Find out what you had to say about the Question Time Leaders' Special on Thursday, 28 April, 2005.
Questions for Charles Kennedy:
Questions for Michael Howard:
Questions for Tony Blair:
The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received:
Questions for Charles Kennedy
Audience question: How am I to understand your economic policies when you don't, and if you do, can't explain them coherently?
25% of the population pays more tax? Honest perhaps (if only the others were!), but not exactly a vote winner.
Typical South East, complaining about how hard done by they are. Don't hear much sympathy for the higher fuel prices and higher ancillary costs of living in rural areas. Get over it - people in the south east have it easy and cheap.
Darren Johnston, London
Mr Kennedy doesn't realise that with the cost of living here in the South East, those 'rich' people earning over £30,000 will be forced into middle class poverty by his local income tax!
Mick , Horsell, Surrey
My wife & I would be equal with the Lib Dem local taxation. However, we have three young adults living at home trying to save for a mortgage. Under Lib Dem policy we will be significantly worse off and they will never be in a position to get their own homes!
Tim Levers, Northwich
As one half of a couple earning over £42k, where neither of us has a degree (or want one, thanks very much), neither of us has elderly relatives, and I work for the NHS, I would just like to say; Charles Kennedy, you have my vote, and I am looking forward to putting my x in that box.
Claire Taylor, Oxford
I live in the South East. I pay more council tax than I do income tax on my small company pension. Surely that speaks volumes about how unjust the current system is. I want to vote for the party that has put up their hand and say Council Tax it's wrong. Therefore if you can trust a party to sort out National issues then you can trust them with international issues.
Malcolm Bennett, Swanley Kent
The benign economy Kennedy talks about is thanks to a very healthy economy inherited from the Conservatives 8 years ago
Richard Brown, London
Do your plans of how much 50% tax on earners above 100,000 pounds will bring to the state, assume that any of the high earners will use accountants to find ways to not have to pay that top rate? If not, surely your plans are fantasy economics?
Cecil Turnpike, Welwyn
Isn't it amazing that the moment Charles Kennedy gets asked a string of two consecutive testing questions on the economy, he stops talking about his own parties policies and instead turns to attacking the policy of others.
Adrian Cooper, Brighton
Why does Charles Kennedy think it's fair that people earning over £100K pay for benefits of people who can't be bothered to pull their finger out? Wouldn't it be more to the point to cut/freeze benefits to encourage people to go back to work?
P Doddrell, St Mabyn
Instead of increasing tax why not reduce public expenditure?
Paul Meyer, Hastings
£27,000 an average wage in the south east... How do people then afford an average house of over £200,000?
Audience question: If you were to go ahead with plans to withdraw British troops from Iraq, how would you guarantee the security of Iraqis?
Mr Kennedy has just said the most important thing about Iraq in three years - that the alternative to the war was an implosion of the regime. Does he think this would have been good for the Iraqi people or middle east stability? He should have been challenged and made to clarify this point by David Dimbleby.
Mike , London
Charles Kennedy uses the grief and loss of those who have lost relatives in Iraq to score over Tony Blair. Kennedy is a disgrace who claim to be honest when he isn't
Why does Dimbeley allow Kennedy to get away with saying that his party was the ONLY party in Westminster to oppose the war. Both Plaid Cymru and the SNP were more consistent in their opposition to the war than the Lib Dems. This shows that the Lib Dems are as dishonest as the other two parties!
Iolo ap Gwynn, Aberystwyth
Audience question: What is your view on claims that your policies of free long-term health care for the elderly and abolishing tuition fees are pandering to the middle classes?
Why should I, and every other tax payer pay for students to go to university, when they will see the financial benefit at the end of their course, with better, higher paid jobs? If they are not going to get higher paid jobs, why are they be going to university?
Andrew Thompson, Sunderland
Mr Kennedy talks of a fair society, how can it be fair for a person who works a 40 hour week, never been to university, but should subsidise a student studying a Mickey Mouse degree?
Much is made of the question of tuition fees, however it is the Student loan which actually causes the students the most problem, what would you do to help them clear what would be around £15k debt on leaving university?
Cathy Hendrie, Grantham
With regard to student top up fees why not reduce the over inflated allowances and pensions the politicians pay themselves and put that money into endowment policies for students
Andrew Smith, Chippenham
The Lib Dems did not abolish tuition fees in Scotland. Jim Wallace has had to admit that Scottish students would be £2,000 worse off if the Lib Dems got in in England.
J McKay, Glasgow
Audience question: In a hung parliament, would the Liberal Democrats form a coalition with Labour and would Tony Blair be PM?
If voting Lib Dem does not mean a coalition with Labour, why are they helping out the Labour party in governing Scotland?
J McKay, Glasgow
I think Charles Kennedy's answer was something along the lines of: his party doesn't agree with the voting system in England but does agree with the voting system in Scotland.
J Buchanan, London
How refreshing to hear a straight "no" in response to a question.
Liam Edgeley, Whitehaven
Questions for Michael Howard
Audience question: If your family were still in their country of origin, would you let them in to the UK?
My only concern is Mike Howard 's stance on immigration and asylum may fuel racial tension in communities. Does he acknowledge asylum seekers have a role towards the growth of Britain?
Emily Hickson, Rochdale
There is nothing more hideous than someone who has benefited from immigration to UK saying "now close the door behind me".
San Francisco, USA
Michael Howard is correct on asylum. England is not a bottomless pit of opportunity for economic migrants who dispossess the charitable intent of Britain to help real asylum cases.
IR Stevens, Worcester
Many other countries have very strict immigration rules ie skills, capital, language... Why shouldn't we?
Caroline Johnston, Gosport, Hants
What about asylum seekers that have got refused twice, but the country they are supposed to be sent back to is unsafe? What will happen to them?
Aisha Almanasir, Plymouth
People should listen to this guy... there's truth in what he says... unlike the next candidate.
Audience question: Calling people liars, raising potentially damaging issues over immigration - do you worry about the effect your negative campaign is having on our society?
I'm glad Mr Howard gives Labour a hard time - anyone in power should be highly scrutinized by the opposition.
Very disappointed with Michael Howard. His performance was again largely negative, much like the Conservatives whole campaign, and a complete turn-off for floating voters like me!
Roger Lapthorn, Cambridge
The Tory negative campaign will stop me voting for them. It's not as if their last government was perfect!
Howard, playing it dangerously. He should stop talking about Blair and talk about his policies.
You may not like what Michael Howard's saying, but give me his blunt honesty over Blair's spin and lies any day.
Bill Watts, Nottingham
Audience question: Would Mr Howard and the Conservatives have supported the Iraq War, had they known then what they know now?
Howard's view on the war is the most principled. Kennedy is an opportunist and Blair a liar.
How can he berate Blair, whilst saying he too would have gone to war?
Michael Howard says if he knew then what we know now, he would still have invaded Iraq. Surely it is up to the UN to determine when a state is in breach of a resolution, and it is not legal for a pair of rogue states to stage an invasion.
Oh dear...I was seriously considering the Tories until Michael Howard's dismal performance this evening, crowned by his astonishing admission that, despite criticising Tony Blair endlessly over Iraq, he still fully supports the invasion. The last chance saloon can lock up now: Mr Howard has left the building.
John Brownie, Wakefield
The twists and turns of the Iraq argument are just too complex for a British public which views it in terms of black and white.
Howard has blown it here tonight. His Iraq war segment was weak and confused. I don't want him in control any more than I want Blair!
How can Mr Howard tell us Mr Blair wrong about Iraq when he freely admits he would do the same?
Michael Howard is stumbling over his Iraq answers.
Dennis, Seattle, Washington USA
Audience question: If there is a moral case for lower taxation, why are you proposing such small reductions in tax?
How will the savings that taxpayers will make in their salary reflect against what they will be paying for privatised public services which will result from an under funding of public services?
