Explore the BBC
Today Programme Report - Text Only Version
BBC Radio 4
Print This Page

Back to HTML version

1st January 2004

Law - The Verdict

We asked you to suggest a law that you would like to see put onto the statue books. We received 10,000 nominations and five were shortlisted. You then voted to select your preferred choice...

...and the winner is Law 5:

Homeowners should be able to use any means to defend their home from intruders.

Number Crunching

We had a total of 26,007 votes.
There were 17,829 telephone votes, 8160 secure email votes and the rest were other emails and faxes.

* 1st place:
Law 5: The proposal to authorise homeowners to use any means to defend their home from intruders:
37% of the vote.

* 2nd place:
Law 3: A Bill to allow the use of all organs for transplant after death unless the individual has "opted out" and recorded that opt out on an organ transplant register :
30% of the vote.

* 3rd place:
Law 1: A Bill to ban smoking in all workplaces, to include bars and restaurants:
20% of the vote.

4th place:
Law 2: Double-headed Bill which would have limited the number of terms a Prime Minister can serve to two and would have made voting in General Elections compulsory for all of voting age, subject to the provision of a "No Vote" box on the ballot paper:
9% of the vote.

5th place:
Law 4: Ban all Christmas advertising and the erection of municipal street decorations before 1st December :
5% of the vote.


LAW 1: 18%
LAW 2: 8%
LAW 3: 28%
LAW 4: 4%
LAW 5: 42%

LAW 1: 25%
LAW 2: 10%
LAW 3: 35%
LAW 4: 5%
LAW 5: 25%

History of the Vote

Stephen Pound MP agreed to put forward whichever idea eventually won the final vote. It's been interesting. Huge numbers of ideas were sent in - some 10,000, in fact. Almost all were serious, heart-felt propositions. Some were tongue-in-cheek. One correspondent suggested banning the broadcast of antagonistic discussions before nine o'clock.

On Christmas Eve a panel chose a shortlist of five ideas. Their decision was based largely on popularity but they also threw out ideas which were patently unreasonable - the beheading of people caught towing caravans during daylight hours, for example.

Those five shortlisted ideas were put to a ballot in which well over 25,000 people took part. There's clearly no voter apathy in Today-land. Two "laws" - a revision of the donor system and a bill to allow homeowners to deal with intruders in whatever way they see fit - were way ahead of all the others. The final result: a homeowner's defence bill. It's a controversial choice but, nonetheless, it's the choice of the majority of our listeners. So we'll look forward to pursuing it in the Commons later in the year. We'll let you know how we get on.

NB: In a tongue in cheek fashion, Stephen Pound was quoting Mark Twain's 19th.Century remark that "The People have Spoken - the Bastards" and NOT referring to either his constituents, Today listeners or anyone else.

What the Papers Said

The Times, Simon Jenkins
"Mr Pound was clearly embarrassed by having undertaken to act as the corporation's stooge. He might have hoped to become a hero of the airwaves by championing a bill to save rhinos or uphold motherhood. Instead he must now sponsor legislation for what he predicts would be the mass slaughter of 16-year-olds with pump-action shotguns. That is what happens, Mr Pound, when you sell your soul to the media"

Before showing his support for the programme...
"The show reminds me of the old Daily Mirror at its best. By that I mean unmissable..." He added: "There is a virtue in the listeners' law after all…. I am sure that theB.B.C would declare this as no more than their original intention. A listeners' law is better than no law at all. Where indeed would we be without the B.B.C?"

The Independent, Vincent Graff
Mr Pound told the Independent "we are going to have to re-evaluate the listenership of Radio 4. I would have expected this result if there had been a poll in the Sun."

Telegraph Leader Column
"This newspaper has long argued that there is a gap between the opinions of Today's listeners and those of it's right-on producers. But even we did not imagine that the eventual consequence of this mismatch would be the sound of shotguns ringing out across middle England."

Daily Express Leader Column
"The government cannot ignore the fact that this issue is the single matter of over-riding concern to many of us. Yet that is exactly what it seems to be doing…… The law must be reformed so that it gives them clear rights of protection."

Daily Mail, Leo McKinstry
"For all its humour, the Today poll graphically highlights the mounting frustration of the British public, of all classes and races, with the way this country is being governed… If the Today programme brings that mood to the notice of our political leaders, it will have performed a far better service than could be achieved through all its other worthy features"

And in the highest form of flattery - the Daily Mail have asked their own contributors to nominate suggestions of a new law. Suggestions include free champagne, introducing a new bank holiday and banning the Hamiltons from all media outlets and pantomime opportunities.

The Guardian, Nicholas Watt
"Nearly 10,000 Today listeners had confounded critics of the programme, often dismissed as the liberal elite's talking shop, to vote for a measure championed by the Tory right."


The emails have been flooding in. Many of you believe protectingyour family in your own home is a fundamental right - which should be addressed by the courts. Other listeners are shocked and outraged that the bill was taken seriously, and was voted as the ultimate winner...

I am horrified at the winning "Listeners' Law" That Today listeners could endorse vigilantism is incredible. I notice that both proposers mention Tony Martin as if he were some sort of hero, he shot a 16 year old boy, in the back - how can that be reasonable force? Please don't repeat this exercise next year or no doubt somone will suggest bringing back hanging or the birch.
From: Deborah Stux

Was I the only listener standing open-mouthed with impotent fury in my kitchen this morning listening to Stephen Pound's disappointment because the result of the listeners' law poll did not go the way he had wanted? That he wasn't the least bit embarrassed to say so, or admit that he had already been discussing organ donor legislation with Dr John Reid displayed precisely the kind of contempt for voters which exemplifies contemporary political behaviour. The moment the desires of the electorate conflict with their personal intents or ambitions, they choose to forget they actually represent anyone except themselves.
From: Joe Nutt

Has the Today programme been taken over by the frothing mouthed? Let's hope that Mr Pound is unable to find any MP foolish enough to put forward the "Kill Bill".
From: Adam Rose

I was astonished at Steven Pound's comments on the result of your poll. He attempted to dismiss the result in favour of the runner up. Is it surprising that the public is disenchanted with politicians when they patronisingly treat clearly expressed majority democratic wishes like this. Obviously the proposal would have to be refined before going forward (any of them would) but his attempt to say it is inappropriate because of its simplicity was a feeble attempt to discredit a good idea. The Today programme has broken new ground with this vote, well done, lets have some more.
From: Tony Wright

Mr Pound's reaction to your result highlights exactly what is wrong with the UK system of government and law making. The politicians are disconnected and ignore the electorate. The listeners voted for the law to use any force against intruders, yet Mr Pound suggests they got it wrong. He and his fellow law makers don't like the sound of it so it will be difficult to present to Parliament. Lets look at the one that came second, he suggests!!. Why? Because he likes it. Ignore the will of the people. It is only when Mr Pound and his ilk recognise that this is the problem that he will understand why politicians are distrusted and voter turn out continues to fall.
From: Ian McCord

Today listeners are in their sympathy with Tony Martin. Why did I just lie in bed listening instead of getting up and voting?
From: Margaret Squires

The BBC is not responsible for external websites

About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy