BBC Question Time: open thread

by Stephen Tall on March 6, 2008

Shirley Williams, veteran Liberal Democrat peer, is one of the panellists on tonight’s Question Time (broadcast on BBC1 and online from 10.35 pm GMT).

The panel will also include the Cabinet Office Minister Ed Miliband, the shadow home secretary David Davis, the leader of the UK Independence Party Nigel Farage, and comedian and broadcaster Marcus Brigstocke.

If you’re watching, and want to sound-off, please feel free to use the comments thread.

PS: I’ll be on Question Time Extra (on BBC News 24 immediately after the main show finishes) alongside Tim Montgomerie… What do you mean, you’ll be tuning into BBC1’s This Week instead?

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OK – everyone’s left the living room to go to bed – although not the same one I hope – I’ll assume he does :@))

by Jo on March 6, 2008 at 11:50 pm. Reply #

nice quick plug for lib dem voice from stephen there. I was wondering how he would shoe one in

by Stephen on March 6, 2008 at 11:53 pm. Reply #

Well done, Stephen!

by Mary Reid on March 6, 2008 at 11:59 pm. Reply #

Yes very well done to Stephen :@P

by Jo on March 7, 2008 at 12:02 am. Reply #


by Jo on March 7, 2008 at 12:04 am. Reply #

Stephen, the legal minimum age for alcohol consumption is five – that’s why parents are able to give alcohol to their children at home. “Underage” drinking is NuLabour speak for “kids we don’t like hanging around in the street”. We need to be careful as liberals before adopting a zero tolerance policy on anything that is not actually illegal.

by Alix on March 7, 2008 at 1:28 am. Reply #

Jo – the reference to my previous out-take TV is this (which I blogged about here).

As for being an MP? – no thanks.

by Stephen Tall on March 7, 2008 at 1:46 am. Reply #

Damn, I fell asleep. I blame the Lancaster Bomber. I have every sympathy with that fainting incident Stephen. Whenever somebody faints next to me, people come tearing in from all directions while I’m just stood there scratching my head. Perhaps they’re all Christians or something. I’m not sure I really want to interview Shirley, Alex. I wouldn’t have much to say except to be rude to her over that incident, and then she’d like bloggers even less . . .

by Laurence Boyce on March 7, 2008 at 5:18 am. Reply #

How crass of Laurence Boyce to trust politicians to read and understand the Lisbon Treaty, and how ill-informed of him to think EU Treaties actually spell out the law. Wrong on both counts.

In 1972, our political leaders were wholly unaware of the doctrines of Supremacy and Direct Effect. Civil servants had handed Ministers briefing papers on the subject, but Ministers didn’t read them.

So when Sir Alec Douglas-Home assured the Commons that Britain’s membership of the then EEC would entail no loss of national sovereignty, he was talking out of the back of his neck – from a position of ignorance, not mendacity.

Note that Supremacy and Direct Effect were nowhere to be found in the Treaty of Rome. Both were concocted by Napoleonic judges in the European Court of Justice.

EU Treaties are basically invitations to judges to dispense palm tree justice and make it up as they go along – because that is how the Napoleonic legal system works.

Shirley Williams clearly has a down on young people. A few months ago, on “Question Time”, she said she is in favour of school uniforms (like Hitler and Mao), and in the days of the SDP she once called for the age of sexual consent to be raised to 18. And I can even remember her advocating conscription on one occasion (a watered down variant that Owen’s acolytes were pushing at the time).

If 40% of publicans don’t ask young people their age, that’s great news for human freedom. If 100% didn’t, that would be wonderful news.

by Sesenco on March 7, 2008 at 8:36 am. Reply #

I think you are all trying very hard to convince yourselves that we are not in the brown stuff.

David Davis put Shirley on the ropes with the stuff about whether the treaty was important or not.

Time to take off those yellow tinted glasses.

by Andy Higson on March 7, 2008 at 8:54 am. Reply #

“and in the days of the SDP she once called for the age of sexual consent to be raised to 18.”

If it was on an equal basis (ie hetero and homo) then that’s not unsustainable as a Liberal position. The issue is equality IMO.

Mind you given that your conjecture is to equate Shirley with Hitler and Mao, I may be given your arguments credence they don’t merit 🙂

by Hywel Morgan on March 7, 2008 at 9:15 am. Reply #

@Sesenco “[Shirley Williams] she said she is in favour of school uniforms (like Hitler and Mao),”

It’s a while since I’ve seen someone foolish enough to seriously push the argument “Person X believes in this, Mao/Hitler/Stalin had the same opinion, therefore person X is like them”.

Next you’ll be telling us that all atheists are like Mao and Stalin, with all Catholics being like Hitler.

Thanks for brightening up my morning.

by Iain Roberts on March 7, 2008 at 9:42 am. Reply #

It’s good to know that Iain Roberts is ignorant enough to believe Hitler was a Catholic. He was an atheist and a materialist (like Laurence Boyce, in fact). Read Alan Bullock’s “Hitler: A Study in Tyrrany”. It’s all there.

