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ANY QUESTIONS
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Journey of a Lifetime
Transcript: Any Questions? 7 March 2008


PRESENTER: Jonathan Dimbleby

PANELLISTS: Ken Livingstone
Theresa May
Matthew D'Ancona
Chris Huhne

FROM: Royal College of Music, London


DIMBLEBY
Welcome to London and the Royal College of Music which this year celebrates its 125th anniversary as one of the world's leading conservatoires. With over 600 undergraduate and graduate students from 50 countries last year it managed, among many other triumphs, to provide six participants, no less, in the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition. Among its many distinguished operatic alumni Dame Joan Sutherland is perhaps pre-eminent. We are in the Britten Theatre named after the college's most eminent composer and a wonderfully attractive venue it is.

On our panel: Theresa May, the shadow leader of the House of Commons; Chris Huhne, home affairs spokesman for the Liberal Democrats; Matthew D'Ancona, the editor of the Spectator and Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London and the first of the three leading candidates that we've invited on to the programme between now and the election in May when the people of London will decide who should be their next mayor. Meanwhile Mr Livingstone is the fourth member of our panel. [CLAPPING]

Our first question please.

GREEN
Well my name is Bernard Green. Should British military personnel be encouraged to wear their uniforms in the street as in the USA or banned, as by RAF Wittering?

DIMBLEBY
Ken Livingstone.

LIVINGSTONE
[Indistinct words] ... leave it up to the individual to decide, I think if you want to wear a uniform outside you should be free to do so, if you don't want you should be free to do so and I doubt if very many people, except perhaps a small handful, would ever be terribly worried one or the other.

DIMBLEBY
You mean of the military personnel or the public?

LIVINGSTONE
No, no the people who were complaining in Ipswich or wherever it was.

DIMBLEBY
It's near Peterborough, isn't it. Gordon Brown said that the armed - in this context - that the "armed forces" should be encouraged to wear the uniform in public.

LIVINGSTONE
Well I mean I've always - I mean the joy I had finally leaving school and having to leave that uniform behind and wear the clothes I want, I mean I remember the complaints when I got elected to Parliament that Bernie Grant and myself and one or two of the others weren't dressed properly and we'd occasionally come in in brown jackets and so on, I just think - I mean didn't we leave all that behind in the 1960s, we should be able to dress how we want. And I would just leave it to people to make up their own mind.

DIMBLEBY
Theresa May.

MAY
The final decision must be up to the commander of any unit on the ground and obviously it was the commanding officer at RAF Wittering who took this particular decision. But I think our service personnel ought to be able to walk the streets wearing their uniforms, feel proud about it and know that the people who are seeing them feel proud about what they are doing and what they are giving to their country. [CLAPPING]

DIMBLEBY
Do you think if they are being, as we have heard some of them say and their partners or wives, being intimidated that they are right not however to wear them and that the station commander is correct - you say it's a decision, is it a right decision?

MAY
It's a decision that has to be taken according to the circumstances by the station commander. What I would say, and I would echo the comments that David Cameron made earlier today, is that if there is a intimidation taking place, if there is the sort of behaviour that appears to have led to this decision at RAF Wittering then I would hope that the police would actually come down pretty heavy on that.

DIMBLEBY
Matthew D'Ancona.

D'ANCONA
Well I think it says more about us than it does about the servicemen. I think it's shameful that it's judged to be an act of provocation for people who put their lives at risk in our name, that they cannot wear their uniform with pride and honour on the streets of our towns. And the fact that their commanders have had to, in their view, take the decision to advise them or order them not to wear uniforms is absolutely appalling. They should be honoured as the people that carry out orders which may not - the consequences of which may not be to the taste of everyone and I know that the wars that they are engaged in are hugely controversial but the idea that we take it out on those who risk their lives is absolutely deplorable, I hope they have every freedom available to them. [CLAPPING]

DIMBLEBY
Chris Huhne.

HUHNE
Well I think it's very sad that people in the armed forces do not feel on occasion able to wear uniform outside their base. This is obviously something that's only started quite recently because in effect it was a rule that was introduced in order to protect the armed forces against IRA outrages and I think it would be very good to get back to the situation that existed beforehand when I think that members of the armed forces could go anywhere in uniform proudly and be honoured as members of the armed forces representing their country.

DIMBLEBY
There's a difference between could and be encouraged isn't there, there's a distinction in effect that people used to make, do you think they should be encouraged, as the Prime Minister is saying and as David Cameron is saying?

HUHNE
It's got to be up to the individual and what they want to do. I mean for heaven's sake you know we've gone way beyond having to lay down rules. But it does seem to me that in the current climate, if we are in this rather ludicrous situation where the commander of the local base seems to be - have been overcome by a wave of political correctness that maybe a little bit of nudging in the other direction is appropriate.

DIMBLEBY
Thank you. May I ask the audience here, just in general, do you believe that the armed forces should be encouraged to wear their uniform when they're off duty - if you do would you put your hands up for me? Those who think that it should be left entirely up to them, individuals? Well I would say there's a - it's pretty even but there's a majority in favour of it being left up to the individuals, but not a large one. We will go on to our next question please.

BARSTOW
My name is John Barstow. In an important House of Commons vote is it a valid position to adopt to abstain or is it probably political and moral cowardice?

DIMBLEBY
The position that was adopted in the European Treaty vote by the Liberal Democrats. Chris Huhne.

HUHNE
It is absolutely legitimate and indeed it's exactly what the Conservative Party did the day before, I think you're thinking of us and the Liberal Democrats abstaining on the issue of a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty and in fact the previous day the Conservatives had abstained on another vote. And if you happen to think that the question being put doesn't encapsulate an either yes or no, the right answer, then it's totally legitimate. I mean I think that if anybody in this audience was asked are you still beating your partner, you would probably reserve the right to say that is an inappropriate question to which the answer yes or no is not right. And in this particular case we want a referendum, we want a referendum on whether we should be in or out because it's the closest thing to what we promised at the General Election in terms of the constitutional treaty which would have rewritten all of the previous treaties and which was three times the length of the Lisbon Treaty. And in fact we do not want a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. So how do you send out a signal that you want a referendum but not that question? I think the best position is indeed to abstain. [AUDIENCE NOISE]

DIMBLEBY
It had nothing to do with the possibility, as some commentators have suggested, that were there to have been freedom, rather than an attempt to impose a three line whip on your party, had there been the freedom then a large chunk of them would have voted with the Tories and therefore the government might have been defeated and you would have ended up finding yourselves with a referendum that would be dealing a death blow to the treaty?

HUHNE
Well Jonathan with the wisdom of hindsight that clearly wasn't the case because even if all of us had voted with the Conservatives in fact that would not have carried the day.

DIMBLEBY
If you had been free what would you have done, would you have voted with the Conservatives?


HUHNE
No, I actually think that it was the appropriate position to take and I would have abstained and - I genuinely think that that is the right position. I want a referendum but I want it on our membership because that is the closest to what we promised at the last General Election.

DIMBLEBY
How do you read it Matthew D'Ancona. Political moral cowardice or a valid position?

D'ANCONA
I think it's not even knowing where you stand on something you're not sure about in their case. I'm afraid - I'm afraid that [CLAPPING] ... I'm sorry to say that I'm mystified as to where this in out issue from the Lib Dems ever came from, no one's talking about in or out. The issue is whether or not there should be a referendum, as was promised by all three parties at the last Election, on the constitutional treaty. Why? [CLAPPING] What I don't understand, what I cannot - I cannot understand this incredibly simple issue - why can't they keep a promise? Why can't they keep a promise? The constitutional treaty and the Lisbon treaty are overwhelmingly similar. Why was it necessary to withdraw those promises and to leave the British public without a vote that they were promised in the 2005 Election and now in all likelihood will not get? [CLAPPING]

HUHNE
.... Matthew's just wrong about this. First of all, inform - this is not a constitution, the Lisbon treaty is 44,000 words long, the constitutional treaty was 157,000 words long, that does encapsulate the difference. But secondly - and I come on to your point here Theresa - and that is ...

DIMBLEBY
She hasn't made that point yet. You may know what she thinks. I'll tell you what you'll pause actually, we'll hear her point and then you can respond to it. No you hold it and we'll bring in Theresa May to make her point and then you can respond.

MAY
Well the point I was starting to make in interrupting Chris there was that he was talking about the number of words between these two different documents. It's not actually the number of words that matters, it's what the words say and what the impact is going to be. [CLAPPING]

DIMBLEBY
Now back to you Chris Huhne and respond to that.

HUHNE
And precisely on that point, if you don't just believe a practising politician, I mean take, for example, a well respected international jurist like Professor Steve Peers, for example, in the State Watch Analysis, who says that actually what we have now in terms of our opt ins and opt outs, on the key sensitive area of justice and home affairs, on police and criminal cooperation, that that is a - and I quote - "major change" - unquote on what was in the constitutional treaty.

DIMBLEBY
Thank you.

HUHNE
And when I put this to William Hague in the House of Commons on Wednesday and challenged him he had to admit that it was indeed a change. And the Tories are playing a bit of a blinder on a bluff here and the truth is that the Tories don't want to actually have an in/out referendum because they know they'd be split down the middle on it. [CLAPPING]

DIMBLEBY
Theresa May, then Ken Livingstone.

