06/02/2014 Question Time


David Dimbleby chairs from Gillingham, Kent. On the panel are Matthew Hancock, Tessa Jowell, George Galloway, David Starkey and Alison Wolf.

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tonight, we are in Gelling, in Kent, and welcome to Question Time.


Welcome to you at home, to our audience, here to ask the questions,


our panel, here to answer, and who are not told what the questions are.


Tonight, Conservative Skills and Enterprise Minister Matthew


Hancock, former Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell, tipped to be Labour's


candidate for Mayor of London, Respect MP George Galloway, who


could run against her, economist and author Alison Wolf, and his story


Starkey. -- historian and broadcaster David Starkey.


Our first question from Lisa Gibson, please. In the wake of two


Coronation Street actors being cleared of sex abuse charges, should


the accused be given anonymity in future rape cases? George Galloway,


the coalition agreement between Labour, between the Conservatives


and the Liberal Democrats did have a proposal that anonymity should begin


than to the person charged. What is your view? It is tricky, because


when accusations are made and the accused is named, sometimes people


come forward with evidence, and sometimes with further allegations


of other crimes. And it would obviously mitigate against that if


the accused was granted anonymity. But in the light of what happened


today, this fastly expensive, potentially devastating, disastrous


set of false act is a nation is against an innocent man, cleared by


the court, indeed, some of the charges were dropped well into the


case, before even reaching the jury. I think that this matter will return


to the agenda in a very big way. The accusers are, of course, granted


anonymity, correctly, and I think the time may be coming for the


accused similarly to be granted anonymity. You mean because there is


an increase in the number of cases that are being put before the


courts? Well, there appear to be, in these high profile cases, people in


this post Jimmy Savile here, who are the victims of opportunistic


accusation, and that seems to me to be invidious, unjust to them. I have


no reason to second-guess the jury today, which was apparently


absolutely unequivocal, but William Roache has spent many months under


the cloud of suspicion, entirely unjustifiably, as it has turned out,


and that can't be right. Tessa Jowell. What concerns me about rape


generally is that it is a very heavily under reported crime. And I


wouldn't want to see any step taken that would reduce the likelihood of


women coming forward, being helped to come forward, in some cases many


years later. Notwithstanding the case today, I don't think that this


case, for all its celebrity and the suffering of William Roache and his


family, is a reason to take what is a very major step, by allowing


anonymity for those charged with rape. I think the major priority is


to ensure that women who do suffer rape come forward, are supported to


come forward, and that the police are, there is an insistence that the


police take accusations of rape more seriously. Why is that affected by


anonymity being granted to the accused? Because I think that, you


know, in many cases women are afraid, they are not confident about


the protection of their own anonymity. And I think that if you


look at this in the round, the priority for us as a society is the


protection of women who are subject to rape, and putting absolutely no


obstacle in the way of their coming forward and being supported to come


forward and bring cases of rape where they have suffered this


terrible sexual violence. What about when they haven't? I agree with


George Galloway, and the time has come for people accused of rape to


be granted anonymity until the end of the trial. If they are found


guilty, the name comes forward, but I cannot see why putting people


through this helps in any way to encourage women to come forward with


accusations. It seems to me that there is actually a huge number of


unjust accusations being made against people in our society. Most


of them do not hit the headlines. It is a living nightmare for many


teachers, and I think it is perfectly possible to have a fair


trial with the accused remaining anonymous. And I cannot see how we


can possibly justify the number of innocent people who are being put


through this. And of course, as many of them will say, there is this


muttering, no smoke without fire, mud sticks. These things are


perfectly true. What about the Stuart Hall case, where he pleaded


and said these were all lies. His name came out and other people


accused him and then he pleaded guilty. That is like saying that you


should hang people because there are people who will not commit murder


because they are terrified of being hanged. Our primary duty is to


protect the innocent and make sure they get a fair trial. I think,


given the way that the case ended, there was a clear lack of concrete


evidence. Mr Galloway touched on that. But these allegations have


potentially damaged women coming forward who genuinely have these


gripes. It makes you think, she is making it up. These sort of things,


the media intrusion into the accused and also the potential victim, it is


damaging to the real victims. It has been horrible for William Roache,


but what about the women who are scared to come forward because of


this? There are two points I would like to make. The first relates


specifically to the question, why was that idea of anonymity in the


coalition agreement? It was directly because of the intervention of an


old and dear friend of mine, Conrad Russell, who, when he was at York


College, dealt as a Chuter with exactly the kind of case we are


talking about. That is why it was there. The second thing is that we


have got into a hopeless confusion on the whole question of rape. The


word rape means violence. That is the Latin root. That is how it has


always existed in English. That is how it has always been understood.


What we have tried to do is to take that word, with -- with all of its


terrible associations, and apply it to a whole series of much more


awkward, much more difficult to establish, much more contested and


contentious sexual encounters, by focusing on the issue of consent,


which so often boils down, as it did in this case, to his word against


her word. Now, I cannot see that the law is at all good at dealing with


this. It really isn't. It works very badly. And I think it encourages


false accusation. It also encourages other things as well on the other


side. It's a very, very awkward, difficult law. We are in a state of


complete confusion about sexual etiquette, aren't we? Complete


confusion about what is right and what is wrong. We are trying to use


the law to change it, and you, Tessa, said something which I find


deeply shocking. You said our interest as a society is on bringing


forward more victims of rape. I am sorry, we have one interest in


society when the law is applied, and it is called justice. Justice is


blind, and justice is evenhanded. This sense of a very large female


Paul resting on one pan of the scale is bad and it is wrong, and it is


immoral. That is utterly reactionary Tosh. Rape does not have to involve


violence. No means no. If you proceed, it is a comma whether there


is violence involved or not. I am outraged at what you said, and so


will half the country B. Good, because it might make them think.


Just mouthing these things, no means no, I am not heterosexual. I have


been in very complex sexual situations, being gay. I know what


is involved, I know the complexities. No means no? In a


relationship in which sex is the norm, then clearly, nobody watching


this asks their wife verbally, would you like to have sex, dear, nobody


does that in relationships. Let's go back to the question. Matthew


Hancock, we have not heard from you. I think this case has been a


high-profile disaster. It has been a disaster both on its own terms and


for the impact on William Roache. But also because of how it has made


this very debate more difficult. Because the concept of open justice,


of everything being done in open in court is based on everybody taking


the opinion of innocent until proven guilty. And the problem in these


cases is precisely because of people not thinking of the perpetrators,


the alleged perpetrators, as innocent until proven guilty. And I


would rather try to establish the principle of innocent until proven


guilty, because of the downsides of ringing in anonymity, which


undoubtedly, making an accusation, if true, does bring forward other


victims. How do you achieve that? It is about the national culture. It


involves how the media respond. Innocent until proven guilty is an


important principle on which our whole justice system is built.


Talking about what George was saying, about asking your partner


for intercourse. Most girls would complain after a couple of months


that there is no spontaneous love, no care in the relationship, if you


are asking every 20 seconds if you want them. Where is the spontaneous


real love? We are on to the issue about what rape is, rather than


anonymity. William Roache was never going to be anonymous. He is too


famous. We should not use high profile cases to talk about a major


change in the law. As for people being confused, I think that is


rubbish. A man knows if he has had sex with a woman against her will,


and chateau does she. There is no confusion. -- and so does she.