Oliver Betts, Lincoln
He says he'll spend as much on education and health and also cut taxes. He messed it up in the 90s and I don't believe him.
Jeremy, Nottingham University
How does Michael Howard and his party propose to pay for all their tax cuts and increased spending, without having to increase any taxes and can he explain what he would do if their economic forecasts do not work out?
Audience question: How will your subsidisation of private healthcare give "greater choice for patients" when only those who can afford it will be able still to go private?
Howard complains about nurses leaving the health service but one of the reasons is folk like him criticising us all the time. He has gone on about MRSA but it was his government who started putting cleaning services to outside firms who were only in it for the money and had/have no pride in providing a good service.
He is the last person to be criticising nurses when he himself shook hands with patients without cleaning his hands, I also saw a pic of him sitting on a patient's bed, an absolute no-no long before we had MRSA.
I would like to know why Mr Howard is now saying "bring back matron", when it was actually the last Conservative government that took the matrons out of the NHS.
Alison Durr, Stockport
Mr Howard's proposal to fund half the cost of private treatment will give doctors a perverse incentive to keep waiting lists long to ensure adequate number of customers. As waiting lists get shorter there is less private work for doctors who also work in the NHS - shouldn't we encourage this?
Sue Humphries, York
It was Mr Howard's party that got our NHS into a state where it was nearly all privatised in the 80s.
Lin Swords, Stanford le Hope
Questions for Tony Blair
Attorney General's opinion
Audience question: Why did you consider it inappropriate to give the Cabinet the benefit of the Attorney General's full opinion regarding the legality of military action against Iraq?
Let's be honest the Iraq war as an election issue doesn't bother me, even though I disagreed with it at the time. Mr Blair was elected as PM and will inevitably have to make decisions that some of us do not agree with, Mr Howard has said the Tories would have gone to war as well. Let's concentrate on the issues that matter, Health, Education, Europe and the Economy all of which Labour are streets ahead of the Tories.
Blair defends the absence of the full document in Cabinet, on grounds that the Attorney General was present!? Cabinet briefings MUST be complete and documented, not partial and verbal. If juries get the TRUTH, THE WHOLE TRUTH & NOTHING BUT - why not Cabinet? It says much that Blair chooses to govern on the basis of Chinese whispers.
Iman I Khandaker, Watford
Are we ever going to hear the Prime Minister apologise for misleading the British public in to going to war in Iraq or is he going to remain defensive? I am glad I am not voting in this election!
Denise Mahoney, Missisuga, Canada
Mr Blair is quite right; regime change is perfectly legal. With a bit of luck he may discover this next Thursday!
Herbert Goldberg, Harrow, Middx
One suspects that Tony Blair intentionally only wanted the Attorney General to speak to the Cabinet "in person" about the legality of the war with no "written legal documentation" so that it would not be leaked. If it had been leaked, it would have undermined the whole sales pitch for going to war.
James Christopher, London
I think Blair is now trying to justify the unjustifiable. The innocent cannot be targeted when the guilty are out of reach. Thus, Iraq was a mistake, the nation has realised this and now he has to too!
Robin Patrick, Hampstead
It's infuriating listening to Blair trying to convince us and himself that he didn't lie about Iraq. I am so angry.
Mr Blair says the Attorney General made a "reasonable case" for war. Any lawyer will make a reasonable case for his client.
Frank Lund, Shirrell Heath near Southampton
Audience question: What new stealth taxes do you plan to introduce first?
Tony Blair said that his government had to put up national insurance to pay for the health service. National insurance was supposed to pay for (much needed) pensions. This is a clear admission that national insurance is just income tax by another name, and the rate went up.
George Marriage, Chelmsford
As a medical student, whose parents are both NHS consultants, I can assure Mr Blair that he is talking a lot of nonsense re: the NHS. It's getting worse, not better!
Mr Blair, if the health service is so good why was a pensioner forced to take her teeth out with a pair of pliers?