MAY
Well I have to say I think it's a bit rich the Liberal Democrats, after what happened this week, talking about parties being split on votes taking place in the House of Commons. But of course in any vote in the House of Commons abstention is one of the three options that is open to a member of parliament. But it's different, it seems to me, abstaining when you don't feel that actually you wish to participate in a vote for a variety of reasons and abstaining on a vote where you have actually made a promise to the voters in your manifesto at the previous General Election that if an opportunity came you believe there should be a referendum on this issue for the British people. And when you're given the opportunity to vote that there should be a referendum I think sitting on the fence is frankly weak and vacillating and many people would say well it's what you would expect from the Liberal Democrats, of course Nick - Nick Clegg gave the game away shortly after he became Liberal Democrat leader when he was asked on the Today programme whether or not the Liberal Democrat Party would support the government on the issue of the referendum and he said it would depend on the parliamentary mathematics. So it wasn't a point of principle at all that was in the Liberal Democrats minds, that's why they got themselves in such a mess. They promised a referendum on the treaty, we promised a referendum on the treaty, we voted accordingly, they didn't.

DIMBLEBY
I will - I'm going to bring Ken Livingstone in - I'm going to bring Ken Livingstone in then you can come back in again.

LIVINGSTONE
Can I say when I was in the House of Commons we had the Maastricht Treaty and the same debate was going on then. You go back to the early, mid-'80s there was a single European treaty and in those cases the Conservative government of the day said we don't want a referendum, Parliament must decide. And I think the problem with a referendum is that - and we had this in whether or not there should be a regional assembly in the North East, where after 40 years of everyone in the North East showing in the polls they wanted an assembly when it actually got to a referendum it became a referendum of well do you like Tony Blair or not. And I do think - I find bizarrely I'm actually quite close to Nick Clegg's position, I think you actually need to say to the British people - I mean I'd wait, when the other 25 countries have adopted this I'd have a referendum and say now you can either vote to join this or we go because that's really what the people want a referendum about. They don't want just to have a referendum on this, they want to leave and I respect that. Let's have an honest debate instead of another 50 years of Britain going on - we don't quite like the [indistinct word], we're a bit reluctant, let's just say are we going to be in Europe or out of it. And I think that is the Clegg position, I think it's the honest one and a lot of the people demanding a referendum know this is no great change but they are frightened to say to the British people let's go out.

DIMBLEBY
Just - a number of points, Chris Huhne, have been made, pick up on the one made by Theresa May, which said the game was given away by Nick Clegg when he said it's going to depend on the mathematics.

HUHNE
Well I think Nick was speaking before we'd actually had a discussion within our parliamentary party and it was as simple as that.

DIMBLEBY
Out of turn you mean? Out of turn?

HUHNE
No, no, no I mean ...

DIMBLEBY
To find out where you stood?

HUHNE
We actually have the best record of all of the three major parties for sticking together through thick and thin in votes in Parliament ...

DIMBLEBY
Sorry, so your party - so your party - forgive me - so your party leader ..

HUHNE
And we normally have a discussion on this before a particular vote and depends on the terms of the vote. But let me if I may ...

DIMBLEBY
So your party leader - hold on a second because it's very interesting this - the party leader says, when asked in public, how the party is going to stand, presumably he is the leader of the party he should know, he says well it's going to depend on the parliamentary mathematics and then you say oh yeah but that was before we discussed the issue - before we discussed the issue?

HUHNE
We knew - we knew precisely where we stood in terms of the general approach but actually it's important to look at the motion. But let me come back to one key point which I think Ken raised and which is right which is actually we have been challenging the Conservatives, throughout these Lisbon debates, to tell us what will happen, the Conservative policy, if this is actually ratified. Are they going to have a referendum, are they going to go into the next General Election saying they're going to renegotiate? If so I don't believe them, I don't think even their backbenchers believe them because the truth is we have been through one renegotiation since the French and the Dutch threw out the constitutional treaty, we actually got substantial extra concessions and for a British government to say we're going to get these extra concessions and we're going to completely opt out of all of the most sensitive areas on justice and home affairs and yet we're still going to preserve the right to deprive you, our partners in the European Union, of the treaty that you want to implement without opt outs is frankly outrageous. And if I'd done that when I was in business the people negotiating with me would never have wanted to speak to me again. That's the real outrage of the Conservative position.

DIMBLEBY
Let me ask Matthew D'Ancona, as a close observer of the Conservative scene, when Conservative Party figures are asked about renegotiation or a referendum, if they were to be elected at the next Election, they generally dodge the issue. What do you judge to be the likely behaviour of the Tories were they to be elected in relation to this?

D'ANCONA
Well they'll be a Eurosceptic government and clearly they've already promised that they will withdraw from the social chapter, so by definition they'll be a renegotiation. But can I just say it's astonishing to hear Chris Huhne who abstained in person and therefore you know is very big on not being clear demanding clarity - demanding - can I just - demanding - demanding clarity from a party that hasn't even been elected to power yet, it's an absolutely preposterous hypocrisy. Now on the question of the referendum itself - Ken says Maastricht, single European act there weren't referendums on that, that's correct but no one was promising them. And what the political class just will not accept is that this is about trust and this is another example of a broken promise.