I think, due to the media circus and frenzy that surrounded the cases, I


believe in the premise of innocent until proven guilty. The fact that


these are two famous household actors, they should be allowed to be


in court, and in both cases a trial jury should decide rather than the


press and the media. Tessa Jowell, do you want to come back, because


David Starkey laid into you? Not that I noticed. My test for this


is, does any change in the law make it less likely that some of the


young women that I represent, and who I know turn up at the local


hospital, go to the police, or they languish in school because something


horrific has happened to them, does it make it less likely that they are


going to come forward that the perpetrator is going to be charged


and they are going to be given the help that they need? And I think


that celebrity is a very bad moment at which to undertake a fundamental


change in the law. I think the lady who made that point, perhaps rather


better than I have, is the view that certainly represents what I want to


say. If anonymity was granted, why would it make people less likely to


come forward and accuse them? I think the absence of anonymity sets


a higher threshold. That is the first thing. A higher threshold for


somebody to be charged. I think also UC... Doesn't evidence do that? It


is tempting to bring full style is when you want to harm somebody and


hurt somebody. You do not care if they are acquitted. -- falls charges


when you want to harm somebody. Many women in this country has suffered


forms of sexual violence and never had the confidence to come forward.


This has no relationship to the issue of anonymity. I will hand this


argument over to you at home. Textual comments or use the red


button. We will move on to another question. How can state schools be


the same as private schools with half the funding and doubled the


pupils? Michael Gove said you should be able to walk into a school and


not be able to tell if it was private or state. Once upon a time,


the sort of school I went to, which was a local grammar school, was in


many ways indistinguishable from the middle right public school. I had


the sort of education that boys up and down the road had. I have the


same kind of extracurricular activities and the same enthusiasm


of staff. I had the same range of subjects. My school may do no


difference as to how I was treated when I got to Oxbridge. -- my school


made no difference. Some of the motives were good but many were


absolutely foul. We wilfully destroy our best schools in the public


sector. We have been running behind hand ever since. That is what


happened. George Galloway... If our state schools had the money, the


resources, the playing field is that the private schools have, our state


school playing fields are almost now all sold off by this government,


which knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. Then they


would be, many of them would be, the equal of private schools that we


perversely called public schools in our language. I speak all the time


at the very best of these private schools, where the cost of the


parents is in the case of Harrow ?32,000 a year. 35,000, I think, at


Eton. Errors are getting what they are paying for. They are not paying


it for nothing. -- parents are getting. They have wonderful school


teachers and facilities. Then I go back to Bradford and I can see we


are not getting what we pay for. We are being starved of the resources


and of the creativity from the centre, from the state, that would


rescue these schools and rescue these children, who are, of course,


the vast majority. I am very candid about this or that they'd might


cancel my next invitation to eat in or Harrow. We should abolish public


schools, starting with abolishing their charitable status. If it is a


charity, you get it deducted from your tax. These same comment, these


same idiots who never learn. You people never learn. You are on a


cycle of destruction. People like you. You quoted Shakespeare. I am


furious. The children in my constituency are amongst the worst


schools in the country. That leans, when they leave school, their life


chances, unlike you, will not reach these Elysium Fields of pop history


and academia that you have reached. I am absolutely furious about it. It


is my job to sound off about it. Every child has the same right to a


good education. Of course. Unconnected to how much money their


parents have got. The thing is, you are talking about getting rid of the


private school sector. Where do those children go? Do they go into


the state school sector and the classroom sizes go from 30 to 60?


That will not improve the situation. I am becoming something of an expert


on this question. My university is setting up a state school. We are


setting up a specialist mathematics School for 16 to 19-year-olds which


will be funded as a state school. At one level, you cannot do it with the


same amount of money as other state schools. If you are a private school


you have more money to play with. Private schools are caught in and


amenities arms race. One has one covered some wall so the next has to


have two covered summing. That is not what schools are about. We


believe we can create a school which is just as good, academically, and


in terms of encouraging creativity and excitement, that the best


schools do, with the sort of funding we can get. What has gone wrong in


Bradford? I think a lot of things have gone wrong in Bradford. I


suspect one of the major things that has happened in Bradford is very few


teachers have stayed in Bradford. One of the things I do believe that


both actually the previous Labour government which started in


academies and this government, which encourage free schools, has done, is


to create enthusiasm and energy for teachers. You get a good school when


you have a group of staff that give themselves a day and night for it.


On the present funding... It will not be eaten but can you produce a


really good school on the current funding? Yes, you can. It is a bit


unfair to automatically assume because it is a state school it is


not a good school. I am a teacher myself. There are lots of very good


teachers in the school I teach out. Just because you are in a private


school, it does not mean that teachers are better but they have a


lot better facilities and it makes it a lot easier. What is behind your


question? It is hard to compare when it is not on an even playing field.


You cannot say to a school where students paid ?30,000 a year, when


they have facilities out of this world, and compare it to a school


with one football pitch and maybe a couple of hard courts, it is not the


same. You cannot compare the two. Is his aspiration that you should not


be able to tell the right aspiration for a Secretary of State for


education or is it fatuous? At the moment, it is factual. I would love


the same facilities that private schools have. If that is the case,


maybe Mr Gove will give us more money and reduce class sizes and


give us more holidays. I agree with a lot of what you have said. You


have left out an essential question and so has Allison. The key thing


about public schools is the implied contract between the parents, the


teacher and the people. In other words, those pupils are there and


they will learn and there are virtually no disciplinary Robins. --


problems. My experience on Jamie 's dream school makes it clear that the


key issue is that of discipline. This is what Michael will share has


been on about and you must not insult peoples. -- the pupils. Good


teachers insult their pupils the whole of the time. Telling one he


was too fat to learn... I do not want to go down That Road any


further. Askew Hancock. I agree very strongly with the gentleman who just


spoke. This is a vision, obviously, not a reality now. The reason that


this is a goal towards which we should march is because it is


possible, doable, to have very high standards in the state sector, even


though obviously cash is much tighter. We know that even with


tight cash you can dramatically improve the standards because it has


happened. It has happened over the last five, ten years. I have paid


tribute to some of the Labour ministers. Some of the schools in


the worst areas of London are now some of the best schools in the


country and this is increasingly happening across the country. One


thing has not been mentioned yet and that is a core driver of how this


happens and that is expectations. These schools that have really


improved set very high expectations for every child - every child to


reach potential. Even if they are not naturally gifted or they have


had a difficult time so far, you set high standards and expectations and


huge challenge children to get to those expectations. Boy, have we


discovered through trial and error, that if you set high expectations


for children, more likely than not they reach them. I care passionately


about doing that in the state sector. There is a huge, huge golf


that we have got to get over. Can we move in that direction? Absolutely,


yes we can. What about the suggestion from George Galloway


about cutting the charitable status? I think there are two reasons it


would be a disaster. As the lady said, you would end up with more


people in the state sector. We do not have much cash in the state


sector. We are borrowing ?100 billion a year still. There is cash


for banks, cash for bankers bonuses, cash for tax cuts. You are giving it


away to your powers, your fellow public school boys and girls. That


is what you are doing with the cash. With the spectacles in the


background. You have not got spectacles on, that is my bad


eyesight. Frequently, the debate is more aimed at bringing the top down


rather than bringing the lower school back up. We should not be


caring down the top layer, we should be bringing below will air back up.


-- caring down. Surely, private schools will always want to be


better than public schools so it will always be a tit for tat. Great,


then they would all get better. You will spend more money on public


schools. Surely that will be a waste of money. This question touches on a


whole number of issues. It is absolutely not the case that all


public schools, all independent schools, are better than state


schools. There are fantastic state schools in which brilliant teachers


are teaching up and down the country, across London in my own


constituency. I think this is first of all an argument we should


reject. State means inferior in every case to private school. I


think the argument tends to be dominated by four or five very


famous high achieving, highly selective private schools that tend


to dominate the entrance to Oxford and Cambridge. What is it that makes


a good school? It is a combination of things. It is excellent


leadership by a motivated and brilliant head. It is also dedicated


staff. It is engaged parents. The other thing is, and I think this is


a really important thing, children go to school to learn, so that they


are informed, confident and so forth. The diversity of state


schools is what is teaching children to be citizens of the modern world.


That is what I think is so important and so incredibly uplifting about a


lot of our primary schools and a lot of our secondary schools. Of course


we have got to do better and do more. The ambition in a way never


stops because there are more children from disadvantaged, poorer


families, unmotivated families in state schools.


What did you make of Michael Gove's comparison of the state and private


system of having a burly and wall between them which he wanted to


knock down? I represent a constituency with a large number of


independent schools, and a large number of increasingly successful


state schools. So the comparison is wrong? Also, I think this assumption


that you walk into an independent school and fine excellence, and you


walk into a state school and find mediocrity is deeply insulting and


untrue. There will always be a difference between private schools


and state schools. The cultures are different. But I think Michael


Gove's point was that he is trying to say that the standards, the gap


in standards can be closed. One of the examples he gave was a longer


school day, which is what they do in private schools, extracurricular


activities, help with home works and stuff like that, which would help


people from poorer backgrounds, and also discipline. David Starkey


mentioned that, and it is a huge thing that needs to be migrated from


the private to the state school more, where there is a gap. We are


going to go on. A question from Joan Morris. Should workers in essential


services be refused the right to strike? Matthew Hancock, thinking of


the current difficulties that have brought London to a halt for 48


hours. Many of us were delayed on the way down here. I support the


trade union movement and I work with the trade union movement, for


instance, on expanding apprenticeships. And I think that


they are badly served by their bosses. Because there was not a


majority of trade unionists who voted for this action. The majority


of trade -- of workers on the tube did not vote for this action and


were driven into it by their bosses. And I think that we do need to look


at the way that those votes take place. We also need to think about


whether essential services can be brought to a standstill. For


instance, the police cannot strike because you would not want a moment


when all of the police in the country were not at work. Are you in


favour of essential services being refused the right to strike? I


believe the New York subway have no right to strike. I think we need to


consider it. What does that mean? Well, I do not think we should do it


in the midst of a strike which has been so destructive. Why not, is


that not the right moment? On the one hand, we need to balance the


right to withdraw your labour, but just as important and, I would say


this week, more important, is the ability to keep our country going


and the ability for people to be able to get on with their lives. The


strike this week has shown that, despite the fact that a majority did


not vote for it, they managed to have a big disruptive impact,


meaning doctors have been unable to get in to treat patients, teachers


have been unable to get into schools to teach. I think this strike was


absolutely wrong and we need to look at whether we need to change the


rules about it. Do you want the right to strike refused?


Personally, I think members of the London Underground who decide to


strike, I think it is an essential service. If you look at horrific


situations, such as a terrorist attack, you look at those


supervisors, the number of people in stations who helped to evacuate


people who were in the tunnels, who were in those moments, those crucial


moments, where they were then supported by emergency services, you


can see the focus and the importance of that service, and you can see the


importance of it to London as a financial capital. The real losers


at the end of the day are going to be the millions of Londoners who


have not got to work, are unable to get to work. The economy then


suffers. To be honest, personally, I find the fact that the RMT officials


have not really met properly with Boris Johnson, there is a breakdown


in communications, frankly ridiculous. This is what happens


when you elect a clown is the Mayor of London. And it's not very funny.


