Labour attempt to have even more power over the UK? I think this is why they fear Ken Livingstone - there is no control over what he says - unlike the 'Blair puppet' that is Frank Dobson.
Robert McGregor, Udny, Aberdeenshire

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North-South divide

Audience Question: In the light of the recent rate rise, has the economy of the North has been forgotten?

Jonathan Edwards: I've adopted the North-East, and wouldn't live anywhere else. Our MPs need to shout our corner. A lot of the wealth creation is based in the South.

Malcolm Bruce: The North should have its own elected assembly. People here are caught between London and Scotland which has its own parliament. Giving the regions a counter-balance to the pull of London is important. The Bank of England needs a more regional structure. Manufacturing jobs are being lost because of the strength of the pound and the high interest rates here compared to the continent.

Mo Mowlam: We have made sure the economy is stable. You can't force Fujitsu to stay if they want to relocate.

David Willetts: Labour says that the economy is booming. But it's a different picture in the North. On the South coast we are told we have to have more house building. But we would rather have jobs spread around the regions. It's in manufacturing that unemployment has risen. The tax burden has been rising for UK businesses.

Deborah Orr: This is a microcosm of what is happening in a globalised world. At the end the rich get richer.

You Said:

I feel that it is about time that the Government set out some body to investigate the true unemployment figures. They continually tell us that unemployment is falling but I feel the truth of the matter is that the majority of employed people are working for employment agencies who are getting pay a minimum wage and have no or little self esteem, no prospects along with no long term future. Then they wonder why crime is so high.
Matthew Price, Brigg, North Lincolnshire

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Ian Brady's right to live or die

Audience Question: Should Ian Brady be rewarded with death or punished by life?

Deborah Orr: Yes.

Jonathan Edwards: As a Christian I would preserve the sanctity of life. Who knows what the future holds for his life?

Mo Mowlam: If he's not of a reasonable state of mind he should be kept alive until he can make a decision.

David Willetts: At the moment he is regarded as being mentally ill. That is why he is being force-fed. We have to have a policy agreed by doctors.

Malcolm Bruce: It's not entirely clear what he wants. Is he seeking attention? Who cares whether he lives or dies?

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Will the IRA decommission?

Audience Question: Is there any realistic chance of the IRA decommissioning its weapons.

David Willetts: There's certainly not a guarantee but David Trimble believes that you can proceed a step at a time. If decommissioning does not happen the Unionists can say we gave them the benefit of the doubt and it would be clear who is in the wrong.

Jonathan Edwards: Yes, they will decommission. We mustn't forget that David Trimble has been a hard-line Unionist and has put his head on the line. The ball is firmly in the IRAs court.

Malcolm Bruce: You have to hold your nose and hope. We have to back the politicians of both sides. If they fail the world won't forgive them

Deborah Orr: The IRA are a strange mixture of sentimentality and cruelty. They wouldn't be the IRA anymore without their weapons. We're going to have to roll with it to get compromise.

Mo Mowlam: You mustn't forget there are two sides to the violence, the IRA and the Loyalist paramilitaries. They haven't fought over a united Ireland. Neither side has been mollycoddled. We've come a long way and in the end we will have saved hundreds of lives. It is the Unionists' last chance in this round. The people of Northern Ireland want peace. My heart is with them.

You Said:

I think that the unionists should grasp this opportunity for peace with both hands and take a risk. For it may be the last chance for peace ever my country will have.
Lee-Anne McClure, Belfast

To support the transition following an agreement, has it been considered to invite an EU partner state to help police the province until the dust is settled? It is clear that a lot of bad feeling exists between the forces of order and the people. Using an external force (UN/NATO type peacekeepers) would allow the British army to withdraw without the law-abiding people feeling naked. Living in Europe for 18 years has convinced me that we should help our neighbours in certain cases where local people lose their trust in the normal forces of order. (Eg Basque country, Corsica).
G Jones, Bremen, Germany

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Homelessness and kindness

Audience Question: Can the perpetuation of homelessness be blamed on well-meaning people?

Malcolm Bruce: Giving people soup doesn't solve the problem of homelessness. The system has made people homeless and many people are not able to solve the problem alone. Young people are denied access to the housing list and affordable council housing is being sold and not replaced.

Deborah Orr: I agree, but having a Rough Sleepers' Unit only addresses one symptom of a much broader structural problem.

Jonathan Edwards: Lots of people give huge amounts of time to help the homeless. Mother Theresa was also accused of the same thing.

Mo Mowlam: I'm in charge of the Rough Sleepers' Unit and on the board of the Big Issue. They provide sensible help to get people off the streets. We can't stop human kindness but as a government we have a combination of things we have to do.

David Willetts: The attack on the Big Issue was a serious mistake because it's trying to help people into jobs. I'm not sure this joined-up government is going to solve it. It's a complicated issue.

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Cherie Blair's clothing allowance?

Audience Question: Should Cherie Blair have a clothing allowance?

Deborah Orr: If she wants to, on a salary of 200,000 a year, she can certainly afford 20,000 on clothes.

Jonathan Edwards: The prime minister's wife should wear the kinds of things all of us wear. You don't have to have 700 dresses to look nice.

Mo Mowlam: (On the announcement that Mrs Blair is expecting a baby:) To Tony and Cherie, if you're watching, I'm terribly happy for you both and for the rest of the family. I didn't know. She shouldn't have a clothing allowance. She hasn't asked for one. But she sometimes has to dress well when she represents Britain abroad. It's just another one of those good news stories.

Malcolm Bruce: It's good to have your own baby to kiss, it saves kissing other people's.

David Willetts: I read that Posh Spice buys her clothes from a local shop much more cheaply than Cherie Blair does.

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