DIMBLEBY
Let me ask [CLAPPING] your view Professor Barstow, putting the question, seems to have been implicit in the question.

BARSTOW
Well very briefly I've enjoyed the lengthy arguments about something I didn't ask. I think - congratulations to Theresa to say that she thought - I asked if it was valid or political or morally cowardice and she said it was preposterous. I'll settle for preposterous.

DIMBLEBY
Very well, we'll leave that issue there with a reminder of the Any Answers number after the Saturday broadcast of Any Questions, it is 08700 100 444 and the e-mail address any.answers@bbc.co.uk. Our next question please.

MCCRANDALL
My name is Leith McCrandall. In a recent television documentary the distinguished political editor of the New Statesman concluded: "Ken Livingstone is a disgrace to his office and not fit to be Mayor". Could the panel comment?

DIMBLEBY
[CLAPPING] Matthew D'Ancona.

D'ANCONA
Well thank you Jonathan. I think Ken's time has come to a close and I think there are many reasons for that. I think [CLAPPING AND BOOING] and I think that the ...

DIMBLEBY
Carry on regardless Matthew.

D'ANCONA
Interesting. I think that one of the many reasons that that is the case is the obvious problems at City Hall that have been unravelled in the Lee Jasper case. But I think it's not just that, I think it's not just that, it is also a sense in London that things are not working, that it is time for a change. And I think that we look at the condition of the buses, I think we look at the way that the congestion charge money has been spent and I think we look, above all, at the quality of life in London. And I've lived in London all my life and most of my life it's been run by Ken and I have to say that ...

DIMBLEBY
He hasn't been in power that long. You're older than eight years old.

D'ANCONA
Well he ran it in the '80s as well. And I think that I feel less safe than I did in the early '80s when he used to run it. So I think it is time for Ken to go. [CLAPPING AND BOOING]

DIMBLEBY
Chris Huhne

HUHNE
Well I think - I think it depends whether it's Ken Mark I or Ken Mark II. I mean Ken Mark I of course thought that he was only going to fight the Mayoralty for two times and would therefore be bowing out gracefully this time round but is fighting it again. So I think that there is a strong presumption that we should not go on and on and on doing particular jobs. And I do think that there are real problems in the way London has been run, not least the grip on public money, which seems to me to be pretty important that there should be value for money and I'm not sure that jetting off to Cuba or sending large numbers of people off to Venezuela is a very sensible use of London council taxpayers' money. But on the other hand - on the other hand - and I look at the alternative in Boris Johnson. I'm not at all sure that I like what the Conservatives are offering but Brian Paddock, as the Liberal Democrat candidate, seems to me to combine - to combine that felicitous - that felicitous mixture of competence, integrity and - and a real chance of winning this election, which I believe Londoners will warm to and indeed are since his vote has virtually doubled between the last two opinion polls.

DIMBLEBY
A voice from the audience did say quite loudly but not everyone listening will have heard it, as you were describing his qualities, that one of his great qualities was anonymity. To which I would say that he's going to be on this programme in the near future which if that is a problem will definitely resolve it. Theresa May.

MAY
Yes well I think Chris Huhne is deluding himself because we all know that actually the result of this election is going to be between Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson. I think Ken has had his day, I think he's out of touch, mired in maladministration. And let's just look, as Matthew has said, of the issues that are there. That yes there are the issues around the fact that there are six police investigations into money that has been given out by the London Development Agency, to just give one example, to an organisation of which - with which Lee Jasper is involved, had about I think half a million pounds and over two years only ran three short courses. Then there is the issue of Lee Jasper himself, who of course resigned just hours before the London Assembly was going to question him on his various activities and what had been going on. And you have to ask if somebody resigns just before they're about to give themselves public questioning - open themselves for public questioning what is it that they have got to hide? And of course Ken has said that this is a man that he would trust with his life and that actually if he became Mayor again he would reappoint. And I think I have to say to Ken does he still stand by those words, given everything that has been happening about Lee Jasper? But it's not just those issues, it's also the fact that if you look at the figures - violent crime has gone up in London, detection rates for violent crime have gone down across every borough; bus fares have gone up in London more than they have in the rest of the country; if you look at the rise in tube fares, lots of money going into the tube yet overcrowding is worse, has got worse over the last four years; tax - the Mayor's tax has gone up 153% - he actually employs more spin doctors than Tony Blair. I think what people want in London is a Mayor like Boris Johnson who's actually going to get to grips with the [CLAPPING AND BOOING] ... with the issue that matter everyday to Londoners.

DIMBLEBY
Ken Livingstone.