And the suffering that has occurred over the last 48 hours is not funny


for anybody. It's not funny for the workers, who had to lose two days


pay over it. By the way, the workers voted to strike. I wouldn't like


anyone to be misled. You support trade unions like the rope supports


a hanging man. The truth is that Boris Johnson provoked this strike


by issuing a Fiat to close every ticket office in London and make


hundreds of people redundant, without negotiating with the people


who are paid to represent the interests of the staff. It is not


rocket science. Five years, Boris Johnson has not met with the leaders


of the RMT. This is contempt, Tory contempt for working people and


their organisations. And in the final analysis, working people only


have their labour to withdraw. They don't have your money. They don't


have the money that the people in the City of London have. They don't


have any power except their own they buy power and the right, legally,


democratically, to decide to withdraw it for a day or two. Only


30% of members of the RMT voted for this strike. You are assuming the


others are against it. Only 30% of people voted for Boris Johnson. The


plan is reasonable and not to close every ticket office. It is to close


every single ticket office on the London Underground. You do not even


know what your own mayor is doing. That's just not true. Also, it is


well covered by people applying for voluntary redundancy. It's a


perfectly reasonable plan and there is no reasonable argument for


bringing London to a halt. Firstly, I think it is unfair of you to


suggest that people are just striking to prevent people getting


to work. They are striking because they are angry. If politicians are


going to say they will only consider helping them in the future, it is no


wonder they want to strike to begin with.


I totally support the right of anyone to take strike action, but


the London Underground is one of the most expensive underground systems


in Europe. Surely this is a way of improving efficiency on the


Underground system and hopefully reducing the fares. Let's come to


the issue of whether it is so important there should be no right


to strike in this and other essential services. Generally, the


rule is that there should be no right to strike. What is happening


in this strike and has happened in the London Underground over the last


15 to 20 years is a process of pure extortion. Bob Crow is not an


ineffective trade union leader. Bob Crow. The large fat man with the


pinochle larder. He is an incredibly effective trade union leader. They


are paid ?52,000 a year. Heaven forbid! How much do you earn? A lot


more than that for a less owner is job. They could be replaced by a


dummy. Most of the trades are designed to run automatically. --


most of the trains. They are designed to run automatically as


every subway system in the world is increasingly doing. London


Underground has been mismanaged by Ken Livingstone and by the current


mayor. Ken Livingstone deliberately encouraged the trade unions. Boris


is a hopeless administrator. Ken Livingstone is a maligned genius.


Transport for London needs shaking up from top to bottom. The reason


the fares are scanned the list the expensive is mismanagement on an


unbelievable scale. -- scandalously expensive. Is it so essential that


the law that applies to the police and the military that they are not


allowed to strike should apply? In any other European country, it would


be. We are the only country in Europe without a coherent body of


law defining essential services, and defining what you have to do in the


event of a strike. It is not about never being allowed to strike, but


if you do go on strike there is a basic minimum you are obliged to


maintain. I was astonished. Every country in Europe except us as a


clear body of law relating to that, and it includes public transport in


large cities. What would the effect be in London? It would mean you have


to keep the service going on every line-out is certainly a full. It


would have meant that people who really had to get around occurred.


In terms of withdrawing labour, I have friends who have lost large


amounts of money because their businesses effectively had no


takings over the last two days. It is pure extortion, a protection


racket. They are essential because they are essential to allowing other


people to carry out their normal life, essential to allowing people


to get to doctors appointments, get to school, to work, to businesses.


Tessa Jowell, you may be the person who challenges the Mayor of London.


Many people tip you to be Mayor of London. If you were Mayor of London,


what would you do? First of all, I would not support withdrawing the


right to strike from public sector workers. In response to Alison's


point, I got the Chu, the bus yesterday. It was inconvenient, long


delays, but it was possible. It met your standard of a basic service.