Pete Gill, Telford
Audience question: I wondered if you could clarify what you meant in your 2001 manifesto when you said: "We will not introduce top-up fees and have legislated to prevent them"?
Yes Mr Blair is right, we will pay after we graduate, and medical students, working for his NHS, will be paying £15,000. CRAZY!
General comments on the programme
David Dimbleby said the programme marked the first time the three party leaders had been brought together on television in this way. This is not true. It happened 26 years ago. On 30.4.79 a Granada World in Action programme brought together the three party leaders of the time in front of a studio audience in the Question Time format. The order in which the three appeared followed the same pattern. David Steel appeared first as leader of what was then called the Liberal Party, then Margaret Thatcher as Leader of the Opposition and, finally, James Callaghan as Prime Minister.
Peter Tomlinson, England
The issues discussed are trivial. What about world poverty, global warming, international terrorism, HIV/aids, the EU, relations with the US.....
Michael Howard is definitely the best speaker, and the way he addresses people makes him come across as confident and honest. Unlike the other two who look nervous and unsure of the audience, and close to losing it at any point.
Joanne Sewell, Bedford
Up until tonight I was unsure where my vote was going to go, but now I have decided it will not be going to Michael Howard, he criticises Labour for the war, yet agrees he would have done the same, he also criticises Labour for their tax increases then admits the Conservatives will raise tax in a back handed way. One word sums up this man - hypocrite. The best bet is to vote Labour, better the devil you know.
Lee Pearson, Wolverhampton
I was pleased to see a robust performance from Charles Kennedy. I did feel sorry for Mr Blair in one respect when he was quizzed about patients being unable to get advanced appointments at GPs. This has been mostly a decision taken by GP practices to cut down on the huge number of missed appointments. The current system of only being able to book the same day or maximum 48 hours in advance is working very well and increasing availability of GP appointments. If you are that bothered about your health you will make the appointment at that time. Many GPs will now fear the PM "looking into it".
Dr Andrew Curphey, Glossop
I do hope the PM investigates the issue that came up in Question time as he said he would. We cannot book an appointment to see our GP. We have to ring at 9am to see what time we can see the doctor on that day. For people who have jobs this is clearly ridiculous.
Richard John, London
Oh dear, looks like Blair suffered from the "Richard Nixon effect", sweating from the questioning when none of the other party leaders did. And add to that, we find out thanks to Dimbleby that it was Blair that chickened out of having a proper three way debate on Question Time. Speaks volumes.
Mark Smith, Dover
We are taking for granted all that Labour has done for this country in the past 8 years.
Abso-bloody-lutely brilliant! Can someone please give David Dimbleby a big sloppy kiss from me for pinning the PM down on the Butler Report and tax pledges! Fantastic! But d'you think the Emperor now realises he's wandering round in the buff?
Tony Blair got quite a grilling, became very sweaty at the end. But overall for a man on the defence against a hostile crowd he did very well.
Shocking to think that our leader doesn't even know that you can no longer book an appointment at your doctors in advance. They tell you to phone at 8:30 on day you wish appointment and cross your fingers you get through before they are fully booked.
As a viewer from America who watched over the internet, I have to say that I was very impressed with the three party leaders. You rarely get that kind of in-depth talk and give-and-take from our politicians. If you don't believe me, watch George W. Bush's live press conference this evening and you'll see the difference. Unlike some of your viewers, I think the Question Time format was probably better than a regular US-style debate. Or, you could have had Question Time plus a US-style debate. Anyway, thanks for making the BBC so accessible.
Mary Anne Baumgartner, Boston, USA
David Dimbleby was awesome in moderating the discussion between party political leaders. Too often the BBC is timid and afraid to ask difficult questions. One reservation: a shame that there was no mention, from Mr. Dimbleby, the audience, or the politicians of the tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis who have died sine the illegal invasion.
Mike O' Driscoll, London
I can assure the Prime Minister that my own GP and surgery, with several thousand patients, also only allows appointments to be made within a 48 hour period, ensuring maximum inconvenience and least flexibility. Why does the PM not know this, when we have all had to work to this target of his making for at least the last year??
