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Question Time Vote 2001
Charles Kennedy
Charles Kennedy

At 41, Charles Kennedy has finally come into the inheritance almost every pundit predicted for him. He had been favoured early because of the strengths he still shows - his easy, genial charm, his apparent common sense and unflappability, his wry inability to take himself too seriously.

This evening he faced questions from a studio audience. Then, in the first of a series of three webcasts, a panel of experts gave their verdict on how the leader of the Liberal Democrats performed.

Select the link below to watch the webcast

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The big question asked of Kennedy is how far he is an undercover ally of the prime minister, rather than a critical and wholly independent leader. Though he likes Mr Blair, he has a less close relationship with the prime minister than Paddy Ashdown enjoyed.

Party activists, always and naturally suspicious on this point, are likely to give him the benefit of the doubt - his two spells as Lib Dem president and his energetic local campaigning have given him closer ties with his party than his recent predecessors.

In the end, future relations with Labour will be dictated by how well or badly the two parties need one another after the next election, and not by personal chemistry.

A selection of your questions:

With the turnout for the forthcoming general election predicted to be one of the lowest ever, does Mr Kennedy agree that PR should have a much higher profile in the LibDem manifesto as it would give those in supposedly "safe" seats a greater incentive to vote, if it was introduced?
Lee Kuczer, Manchester

Is Mr Kennedy worried by the fact that many students are disillusioned with the Scottish Liberal Democrats after they promised to abolish tuition fees and have only really deferred the payment just so his party could obtain a share of power in the current Scottish Executive?
Sarah Browne, Forfar, Scotland

With his promise to repeal Section 28 and a promise to bring in an Equality Act does he feel this will bring an end to discrimination?
Kevin Moore, Gateshead

With the Lib-Dems now in coalition, and tactical voting on the increase, do you not feel that some voters now feel that a vote for your party is simply a vote for Labour?
Stephen Gordon, Glasgow

Does Charles Kennedy believe that the electorate would ever bring his party to government whilst he maintains a rise in taxes?
Neil Smith, York

Given Mr Kennedy's recent admission that the Lib Dems are unlikely to form the next government, can he seriously expect voters in LibDem-Tory marginal seats, who are dissatisfied with the Labour government, to vote for his party, when it is the Conservative party that has the only real chance of removing this Labour government from office?
Mr Craig Bolton, Cambridge

Why vote Lib Dem when we'll just end up getting Labour?
Antony Little, Norwich

In the 1997 General Election campaign, Paddy Ashdown made a pledge for a UK Bill of Rights. Do you think this has been fulfilled by the legislation of the Human Rights Act? Is the Act right for Britain or is it grossly flawed?
Michael Shaw, Sheffield

What is your view on the United States' 'son of star wars' policy, would you support or boycott it?
Jonathan Barker, Hull

Is it not naive to think a penny on income tax will solve all our country's problems?
Jonathan Heard, Yateley

Is Mr Kennedy worried by the way the British public seem to desire higher public spending, yet are unwilling to finance it through tax increases, such as the 1p increase on the basic rate of income tax that he has proposed?
James Pike, Sheffield

Your party in Scotland claimed to have abolished tuition fees but have you not merely renamed them as students will still 'pay' in the future anyway?
Boyce Franks, Livingston

Do you believe that the Liberal Democrats can only become the main party of opposition if you dump your unpopular support of the euro?
Kevin Rainey, Birmingham

What can the Lib Dems do in Westminster to counter the government's illiberal policies on issues such as drugs and asylum?
Allan Forrester, Westray, Orkney

Charles Kennedy has shown himself to be a charismatic leader and uniquely an MP in touch with the people. Is this talent wasted with a third party with no real hope of forming a government?
Brian A Butler, Manchester

What is your stance on the legalisation of cannabis?
Sarah Corley, Leicestershire

The Tories are the only party fighting the demise of the democratic process within this country by speaking out against Labour policy. When will Mr Kennedy start to also offer some opposition to Mr Blair as opposed to being a Tony 'crony'?
John Whiley, Loughton, Essex

If you believe in democracy why do you not encourage the government to ask the electorate a simple Yes/No question - "Do you wish to become a state in the United States of Europe"?
John O'Byrne, Bristol

Why have the Liberal Democrats under your leadership descended into a party of no ideas and lots of ignorant rantings about the other parties?
Maurice, Lincoln

Your idea is a noble one of putting 1p on income tax, for investment in education, but what ceiling of tax rises are you proposing when you find that 1p is not enough ?
Russell Albert, Chislehurst


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