But I think withdrawing the right to strike assumes that public sector


workers undertake industrial action in a kind of reckless, unthinking


way, and they don't. Bob Crow does. David, stop it! This was a strike


that was completely preventable had, first of all, Boris Johnson not


broken the promised that he made when he was elected. He promised


that no ticket offices would be closed. I actually think that there


is a case for getting people out of ticket offices and out on the


platforms. All of that could have been negotiated, had we not had the


farce of Boris Johnson and Bob Crow. The only way they could talk to each


other was by phoning LBC and having their discussion mediated. That is


not the way to do it. Boris stood on a clear platform of modernising the


Chu. You know why we need to modernise the Chu. He promised to


keep the ticket offices. In 2010, the mayor takes his promises to


London extremely seriously. Every station that has a ticket office


will continue to have one. Statement from City Hall. The question is, how


many people do you put in ticket offices? And our people bet on the


station platforms, this is the proposal, on station platforms


helping people? Only 3% of the travelling public use the ticket


offices. So why did he go out on a limb to say every station will have


a ticket office? Because there will still be places you can go in each


station. You are struggling there! No, I am very clear. There will be


people available for when people have difficulties. This is called


the student loans moment! The important thing is that then we


could keep the prices down. You cannot keep the travelling public


moving at a reasonable cost if you set everything in stone and say


that, when 97% of people who used London Underground do not go through


a ticket office, we need to have because Bob Crow says so. Everyone


should have the right to strike. It depends on a job. What about the


firefighters? You have said everyone should have the right to strike. Are


you saying the police should have the right to strike? Well, yes. The


threat of that strike should make decisions. I do not think it is wise


to insult the audience, David. I will take one more point. I think


the most important thing in this is being lost. The people involved in


the underground, who work for TEFL, are being completely forgotten. You


have to eat goes dominating the argument. The media are spinning it


to be a Bob Crowe versus Boris Johnson. If you take away the


peoples right to strike, what else do they have? If the unions are not


working, what protection is that for common man? Have you heard of


employment law? Do you know the huge structure of employment protection


that exists? Strikes in the public sector are extortion against you and


me. That is why they are paid 52,000 a year. Some underground workers


earn 52,000 a year. The drivers, who do nothing. 52,000 is a bad month 's


bonus for a banker in London. Give me a cheap driver, that is a


responsible and important job. If the bankers went on strike, we would


all be better off. Now for another question. Why are there still so few


women in Parliament? This issue surfaced yesterday in the House of


Commons when the Labour front bench seemed to be entirely made up of


women and the Tory front bench seem to not have one single women on it.


Much was made of this. Why are there still so few women in Parliament?


Labour has 34% of its membership and the Conservatives about 16. After


the next election, we hope that proportion will increase. My party,


the Labour Party, has since 1993/94, being impatient to increase the


number of women. Why is it important? When you look at


Parliament and are at the receiving end of the laws we were talking


about rape earlier, that Parliament passes, you can be confident they


are made by a parliament that is representative of the country. A


balance between men and women. You know, it does not happen. The


Liberal Democrats and the Tories have been very critical of us in


doing this. It does not happen and if you have a period of positive


action. We have all women short lists. That is why we have a bigger


proportion of women in parliament than any of the other parties. These


are constituencies where you do not allow men to stand. It is half hour


winnable seats. Almost in every case, I think in every case, we will


replace women who are standing down with all women short lists. Half


hour winnable seats will have short lists. We live in great hope and


strong campaigning. I hope that this can change. I am a passionate


supporter of having more women in Parliament. What is the answer as to


why there are so few? There is the question about passage of time.


People tend to be in Parliament for a long time. The Conservative Party


went from 17 women to 48 women when we first introduced positive action


to get more women into Parliament. It does take time. There is another


reason as well. In the past, the way Parliament has operated, frankly,


has been antifamily. It has been designed on a principle of


19th-century -- a 19th-century principle with folks at 10pm,


10:30pm in the evening. I was proud to campaign amongst MPs to change


the sitting hours so we could start earlier in the day and finish at


7pm. That is not desperately early but it does help with those who have


families and it helps with the work/ life balance, so you can then go


home. Changing the way that Parliament operates to make it more


family friendly will help. What about the match in masculine culture


we see on display every Prime Minister's Questions on a Wednesday?


What about the way that Prime Minister is on both sides conduct


their business and the Corsa two of Cabinet members who are women. The


proportion of Conservative Cabinet ministers is the same as was under


Gordon Brown. I wish it were higher. I imagine it will be higher.


I do not want to predict who will be in the cabinet in the future but I


wish it were higher. Taking action will take time but we have got to


get that. The man up there... Seeing more women in politics will be


wonderful. I do not think having all women short lists is the way to go


about it. I think it is a deeply patronising gesture. I think women


should go into politics on their own merit. They are more than capable of


competing with men. We're not going to see all homosexual short lists or


Asian short lists. Women should get into Parliament on their own merit.