Robert Winter, Wendover
PM's performance was the best - and the hostile element in the audience ensured that. His passion on education and health were clear to see as was his defence of his decision to go to war in Iraq. This was in stark contrast to the wishy washy comments made by the other two leaders.
P Dass, walthamstow
Thought the programme was excellent, was great to see Tony Blair squirm over Iraq! After this programme I think I've now changed by voting preference from Labour to the Lib Dems.
Jim Riches, Newcastle upon Tyne
David Dimbleby presided over a lynch mob of whining, griping people
who have never been so well off thanks to the Labour government
Frankly they do not deserve a decent man like Mr Blair.
Well done Mr Blair for keeping your cool and giving sensible persuasive answers when faced with such a foolish ignorant abusive audience
Mark, Canterbury, UK
What a disappointing Question Time! Is it true , as Dimbleby suggested, that Tony Blair was the one who refused to meet in the normal panel format? That fact, if so, should be public knowledge.
David Clarke, Teignmouth
Michael Howard is a very straight talker - and he is certainly saying what I and many others are thinking
Peter Brightman, London
I am a supporter of Michael Howard, but I would like to thank Mr Blair and Mr Kennedy for putting themselves through a tough audience with great questions and widening the political debate, may it encourage everyone in the country to grasp the freedom we are lucky to have in the UK and vote next week in one of the world's great democracies.
Mark Adams, Hook, Hampshire
Why is there no-one in the audience with grey hair? What about all of us over 60s who would like to have a say?
Sarah Macnab, London
Executive Editor Ric Bailey responds to viewers' concerns about the profile of the audience:
Why does Mr Dimbleby keep interrupting the three panellists without letting them answer. Secondly whilst an asylum seeker who identified himself in the audience may have a vote in years to come, why are they in the audience on this ocassion. It's voters that count.
Mark Williams, nr Northwich
The Leaders of the parties should all have been asked the same questions so that we could make an informed decision on their answers. The questions should not have been relevant to their party manifestos, we already know what their stances are on those!
Mrs Dorothy Hubert, Horsham
Is this a student union debate?
Where are the middle England voters in the over-50 yrs. group? Are their questions not relevant to the leaders?
Mr. R. Starkey, Kendal
All three in the same building and the BBC can't even get them sat next to each other so we can compare who has the most hair!
VERY impressed with Charles Kennedy on QT tonight: sanity and honesty in a politician for once - thank you Charles and good luck next week.
Roger Lapthorn, Cambridge
I think Charles Kennedy just won my vote
Jack B, London, London
What happens if Mr Kennedy has another 'family issue' during a national crisis as Prime Minister. International issues don't wait for paternity leave!
Charles Kennedy is on good form. Paxman nowhere to be seen...
He should be called Cop Out Kennedy
Thanks for putting this on the internet - I can sit watching this in Turkey, which is great!
I am disgusted that the BBC has allowed the politicians to change the format of the programme. They should all be on together. A sad day for the BBC.
I am interested in what parties outside of the Big Three have to say. Where are the leaders of the Greens and UKIP?
Why oh why have Question Time changed the format of the program and missed a fantastic opportunity to have all 3 party leaders around the table at the same time ? This does not lend itself to serious debate, but just gives the leaders yet another chance to chant their usual messages to the public. I may be cynical, but I'm sure you are probably going to tell me that they would not agree to it ! Shame on them.
Edward Croote, Merseyside
Is there anybody in the audience over 35. All comments seem to be addressed to younger people.
T Mellis, Epping
Why won't the leaders of the main parties agree to be in a debate where all of them are present together? (That's the serious question - a debate outside the privileged confines of the Houses of Parliament would be very illuminating).
Or, is this refusal perchance an extra measure to limit the spread of MRSA?
Julie Sutherland, Insch, Scotland
It's good to see the main party leaders willing to answer the public's questions.
