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

February 24, Leeds

This week the panellists were:

  • Gerald Kaufman MP, chairman, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee
  • Andrew Lansley MP, Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office
  • Peter Ridsdale, chairman, Leeds United Football Club
  • Ruth Turner, co-founder, Big Issue North
  • Edwina Currie, novelist and broadcaster

The topics discussed were:

What Ken did next

Audience Question: What would the panel advise Ken Livingstone to do next?

Gerald Kaufman: What I advise him to do now is what I would have advised him to do 20 years ago: show a bit of loyalty and be a team player. Mr Livingstone has never to my knowledge advocated one member, one vote.

Edwina Currie: My instinct is that Ken should stand because we'll have a much livelier debate and Steve Norris would get in by splitting the Labour vote.

Peter Ridsdale: I would encourage Ken Livingstone to stand because there is a sense amongst the electorate that it hasn't been done in the proper way.

Ruth Turner: I've heard to much about Ken Livingstone and not enough about the policies. A lot of people who have lost interest in local politics felt that there could be a direct, accountable link between an individual and their cities.

Andrew Lansley: The Conservatives don't want Ken to stand because if he should win it will be very damaging for London. Ken should stick with what he originally said and not stand.

You said:

Why does PM Blair seem to be under the impression that he has supreme authority to be as dictatorial as he likes, when the country clearly voted not for him but for the Labour party. Clearly the Labour party stands for something different for Mr. Blair. Livingstone is the first choice for labour members and labour voters in London. Is he not?
Sandra Carr

How can an AA man who lives with mother in a council flat, is unable to pass a driving test after 6 attempts, and is unable to determine that half of 3/8 is 3/16, really be a serious contender for mayor of London?

It is absolutely deplorable that New Labour had imported Old Labour's archaic electoral college if they profess to be a progressive party. The other thing I can't understand is that if Tony Blair is the Leader of New Labour which is suppose to be a Broad Church why has he openly canvassed on this occasion for Frank Dobson? The majority of people of London want Ken Livingstone as their Mayor because of his honesty and integrity. The same causes he supported as Leader of the GLC, which were considered to be Loony Left policies, are now sanctioned by New Labour as correct.
Roy Aubrey Joseph

I agree that we have heard enough about Ken Livingstone. I don't want him to win really (I'd vote for Kramer or Norris at the moment), and I think at least Dobson would work with governmental co-operation. Devolution is not about creating conflict between central government and the devolved authority.
David White

I am starting to get fed up with the London-based media dominating the output with extensive coverage of the politics of their own back yard. I would very much doubt that Ken Livingstone or the whole election issue would get very much coverage if it was going on in Leeds or Manchester.
Andrew Stone

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Prosecuting violent footballers

Audience Question: Would the panel agree that criminal assaults on the football pitch should be prosecuted just as they are with the public?

Peter Ridsdale: Defining a criminal assault is difficult. The officials on the field should be allowed to undertake their own duties. The media blow these things out of all proportion. We've got be very careful before we have policemen come running onto the field. There are more families going to watch football today than ever before.

Andrew Lansley: It is possible to play fairly and toughly. But after all it is a contact sport. Football's got to sort itself out. It's not a role for government to sort it out.

Ruth Turner: It's not an accident that violence on the pitch is reflected in the crowds. This is supposed to be a family game and the same kind of effort has to made as that in anti-racist campaigns, to rid the game of violence on and off the pitch.

Gerald Kaufman: When I was a fan of Leeds United as a child we had a game in which gentlemen played. We now have a cult of celebrity. It's up to football to regulate itself.

Edwina Currie: It's not money, it's the culture and the management of the game.

You said:

Please congratulate Peter Ridsdale on his performance under considerable unfair and ill-informed criticism. I write as a qualified and experienced coach and referee, who has played football for over thirty years, and as a person who has watched professional football since 1956.

There is absolutely no doubt that the game is now faster and cleaner than it has ever been. To some extent, this means that the referees cannot cope with the pace any more. The sort of "brawls" that happened at Elland Road were regular occurrences in the 60s and 70s. What has increased is verbal abuse and intimidation of the referee. This verbal abuse and intimidation of officials was clearly present at the Man Utd/Middlesboro game and at other Man Utd games this season. (This is not disputed by the club). Yet they are not under investigation by the F.A. Nobody is quite sure why.
Pete Cluderay