LIVINGSTONE
Well I must - I must be living in a different city because crime peaked in this city in 2003, it's been cut by 21%. The murder rate's down 28%. Rape is down 25%. Gun crime and knife crime is down over 20%. Now that is because we've got 6,000 more police on the streets than when I was elected. The year I was elected there's a team of six in each of the 600 neighbourhoods, we've had a reduction, since we got police - for 40 years police weren't on the streets, they were in cars, I'm the first politician - I mean David Cameron said this - David Cameron said the strength of the Mayoral system was without a Mayor of London you wouldn't have got police back on the street, that is why crime has come down in the way it has. If you actually look at the buses, there are 53% more journeys on the buses today than when I was elected. We had five and half thousand then, we have eight thousand now. Congestion charge is being copied around the world and been coming forward in New York. When I was elected 14,000 homes a year were being built in this city, today it's 31,000. And I'm stopped on the streets by people who say to me - I haven't been in the city for six or 10 years, I can't believe how much better it is. Don't - you - what I would say to the Tory Party [CLAPPING] what I would say to the Tory Party, and the message I leave for Boris Johnson when he's on here, don't rubbish this city to get elected, tell them what you're going to do better that builds on what we've achieved.

DIMBLEBY
Right, we will - we will [CLAPPING] when that day arrives - pick up - pick up on one of the points that Theresa May made and by way of asking - do you think Lee Jasper was right to resign when he resigned?

LIVINGSTONE
I think he was right to resign then because all the charges for the last 13 weeks about financial impropriety not a single shred of evidence has been produced. They came from Gilligan, who has form on this, which is why he left the BBC. The police, when I asked them to investigate it, said well we haven't been given any evidence, the Standard has given no evidence, i.e. all the people making noise have given no evidence. But the one thing he clearly was guilty of was inappropriate conduct in the e-mails he sent to somebody that is in recipient...

DIMBLEBY
So would you still, as you said, reappoint him, if it is demonstrated as a result of all the police inquiries that indeed he was not guilty of any offence?

LIVINGSTONE
Well I'm certain the police inquiries will find he's not guilty of any corruption. You can't leave all this stuff about the e-mails hanging in the air, therefore I'm going to appoint an independent barrister or lawyer who will actually then examine all the other charges because there have been two charges - the Tory Party have been saying there's a tide of corruption, the Lib Dems have actually been more measured and they said we think there may have been inappropriate conduct. And so the police will deal with corruption, we'll have an independent lawyer to look at has there been inappropriate conduct and those will be public and debated then.

DIMBLEBY
Just one more thing before I bring in the others again. Would you, as you said, trust Lee with your life still?

LIVINGSTONE
I would. He was stupid and he made a mistake and he's resigned and - but let's remember ..

DIMBLEBY
You don't think you're tainted by this yourself?

LIVINGSTONE
Oh I'm sure my name [indistinct words]... Let me tell you what Lee Jasper did. When he was appointed by Michael Howard, the Tory Home Secretary, to advise the police on how to build relations with the black community he helped create Operation Trident, he managed to build a bridge between a black community that hadn't been working with the police, he managed to get them to give information that allowed the arrest of over a 100 drug dealing, gun carrying criminals and he gave the guarantee they'd be taken alive. Not only were they taken alive but no shot was fired. And the trust between the black community and the police, which he helped to broker, has changed the nature of policing in this city.

DIMBLEBY
Matthew D'Ancona.

D'ANCONA
Yeah I just want to make one thing absolutely clear with Ken. Do not confuse those who rubbish you with those who rubbish London. I love this city, it's not your personal fiefdom. [CLAPPING]

LIVINGSTONE
Then tell the truth about [indistinct words]. Eight years ago when I ran for Mayor business people coming to my office saying we're in danger of being overtaken by Paris and Frankfurt. Today no one considers that. The issue is have we pulled ahead of New York. This city has been an incredible success which is why people are coming here in the numbers they are. They don't ..

DIMBLEBY
And is it a success - Ken Livingstone - is it a success because - to pick up on the personal fiefdom question - that you do, as you have said, run it as a personal fiefdom?

LIVINGSTONE
I don't run it as a personal fiefdom...

DIMBLEBY
That's what you said.

LIVINGSTONE
That's what my enemies say.

DIMBLEBY
That's what you said yourself in an interview.

LIVINGSTONE
I'm not going to get into an argument about it...

DIMBLEBY
I'm just saying that's what you said.

LIVINGSTONE
This is not but this is not - this is an American style system, you elect a politician who is personally responsible for the job, there are no [indistinct words], I don't work through a civil service, everyone who's working in that administration is there to deliver our agenda and that's why we've achieved things. Can you think of any other government in the last eight - in living memory that in eight years has made the changes we've made? They spend their time fighting - Sir Humphrey and all that civil service obstruction - we haven't had that.

DIMBLEBY
Theresa May.

MAY
Ken you gave a lot of statistics earlier and you talked about London and London is a great city, we all know London is a great city. Great cultural activities - here we are sitting in this wonderful theatre at this Royal College of Music - great cultural activities, great restaurants, everything, everybody thinks it's great and as Matthew says don't confuse people who are saying you're not doing a good job with people rubbishing London. But crucially Ken, but the point is - the point Ken is this - the point Ken is this that you gave all those statistics but I think if you go out into the streets what you would find is that what you're describing is not the London that many people are living in day by day.