I think it is time for Charles Kennedy to have a go at running the country, as Labour and the Tories haven't done us any good, so let's give someone else a turn. I say vote Liberal.
D Jones, Bolton, Lancs
I am currently in Switzerland from where I will be posting my vote. For the first time in my life I find myself a "floating voter", yet I need to vote immediately to ensure my vote arrives with the returning officer in time to be counted. The BBC Question Time with all three leaders is absolutely invaluable and I cannot thank you enough for making it available online. This alone is worth my licence fee.
Domino Joyce, UK
With 11 million pensioners in this Country where is your suggested cross section of the electorate.
The BBC is kidding the electorate that a representative audience is in the studio.
11 million is a sizeable proportion and you have denied full and proper representation in the programme
John Hall, Manchester
It is a shame that the three leaders could not step out of their comfort zone and engage with each other in a three-way public debate. What are their reasons against such a format?
Paul Sidle, London
This is great.
The clamour for the US-style "televised debate" has finally had a positive outcome. This should have received more publicity along those lines. Thank you, candidates, for providing this.
Peter Carrol, Hornchurch
Kennedy is making sense and showing himself as a level-headed compassionate leader
Lydia Mason, Braintree
This is a 90-minute party political broadcast, not a true Question Time.
Duncan Monro, Burgess Hill
At last Charles Kennedy is showing the fighting spirit needed to win this election - he now has my vote. Best of luck.
Robbie Graham, Crawford, Scotland
I am disgusted that the BBC has allowed the politicians to change the format of the programme. They should all be on together. A sad day for the BBC.
This election has been considered the dullest ever, with predictions of the lowest turn-out in history....why are people more interested in David Beckham than politics?
As much as I've enjoyed watching the Leaders' Special, I'm quite annoyed with the fact that the presenter, David Dimbleby, keeps directing the audience and censoring the questions he doesn't want to see answered, even if they are of interest to the audience and viewers. For a programme that should be objective, it seems that Mr. Dimbleby is trying to put forward his own agenda.
Dimitri Provias, Canterbury
Michael Howard just looks like he is squirming compared to Mr Kennedy. Are you thinking what I'm thinking?
What's the difference between Labour and Conservative at the moment?
Why no relevant questions on taxes, Europe or health? A very biased programme with a loaded audience.
Martin Zak, London
There are more plants in your audience than in my garden. I wonder if Dimbleby will help roll out the red carpet for Blair. It certainly looks that way; he should be totally unbiased.
Jean Ross, North Weald
Please could Dimbleby STOP rudely interrupting and allow the candidates to answer?
David Dimbleby is magnificent in the chair: he won't let the politician off the hook, but can remain direct and impartially challenging without hectoring or sneering. He is exceptionally good at managing the "loose cannon" of the audience - give him a pay rise!
Frances Laking, London
I wouldn't have predicted that Blair would be the least impressive of the three - he looks so shaky.
I have listened to the three main parties speak of the help they will provide to the elderly, young, sick , and families - what are they doing to assist the rest of us ie people in their 30s who can't afford to have a family without living in poverty or buy a house in the current inflated market? (or are we here to work and provide for everyone else?)
Tara Curtis, Sevenoaks
Tony Blair, even after the last eight years of doubt, is still the most trustworthy politician I have ever known and will back him until the end. A humanitarian first, a politician second.
Poor Tony Blair. I don't support him, but do feel sorry for him! I do hope this debate will show everyone that Howard is the one to support.
The audience in today's programme had no businessmen. It seems to be all teachers, students, nurses and others but nobody representing the net taxpayer in this country of which there are very few. Perhaps they are too busy working LATE TO PAY ALL THE OTHERS WAGES.
Jeremy Taylor, Ayr
Tony Blair is all sweaty and clammy. Can we just have some compliments from his leadership for once? I think there is a grain of achievement in his regime. Give the man a break!
Kate Thornton, Millhill, London
This is the saddest election in history.
People should just not vote to show those clowns we do not want them.
Tony, wipe your brow!
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