"If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or your arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen."

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Live: Trust In Politics Debate

Today it was the turn of Jo Coburn to sit alongside Andrew Neil in the 9th and final Daily Politics debate of the election campaign. On the rack were Harriet Harman, Leader of the House; Sir George Young, Shadow Leader of the House; Lynne Featherstone, LibDem ; Adam Price, Plaid Cymru.

Plaid Cymru: give Welsh Assembly full law-making powers; introduce the Single Transferable Vote; fixed-term parliaments; fully-elected House of Lords; reduce voting age to 16; reform expenses system.

LibDems: referendum on a written constitution; introduce the Single Transferable Vote; reform the House of Lords; cut number of MPs by 150; reduce number of Ministers; reduce voting age to 16.

Labour: allow voters to recall corrupt MPs; referendum on the Alternative Vote; fixed-term parliaments; referendum on reform of the House of Lords; allow voter petitions to trigger debates; free vote on votes for 16 & 17yr-olds.

Conservatives: allow voters to sack their MPs; cut number of MPs by 10%; publish online details of all government spending; give each vote equal value; allow voter petitions to trigger debates; British Bill of Rights; English votes for English laws.

Questions asked included:

Even before the expenses scandal, politicians were held in low esteem by the public. Why?
Given the overall answers I think we can look forward to endless future debates about abolishing the 'men in tights', archaic customs and speech, the adversarial layout of the Chamber and see it all replaced by men in suits and a cosy hemisphere of consensual seating.

How did experienced parliamentarians such as yourselves allow such a car crash in our democracy to take place?
The government and former Speaker's attempts to exempt MPs from the Freedom of Information Act was raised. It was Harman's own motion with a 3-line whip on Labour MPs and failed due to opposition from Conservatives and LibDems. Not one Plaid Cymru MP voted for reform. Price's stumbling reaction to the question was the moment he lost any credibility.

There was a question specifically for Harman about the morals of Tony Blair, naturally she sees nothing wrong with him having enormous business interests and ties to oil companies in Iraq.

The appointment of Andy Coulson as the Cons Director of Communications was raised in light of the News of the World phone-tapping saga. Damian McBride and Charlie Whelan got a special mention. It's worth watching Harriet's reaction to the questioning - she floundered. She insisted the McBride/Whelan spin machine was news to her. She didn't even have the decency to look embarrassed when questioned about husband Jack Dromey who came out on top of a supposedly all-women shortlist in Birmingham.

The scaremongering nature of the campaigning came under fire - even Lynne Featherstone didn't escape as Andrew Neil said that the LibDems had possibly played the dirtiest and cited some recent examples.

Sir George Young is a gentleman of the Old School; he plays by the rules and isn't given to bare-knuckle fighting. For that reason alone he came out on top.

Videos to follow.

Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

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