LIVINGSTONE
If this city isn't succeeding so well why is that people come here from everywhere else in Britain to make their mark and actually achieve their personal best? That's what we do. How were we able to win the Olympics? How were we able to persuade the government to invest the £16 billion to build Cross Rail. We have actually turned this city round. Not all down to me, there's been a huge achievement. But I remember what I read in the Daily Telegraph and I'm sure - I mean it wasn't actually written by Matthew but somebody else - said this is a great city, it's doing brilliantly and it's nothing to do with the Mayor. If this city was doing abysmally badly you'd all say it was all to do with the Mayor.

DIMBLEBY
I'm going to bring in our questioner on this. Leith McCrandall what's your own view?

MCCRANDALL
Sorry.

DIMBLEBY
Leith McCrandall you put the question - what's your own view?

MCCRANDALL
Yes well I mean it really was more about the personal nature of Mr Livingstone and the kind of atmosphere he's created in City Hall.

DIMBLEBY
And what is your view about that?

MCCRANDALL
Well it's not very savoury.

HUHNE
But the truth is - to make one final point - that if you look at - Ken I think has some achievements and we agreed for example on the original congestion charge, not on the extension and that has been a success and it's been something that has been emulated elsewhere and the Conservatives, of course, did oppose it at the time, so they're coming along and they're now saying that they agree with it. But there are real issues of control of public money which worry me and I think that the time has come for London to have a real professional, who's been - had a track record of working in a big organisation and delivering and you can't say that about Boris Johnson, frankly the prospect of Boris handling a major terrorist outrage in London fills me with dread. And you [CLAPPING] I mean of the existing candidates who would crack the best jokes at a dinner party? Boris, no doubt at all, but is it appropriate to be Mayor of London? No. And Brian - Brian Paddick, by contrast, has experience [AUDIENCE NOISE] no realistic, he has experience tackling the biggest issue that Londoners are worried about which is crime and he can actually deliver on this in a way that the other candidates can't. For heaven's sake don't just look, why has he support doubled in the last few weeks? Precisely because people are beginning to listen to actually what he's putting forward.

DIMBLEBY
Okay - okay, he's going to be able to speak for himself. Just very quickly.

MAY
I suggest you look at the very serious manifestoes on crime and transport that Boris Johnson has produced that shows real solutions on the day-to-day problems that Londoners are facing and show that Boris is fit to govern, he's fit to be Mayor of London and he is fit to actually show that he can make a difference to people's lives.

DIMBLEBY
Hang on a minute let Matthew D'Ancona, as he's the only one who's not a politician, as it were, last word.

D'ANCONA
Well Boris Johnson has not invited, as Ken has, an Islamist cleric to London who says that suicide bombing is the highest form of jihad.

DIMBLEBY
Well we could go on but you'd better quickly respond to it.

LIVINGSTONE
If Boris Johnson is such a dramatic person, able to turn these wonderful things around, why wouldn't David Cameron give him a job in his shadow cabinet? The only reason Boris is running for Mayor is because you wouldn't put him on the front bench.

DIMBLEBY
We will leave [CLAPPING] we will leave that with a reminder of the Any Answers number 087 - 08700 100 444, Theresa, is the Any Answers number and you can't come in on that. And the e-mail address is any.answers@bbc.co.uk. Our next question please.

HASHMI
My name is Zaki Hashmi. Does the panel agree that the Proms present the wrong kind of Britishness?

DIMBLEBY
This arises out of a speech made by Margaret Hodge, the minister, in which she said: our sectors aren't at their best with anybody in common belongings, the audiences for many of our greatest cultural events, I'm thinking in particular of the Proms but it's true of others is still a long way from demonstrating that people from different backgrounds feel at ease in being part of this. Theresa May, she got slagged off by Number 10 incidentally for it, but anyway, Theresa May.

MAY
I think she was absolutely wrong in what she said. I think the Proms are a great British institution and actually millions of people will be listening to the Proms on radio, as well as those who actually go to the Proms. On last night at the Proms there are concerts taking place across Britain, in parks across Britain, where people of all sorts are coming and probably being actually having the opportunity to hear classical music that they wouldn't necessarily get in the normal run of things. I think Margaret Hodge got it absolutely wrong, the Proms are a wonderful institution, I think we should encourage them, I think we should thank the BBC for continuing to support the Proms. And you go there and those Promenaders, who are enjoying music, who have come along from all sorts of backgrounds - I just think Margaret Hodge jolly well ought to go and attend the Proms rather more if she's going to make those sorts of statements about them. [CLAPPING]

DIMBLEBY
Are you a fan of the last night of the Proms Chris Huhne?