I totally agree. I am against all women short lists. You can have half


and half short lists. I do not think that makes it representative. I have


never understood why a female who has gone to Oxford and go straight


into politics is more representative of a country than a male. I think


that is an artificial way of doing it and it does not encourage really


good women to come forward. As to why there are so few, I think it is


partly time and that things will improve. It is partly, curiously


enough, on the conservative side, a reluctance for females to be


selected as candidates. That is part of a changing culture. I think it


will always be difficult to get women who are in their 30s and 40s


and have children to be active Members of Parliament and do the job


properly. The reality is it is a very demanding job. It is not just


about our culture. I am full of aberration for people who managed to


do it and doubly for people who managed to do it with children. --


admiration. One of the best ways to increase numbers of women in


Parliament would be if we were ageist. If we were to encourage


people in their 50s to go into Parliament, rather than it being


seen so much as a full-time job which you start doing when you are


18 and do carry on doing it. I think that would do a huge amount for the


balance. It should be done on an individual 's ability to stand as an


MP. It discriminates against men with a women 's short list. I want


to see more working class people in Parliament. Parliament is full,


unfortunately, in all three parties, of public school, young,


careerists, like Matthew, God bless him. I hope he does well but that is


what he is. Parliament is full of researchers, who go from a good


school to Oxford University and you can see them looking at the older


Members of Parliament walking across the tea room, wondering whether they


are going to fall over and there might be a by-election and they can


get a place. I want to see positive discrimination in favour of better


Members of Parliament who do not fill their pockets at the public 's


expense of charging their dinner, charging scatter cushions, charging


to get notes cleared out. Why are there still so few women? We have


had women. Margaret Thatcher was the woman and it did not make her any


good. Tessa and her friends told us for years in the Labour Party, if


only we could get more women into Parliament, there would be fewer


wars, less aggression. There were 101 Blair babes elected and all but


three of them voted for every war that Tony Blair took us into. I am


not big on this. I sort of agree with George. I think we need to ask


some very hard questions. Why is it so important that there be an even


balance between men and women? Why do we not have a similar quotient


for Asians, homosexuals, left-handed people or whatever? If we demand


that Parliament reflects us, that is a question worth asking. What is it


that women actually bring? This needs answering and it needs


thinking about. Are we talking simply about social justice? Are we


saying, as George was hinting, that women are supposed to do it


differently? My sense in politics is that successful women are at least


as brutal and nasty as successful men. Margaret Thatcher is an


outstanding example. Some of our very worst ministers have been


women. Please let's confront this. Nobody is stopping you. We had left


down Morris, who at least had the merit of realising she could not do


the job and decide within a year. She knew she could not do it. And we


had Jacqui Smith, who is probably the worst Home Secretary ever and


was, of course, sprouting the trough in the largest possible way. Women


are not a panacea. They do not bring a miracle or do mysterious good. Can


we all start to be adult and think? On that note, we have to stop


because the hour is up. Sky one more thing. David Cameron has had more


people for dinner called Michael than he has women. So, why don't we


start a twitter campaign nominating women to have dinner with the Prime


Minister? All right. Prizes for the list of my


calls. And the women. Time is up. Next week we go to Scunthorpe in


Lincolnshire. The week after that we will be in Swindon. Take your choice


of Scunthorpe or Swindon. The website gives the address you can


apply to all call us. If you have been listening to us on


the radio, the argument goes on. Thank you to the panel and all of


you who came to take part in Gillingham. Good night.


David Dimbleby presents Question Time from Gillingham in Kent. On the panel are skills and enterprise minister Matthew Hancock MP, former culture secretary Tessa Jowell MP, Respect MP George Galloway, historian David Starkey and economist Professor Alison Wolf of King's College London.

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