As a former inspector in the Royal Hong Kong Police, I was taught that the law on this issue is clear. A person may strike another, and a person can consent to be struck, in sport when this falls within the rules of the game. Thus a boxer can hit an opponent without breaking the law, and a rugby player can make physical contact with another player, so long as these actions fall within the rules, or laws, of the particular sport. When physical contact occurs outside the rules of the sport, as assault has taken place - end of story. It is not up to the referees, or any other sports officials, to determine what action to take in these instances. In cases where an assault has clearly taken place, the police have a duty to charge the culprit. There does not need to be a complaint, either, for the police to charge; where the incident has been witnessed by others, or has been captured on TV for all to see, that is sufficient evidence to bring a criminal charge of assault.
Julian Williams

Isn't it about time that professional footballers had a license like a driver's license & when they do something silly they are given penalty points, until they reach ten & then they become disqualified from the professional game forthwith. A special panel should be formed to analyse video footage & dish out the points.
Nick Maughan

I think there is a conspiracy between Clubs that are worth a lot of money and Referees, I think it is disgraceful when half a team intimidates a referee, practically pushing him off the pitch, because they disagree with a decision. Do referees feel they have to be cautious who they book/send off, depending on their celebrity value, and the amount of revenue they earn for the club with fans. Also what kind of role do these footballers show to children who idolise them, when they abuse match officials so disgustingly?
Yvonne Dykes

I am only fourteen but I can already see the huge difference between the honest players of Sir Stanley Matthew's time and the players of today. Players are paid far too much nowadays and because of this they think that they can go flouncing around as if they are a god. I admire the skills of some of today's players, but I respect the attitude of players from the past far more.
Jonathan Smith

If football is to police itself, then please let it be in a sensible manner. Giving Stan Collymore community service in a school for his outrageous behaviour, makes him a hero figure to those children - it doesn't punish him. I think it is dreadful that players like him and Gazza are allowed to continue playing, when they have physically attacked women.

The football supporters at Wembley yesterday - Are they the intellectual wing of the Europhobic tendency?
Mr Knowles

At the time of Sir Stanley Matthews playing, Billy Wright married one of the Beverley Sisters, which was the equivalent of Beckham & Posh Spice today - without the huge salaries and higher pressures of the day. Why is there the difference on the field today compared to then?
Tony Emanuel

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Property too expensive even for Madonna

Audience Question: Madonna says she can't afford to buy a house in England. What hope is there for the rest of us?

Ruth Turner: There's not much hope for many of the homeless people I work with. The rents prevent people who often haven't any work experience.

Edwina Currie: In much of the South of England we're seriously overcrowded. We have to pay more. I'm not sure about building more. There's plenty of land available in many cities. But the property is very expensive.

Andrew Lansley: We're never going to have enough property so that it's affordable for everyone. The absolute level of prices is still less than it was a few years ago. The underlying problem is the distribution of economic activity. Regeneration of inner city areas and transport infrastructure are essential.

Gerald Kaufman: Home ownership is an aspiration to be fostered but the Tories ended the council house building programme ended totally. This government has started releasing capital receipts for the building of houses.

Peter Ridsdale: We need to get investment and jobs spread around the country. You can go to pockets around the country where there is no inward investment but the Bank of England are raising interest rates based solely on property inflation in the South.

You said:

Does Edwina Currie live in the real world! The waterfront apartments in Liverpool may cost 100K but to suggest equivalent property in London is the same price is ridiculous.
Daniel Guise

I have for many years been caught up in negative equity from the early 1990's. Speculation and greed led to unsustainable prices and the crash in prices was brutal and devastating for many people. Economists and "experts" didn't see the crash coming. It was said that this would never happen again. We are now "benefiting" from the rise in house prices - the price of our house having doubled in the last 3 years. However in reality nobody benefits - we can't afford to move up and I believe that once again exactly the same thing is happening. I can't even understand who the people are that can afford to pay 200,00 - 300,000 for fairly modest semi-detached houses. In many areas someone earning 30,000 would be lucky to afford a 2 bedroom flat. Teachers, nurses and even doctors cannot afford a modest semi in suburban London.
Julian Spurr

Whatever happened to starting with a flat then progressing to a house? A lot of people who want to be homebuyers want a house in a 'smart area'. They may have to drop their standards and start looking in areas where there is cheap affordable housing such as in Peckham which is where I first bought a flat before buying my present home.
Marie Burge, Bromley, Kent

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Railtrack and passenger safety

Audience Question: Are passengers safe to travel with Railtrack?

Andrew Lansley: Rail travel is still the safest form of travel. Safety has to be built in with the delivery of every company. It's not just about public or private. It's necessary to have an independent body which looks after safety.