HUHNE
I am, I went a few years ago and I find it a rather emotional and stirring occasion, I have to say. And I don't think that there's anything wrong in a country occasionally having those moments of collective pulling together, singing along and actually joining people to what is a fine longstanding tradition in the last night of the Proms of singing Land of Hope and Glory. But the Proms are - the Proms are of course much more diverse than merely the last night and not only do you have the diversity in the official Proms programme but we also now have jazz proms and rock proms and all sorts of other proms. So the idea that somehow people are being excluded from this I think is nonsense.

DIMBLEBY
The wrong kind of Britishness Ken Livingstone?

LIVINGSTONE
I mean this is just absolute rubbish. I love the last night of Proms but I also - the last time I went to the Proms it was the Venezuelan Youth Orchestra. I also love the fact you can go down to the electric ballroom. The thing about a great world city is you can have every form of music, every form of art and you get to choose what you want. It's not about uniformity. And I mean I really love the last night of the Proms but I also love much more modern music as well. And that's the joy of it. I mean why do we have to be told what - I mean I have to say I'm really not certain about Margaret's judgement on this or many other things.

DIMBLEBY
Matthew D'Ancona.

D'ANCONA
Well at the risk of distressing Ken I think he's absolutely spot on. That's confidential. No I think the whole point is that London is culturally so diverse and rich that the idea that you have to quotorise huge events like the Proms is mad. It's also worth bearing in mind that Margaret Hodge did write on her blog last year that she'd had a great night at the Proms. So actually I think she needs to get her lines straight. It's a fantastic institution and it's actually one of the most eclectic and pluralist events there is in London, clearly brilliant.

DIMBLEBY
[CLAPPING] If she tries hard she might just get through to Any Answers to express her view on this, the number for her and everyone else once more 08700 100 444. We'll go to our next question.

POTTS
My name is Deborah Potts. How would you comment on this week's report that social conditions in Gaza are now the worst they have ever been?

DIMBLEBY
Theresa May.

MAY
I think it's difficult to comment on that in this - well perhaps you'd just like to listen to the rest of what I'm going to say - I think that there is a very difficult situation there that we all know can only be resolved by political resolve and political will, by an acceptance by both sides of a two state solution that is going to ensure security - a secure Israel and a self standing Palestine. And the situation that we have at the moment, and of course the most recent event that took place in Jerusalem of the number of people being killed there as well, I think should give us the very clear - we need to give a very clear message that attacks like that are not going to resolve these problems. What is going to resolve these problems is going back to the Annapolis peace process and the steady and careful negotiation between people with the political will to resolve this issue.

DIMBLEBY
Ken Livingstone.

LIVINGSTONE
Although - I mean I saw the report and I think the conditions are horrifying and it's a disgrace for the whole world that the Palestinians are still living in those conditions six years after creating the State of Israel. And we saw on the news the horrifying slaughter in Jerusalem. But I also have some optimism. If you look at the opinion polls in Israel the majority of Jews now say we need to talk to Hamas. I think just all the military solutions have been tried, they've all failed, I think there's a growing consensus amongst Israelis they're going to have to talk to the people they hate the most. They are where Britain was 10 years ago when Tony Blair, who I think perhaps - his greatest legacy was to recognise you had to talk to the people doing the killing, no good talking to the people who aren't doing the killing ...

DIMBLEBY
But that poll, to which you refer, of course was before the atrocity in Jerusalem and also do you believe that even though a majority of the population will - may still wish to take that route that given the extraordinarily intricate politics of Israel and the party allegiances that any political leader will talk to Hamas?

LIVINGSTONE
Well this - the current Israeli Prime Minister has nothing left to lose, cos I mean he's either got to deliver something or his career going to come to an end at the next Election. George Bush, might like to think that he would leave some legacy because there isn't much to point to so far. And so you might just be at that point where - I mean who would ever have believed Ian Paisley would sit down and do the deal with Gerry Adams? At the end of the day when you've finished killing there's nothing left to do but talk. And I think both for Arab and Jew they're close to that point.

DIMBLEBY
Matthew D'Ancona.

D'ANCONA
It's a nice try by Ken but I think the symmetry with Sinn Fein/IRA in the early '90s is not right. Sinn Fein/IRA at that point had reached the realisation that it couldn't be defeated but it couldn't win. Hamas plans on a huge generational scale - it wants to destroy the state of Israel. It wants to drive Israel into the sea. It wants to drive Israel into the sea. And [AUDIENCE NOISE]...

DIMBLEBY
Carry on Matthew.

D'ANCONA
And it's very difficult to negotiate with people who want to do that. It's not the case that it would be possible to negotiate with Hamas in any meaningful way. Which is a tragedy because the prospect - where Ken is right - the prospect for economic development, to return to the original question, in the region, involving the Palestinians is huge. The obstructions to that are not just on the Israeli side, they are fundamentally on the side of the fundamentalist Islamic groups that encircle Israel and will not allow it to - will not allow it to exist as a secure state. Once it is able to do that then anything is possible, before then you will see only more bloodshed and more degradation.

