A nice way to keep blogging frequency up, and convey my thoughts on multiple topics at the same time, would be to watch the BBC’s debate show, Question Time, and publish my thoughts on each of the questions, and on the pannelists debate itself. Enjoy…

BBC Question Time (Image from Wikipedia)

David Dimbleby chairs a debate in Tower Hamlets in east London. He is joined by a panel comprising of transport secretary Justine Greening; former leader of the Liberal Democrats, Paddy Ashdown; Labour’s shadow foreign secretary, Douglas Alexander; deputy first minister of Scotland and deputy leader of the Scottish National Party, Nicola Sturgeon; and Daily Mail columnist and former editor of the Sun, Kelvin MacKenzie.”

First broadcast : BBC One, 10:35PM Thu, 12 Jan 2012

Q: Nearly £33 billion is going to be spent on high speed rail… Is there really no better way you can spend our money?

HS2 is a contentious subject these days, and I’m not 100% on where I stand. On the whole, I think, as someone in the audience said, it’s a “nice to have” and not a neccessity. The cash would be far better spent on capacity and network coverage, improving road networks and airports in the North. An extra half an hour of travel time is not going to make that much of a difference to businesses…

Kelvin MacKenzie irritated me… I’m sorry for commuters into London, and yes, London and the South-East is the “economic powerhouse”, but in order to compete globally and have a fair country, we need our entire country working to its full potential.

Plus, his quip about “I don’t want to go to Paris” just seemed like blasé xenophobia, when none of the lines either in the South-East->London route, or the HS2 route go to Paris…

Paddy Ashdown, naturally, was the star. Referenced the original question, by name, gave an intelligent answer, not spouting populist hyperbole or party policy… I was interested to find that the budget in 2014-15 is just going to be transferred from another system, from Crossrail, so there’s no cost until then. Hopefully we can improve it in 2015-16. An intelligent response, considering short and long-term responses to issues.

I agreed with Greening that capacity is near-full on the current lines and we need new lines, not just more carriages… but this isn’t the best way to do it.

Q: Who would be worse off if the marriage breaks up, England or Scotland?

Quite glad to hear Dimbleby immediately destroy MacKenzie’s argument about the in-build Tory majority – Cameron wouldn’t have not needed to form a Coalition in 2010, and only one Labour government since the war needed Scottish MPs to support it.

Ulimately, the question shouldn’t be about economics, or legality or anything else. As Douglas Alexander said, it’s a question on “what we believe in who we are”. Identity is at stake here, and that has to be front-and-centre.

The argument from Unionists that we’re “stronger together than apart”, and that identity is less of a concern, is annoying me… because they take the SNP’s position on their relation to Britain when they talk about the EU, quite often. We are stronger in Europe than out, we have to have a central role there. We are able to take that position, and have an identity as both British and European. But no, they can’t accept that.

By the way, if the English get a vote in the referendum, I want all European states to have a referendum on Britain having a referendum.

Q: Can the tabloids survive the Leveson Inquiry?

Ashdown showed the world why he is simply divine when he said, “my worry is that tabloids will be the last to survive.” Too true – while the tabloids will wriggle their way out of any major reform, I fear more for the general economic stability of the print media…

Q: Should the NHS pay for the removal of potentially faulty breast implants purchased privately for cosmetic reasons?

Of course – in the case that the company genuinely cannot pay, after the government has seized and liquidated its assets, as with bankruptcy cases, I believe, and squeezed every penny out of them…

First stop must be the private companies – they sold a faulty product and have an obligation to their customers. If they cannot – then we have an obligation to patients.


Well, those were my thoughts on the first BBC QT of the year. I won’t be doing every week, but check back in for my thoughts during the year. Hope you enjoy them!