Peter Ridsdale: Philosophical we need to have a sensible integration transport system run by the govt. The down side is that it never gets enough investment. I'm very disturbed that Railtrack still has

Gerald Kaufman: I only wish we could re-nationalise. But we would have to spend 5bn just to acquire the property. Then we would have to invest more money. The most serious error of all was separating the track from the trains. I was one of the last ministers to nationalise anything. But we do not have enough money to take it back.

Edwina Currie: The safety record now is better than they were when the railways were in public ownership. The safety record is very good. There are many more deaths on the road system.

Ruth Turner: Disasters are rare but serious when they do happen. I don't care who runs the trains. It's vital the government provide strong leadership and regulation.

You said:

How amazing that Gerald Kaufman was allowed to get away with that absurd comment about being the last minister to nationalise when everything that he mentioned ended up bankrupt or closed down!
Carl Gilbey-McKenzie

With all the performance-related penalties rail operators potentially face added to the commercial interests that drive Railtrack, how can we expect safety to be the ultimate consideration? Keeping in business is top of the operators' list and it would seem that dividends are at the top of Railtrack's. Isn't leaving safety with Railtrack like leaving Ronnie Biggs in charge of the mail trains?
Alan Coleman

I am a student from Birmingham, taking the train to college is proving too expensive even with a student fare. Why don't Railtrack and the train companies use some of the profits to reduce fares? Wasn't the point of privatisation to make things better not worse?
Richard Luckman

How can the safety of millions be placed in hands of an organisation which has shown utter contempt for the travelling public. Yet again, with the Paddington crash, Railtrack makes sure it puts Corporate profits ahead of basic safety. I would sooner give the safety monitoring to a local scout troop!
Simon M. Fox

Why have the railways been under-regulated by the HSE? As an example one HSE inspector dealing with construction can issue more legal notices and take more prosecutions than the whole of the Railway Inspectorate in London. Why?
John Davis

There have been other minor rail collisions since Railtrack took over and a very high percentage of train delays are caused by Railtrack's failures. Let us not forget that this company makes over 1 million a day yet rather than advertise safety improvements they erect large posters boasting about how much they are investing in stations and for spurious competitions such as "Station of the Year". The government should take action now, before more people are killed on our railways.
Jonathan Combe

The Southall Rail Crash train had a working ATC in the back cab. Why wasn't it turned round at Swansea? A major contributory factor is that it would take time to do, resulting in a late train. Many of the people who will advocate that safety should come first, are also very quick to claim for compensation when trains are late! Perhaps this modern desire to be compensated for any inconvenience, should also be cited as a cause of the accident! How about a change in the compensation rules: - If a train is cancelled or late for a safety issue, no compensation is paid. I'm in favour.
John Marshall, Swindon, UK

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An optional TV license fee?

Audience Question: 96% of voters in a poll today say the BBC license fee isn't worth the money. Surely it's time the license should be optional like Sky or cable?

Edwina Currie: Over 90% of people watch or listen to the BBC even when they don't know it, for example on local radio. The day will come when the license fee will vanish. But I hope Public Service Broadcasting doesn't disappear.

Ruth Turner: I think the BBC is worth it. It does provide some of the best programmes like this one. I'm glad they didn't introduce the digital fee.

Gerald Kaufman: The license is on its way out. Once pensioners aged 75 and over get it, pensioners over 65 will expect it, and then other people on low incomes will expect it. The BBC established and fostered the concept of Public Service Broadcasting. The real trailblazers are the commercial companies who have three million subscribers. The BBC will have to link up with commercial partners. I would like to see the licence fee come to an end.

Peter Ridsdale: If you look at the people paying three times as much as the license fee on satellite subscriptions and still complain about paying for their TV license, that says a lot.

Andrew Lansley: The BBC has a license fee that is too high and is going to grow. The BBC is the second best known brand name in the world after Coca-Cola. It doesn't exploit it nearly as much as it should.

You said:

In my view 2 a month per channel not including channel 5 is quite alright!

The government have just raised the TV licence by another 3 pounds. Why? European countries get it for free, and there are many programs that are made that the British viewer will never be able to see. For instance, BBC World and the new digital channels. Also, why should non-digital users subsidise digital users? Many homes in this country do not have, or want digital TV.
Brian Lee

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General comments on the programme:

"This government did this, that government did that," who cares? Can the current government just sort it out please?
Martin Banks

What a refreshing change to see the likes of Ruth Turner expressing thoughtful and reasoned arguments. It put the party political bickering of the two MPs to shame. I hope that she will be invited back on a future programme.
John Parker

Why, especially in the light of today's appalling news footage of the Russian atrocities in Chechnya, has the government and the UN not intervened in this humanitarian disaster when it was so quick to move in on Milosevic in the former Yugoslavia? Is the West just scared of the Russians?
Philip Leamon

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