DIMBLEBY
The question - the question which touched on the - by common consent - the appalling social conditions in Gaza, do you believe that, from your perspective, that Israel has behaved entirely appropriately in its military action?

D'ANCONA
Yes I do and I think that what is astonishing is that so little attention, as in the Lebanese conflict, is paid to the missiles that are flying into Israel.

DIMBLEBY
Okay. Chris Huhne.

HUHNE
Well the questioner asked about the social conditions and I think that's absolutely right because it's the social conditions in Gaza and indeed although the less extreme in the Palestinian settlements on the West Bank which are essentially fermenting so much of the discontent. And the European Union quite rightly set out many years ago to try and improve those social conditions with a major aid programme to the Palestinian authority. And one of the tragedies is that Fatah, controlling previously the Palestinian authority, abused much of that money and it didn't get to the people who needed it, including in Gaza. And one of the reasons why Hamas was elected - and let's remember that they were elected - was actually not because of their - I think - misguided line on the state of Israel but because people in the Palestinian communities wanted to make a point about the way in which Fatah had actually run the West Bank and Gaza. I am not optimistic that we're going to move fast in the dog days of the American administration. The key to this is that both the European Union and particularly the White House have to really put muscle to bring all the parties to the negotiating table and although there continue to be negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian authority, despite the Jerusalem outrage, it seems to me that we are quite a long way from people being ready to reach a settlement and I find that very, very disappointing.

DIMBLEBY
We'll go to our next question please, with - tell the panel - not as much time as we might wish to be able to give to the answers.

DEVONISH
Tony Devonish. Is binge drinking affected by government action or is it in our nation's DNA?

DIMBLEBY
Ken Livingstone.

LIVINGSTONE
I - I - well when you think when this change was made everyone went on about it - it's going to be the end of - I mean ..

DIMBLEBY
This is the 24 hour drinking, the so-called 24 hour drinking.

LIVINGSTONE
Yeah. Very little has changed, the pattern of violence hasn't increased but it's spread later. And I do think it will take a generation to actually change that culture which was what - I mean I had when I was a teenager stack up three or four pints at the end and get them all down and then stagger out. Developing that more attuned European culture is going to take a generation.

DIMBLEBY
Chris Huhne.

HUHNE
The answer is clearly that northern countries in Europe and elsewhere have a - tend to have and share, and we're not alone in this, a culture of binge drinking. Southern Mediterranean countries tend to have a rather more civilised attitude. Take it slowly, combine alcohol with food, don't necessarily rush in there and drink as much as you can standing up on an empty stomach. So I think there is a genuine cultural issue there which will take time to change but I think the government can do a lot to help. And one of the things it can do is make sure that it's much tougher in applying our existing law on licensees, for example, who are serving people who are already intoxicated and particularly supermarkets and pubs serving under age drinkers. I think that we've got to get much tougher on that. [CLAPPING]

DIMBLEBY
I know you've got policy on this but is it in the genes and the DNA?

MAY
No I don't think it is in our DNA because we didn't use to have this problem of binge drinking, it seems to have grown up in recent years. And we have to ask ourselves why it's grown up in the way that it has in recent years. The questioner asked whether government can make a difference to it. Government won't solve the problem completely, there is a cultural issue about it but I think government can do some things that would help. I was against 24 hour licensing and I think that we've seen, for example, the number of alcohol related injuries in A&E being - in the early hours of the morning's gone up. I think there have been bad impacts of 24 hour drinking. But what we would do is actually significantly increase the tax on high strength beer, high strength cider and alcopops. And when that has been done - we've seen this happen in Germany, particularly, increasing the tax on alcopops - it's actually had a significant effect on drinking of those particular types of drink. They are lying at the core of the binge drinking culture.

DIMBLEBY
Briefly, I'm afraid, Matthew D'Ancona.

D'ANCONA
Well I think binge drinking is part of Britishness I'm afraid. I think that if you look at Hogarth engravings and pictures of Gin Lane, it's been around for a bit longer than alcopops. And again the - I don't want to make Ken pass out but I agree with him again, I think that the idea that we were going to move to a kind of cafe society in two years time with everyone sitting around quoting from Jean Paul Satre in the evenings was a little bit on the New Labour delusional side. So good luck - I say to Theresa good luck with the alcopops.

DIMBLEBY
Thank you. That brings us to the end of this programme. Next week we're going to be in Durham with Nick Brown, the Deputy Chief Whip for the Labour Party of course; Liberal Democrat Danny Alexander; Baroness Haleh Afshar, who's professor of politics and women's studies at the University of York and the former Chancellor, now head of the Conservative's taxation review Lord Geoffrey Howe. Join us there but from here in the Britten Theatre at the Royal College of Music, goodbye. [CLAPPING]


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