The point I was making is that Hitler and Mao were in favour of putting people into uniform for the same reasons as alleged “liberals” like Williams (in Williams’ case, to impose a feeling of belonging to a particular institution).

If Roberts would take the trouble to examine the attitudes of Hitler and Mao, he will find that most of them are shared by most people.

That doesn’t make Williams a Nazi or a Communist, obviously. What it does is point to the illiberality of parts of her thinking.

Shirley Williams did favour an equal age of consent. But the issue is freedom, not equality. Isn’t it?

by Sesenco on March 7, 2008 at 9:57 am. Reply #

Stephen – Oh! :@))

by Jo on March 7, 2008 at 9:58 am. Reply #

By the way, Iain Roberts, where did I say Shirley Williams is like Hitler and Mao?

You should get a job with Rupert Murdoch if you don’t have one already.

by Sesenco on March 7, 2008 at 9:59 am. Reply #

You could have caught her in your arms Stephen I’m not impressed!!! :@P

by Jo on March 7, 2008 at 10:00 am. Reply #

Sesenco “It’s good to know that Iain Roberts is ignorant enough to believe Hitler was a Catholic. He was an atheist and a materialist.”

I find checking your facts before making comments like this can be helpful – then you don’t look quite so foolish by getting it wrong 🙂

by Iain Roberts on March 7, 2008 at 10:40 am. Reply #

Sesenco: “By the way, Iain Roberts, where did I say Shirley Williams is like Hitler and Mao?”

So, to be clear, you thought you’d make a comparison between the opinions of Shirley Williams, Stalin and Mao saying how similar they were, but you in no way intended to imply that they were like each other in any way.

Right, that makes complete sense.

by Iain Roberts on March 7, 2008 at 10:46 am. Reply #

Iain Roberts clearly doesn’t like owning up when he gets things wrong.

He says I claimed that Shirley Williams is like Hitler and Mao.

I didn’t. End of story on that point.

Shirley Williams does however share a number of political opinions with Hitler and Mao (most of them concerning young people). And that is a matter of record.

by Sesenco on March 7, 2008 at 10:54 am. Reply #

How crass of Laurence Boyce to trust politicians to read and understand the Lisbon Treaty, and how ill-informed of him to think EU Treaties actually spell out the law. Wrong on both counts.

Not sure I said either of those things but never mind . . .

by Laurence Boyce on March 7, 2008 at 2:01 pm. Reply #

It’s good to know that Iain Roberts is ignorant enough to believe Hitler was a Catholic. He was an atheist and a materialist (like Laurence Boyce, in fact).

Hitler was a Catholic. This from the Munich speech, April 12, 1922:

“I say: my feeling as a Christian points me to my Lord and Saviour as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded only by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned men to the fight against them and who, God’s truth! was greatest not as sufferer but as fighter. In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and of adders. How terrific was His fight for the world against the Jewish poison. Today, after two thousand years, with deepest emotion I recognise more profoundly than ever before – the fact that it was for this that He had to shed His blood upon the Cross. As a Christian I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice. And as a man I have the duty to see to it that human society does not suffer the same catastrophic collapse as did the civilisation of the ancient world some two thousand years ago – a civilisation which was driven to its ruin through this same Jewish people.”

Of course you may insist that he was just saying that for political reasons, or that he couldn’t possibly be a Catholic seeing as he was so nasty – but then we’re just into the “religion is whatever meaningless tautology you choose to make of it” game again.

by Laurence Boyce on March 7, 2008 at 2:03 pm. Reply #

What Hitler said in private was entirely different. His comments on this and many other subjects were recorded in great detail by Martin Bormann and appear in “Hitler’s Table Talk”, from which Bullock was quoting.

He was an atheist and materialist on the basis of what he said in private, not his public utterances. Hitler (under Bormann’s influence) may have been planning to outlaw Christianity once the war was over. Or he might just have been mouthing off to his intimates. We will never know.

Once again, Laurence shows off his mean skills as a propagandist. Truth is a different matter.

There are plenty of legitimate grounds for attacking the RC Church. You don’t need to make them up, Laurence.

by Sesenco on March 7, 2008 at 3:22 pm. Reply #

Shirley was superb. Like some other contributors I had worried a bit at first as to whether she was the right choice – but she gave a star performance. Don’t let’s forget she comes from the generation when political debate and rhetoric still meant something and the audience appreciated her. I’m glad most doubtersin these columns were won over, even though some later comments were carping and silly.
Unwillingness to worship constantly at the court of yoof isn’t a crime or necessarily illiberal. Given the amount of bullying and persecution that takes place amongst young people about fashion, school uniform doesn’t seem such a bad idea. And though we can’t go back to it, neither is national service. At least it created a kind of social cohesion and equality, as well as discouraging military adventures by governments (and I speak from the experience of having done national service).

by Mike Falchikov on March 7, 2008 at 4:54 pm. Reply #

You dare mention rhetoric? Any attempt to justify the broken promise on the referendum is nothing but rhetoric!

by Andy Higson on March 7, 2008 at 5:07 pm. Reply #

What Hitler said in private was entirely different.

Ah, well I wasn’t in on those conversations, so I’ll just have to go by the published material.

He was an atheist and materialist on the basis of what he said in private, not his public utterances.

Rather than argue whether Hitler was an atheist or a religionist, why don’t we just settle for saying he was completely mad? As I understand it, the Reich advocated some totally bizarre mix of Christian and Norse legend termed Positive Christianity. I think it’s really stretching things to describe this as a materialist outlook. It was certainly deeply irrational.

Once again, Laurence shows off his mean skills as a propagandist . . .

On the subject of mean skills, may I offer you some genuine advice “Senesco.” It would be to obtain for yourself a real name and profile so we may see who you are. Anonymous commenting does have a place on the internet, but only up to a point. After a while, it just looks a little cowardly.

There are plenty of legitimate grounds for attacking the RC Church. You don’t need to make them up, Laurence.

Ah, but that is precisely what I was not doing. Because my argument on religion is simply this: that the claims of religion are false. Nothing that Hitler, Stalin, Mother Teresa, or Batman did in the 20th century can have any possible bearing upon the alleged events of first century Palestine. That is why the Hitler/Stalin argument against atheism, so often and glibly trotted out, merely betrays a total lack of commitment to the truth.

No, my point in saying that Hitler was a Catholic is merely to point out that Hitler was raised a Catholic, that (while going through some bizarre twists and turns) he never publicly renounced his Catholicism, that he doubtless felt he was fulfilling the biblical prophecy of the final destruction of the Jews, and finally (and most crucially) that modern Christians, who believe plenty of strange things themselves, are in no position whatsoever to say that Hitler had any of this wrong.

by Laurence Boyce on March 7, 2008 at 6:14 pm. Reply #

Shall we have a look at what Hitler actually did say?

“Gradually the myths crumble. All that is left is to prove that in nature there is no frontier between the organic and the inorganic. When understanding of the universe has become widespread, when the majority of men know that the stars are not sources of light but worlds, perhaps inhabited worlds like ours, then the Christian doctrine will be convicted of absurdity.”


“The evil that is gnawing our vitals, is our priests, of both creeds. I can’t at present give them the answer they’ve been asking for but it’s all written down in my big book. The time will come when I’ll settle my account with them. They’ll hear from me all right. I shan’t let myself me hampered with judicial samples.”

And he was just as rude about Paganism:

“Nothing would be more foolish than to reestablish the worship of Wotan. Our old mythology had ceased to be viable when Christianity implanted itself. I especially wouldn’t want our movement to acquire a religious character and institute a form of worship. It would be appalling for me, if I were to end up in the skin of a Buddha.”

I can’t guarantee that Bormann got it all down correctly, of course.

My answer to Laurence’s “advice” is as follows: Some people don’t sit around the house all day, but go out and earn a living. That often means one is restricted as to what one can say in a public forum. I wish it were not so.

And my answer to the gentleman who defended school uniform and conscription. Both are evil. Neither has a legitimate function. Presumably the military adventures the latter discouraged would include Korea, Malaya, Cyprus, Vietnam, Algeria? And the social cohesion would be found in the officers’ mess?

by Sesenco on March 7, 2008 at 9:14 pm. Reply #

Sources please Sesenco.

Hitler’s anti-Christian comments are usually credited to the “table talk” source. Skeptics of that source will point out that it is hearsay.

His pro-Christian comments can be found in Mein Kampf, and speeches.

It is quite possible of course that he lost his faith after writing Mein Kampf.

by Joe Otten on March 10, 2008 at 1:09 pm. Reply #

I have already provided the source: “Hitler, a Study in Tyrrany” by Professor Alan Bullock.

Mein Kampf is actually replete with criticisms of the Church, but recall that Mein Kampf was intended for publication and circulation to the electorate at a period when the Nazi Party was weak.

The evidence indicates that Hitler was an atheist and materialist who was hostile to the Church in private and lukewarm in public.

The Nazi regime did not encourage the practice of religion and denied Christian leaders access to government. Priests were not allowed to officiate at SS funerals.

Bormann wanted Christianity outlawed altogether, while Rosenberg would have replaced it with the worship of Wotan. Goering seems to have been a semi-practicing Christian all his life while Hess reverted to Lutheranism at Nurnberg.

The atheist tendency clearly has a dislike of people pointing out that Hitler was one of theirs. But one of theirs he was, like it or not.

by Sesenco on March 10, 2008 at 1:39 pm. Reply #

I mean primary sources please.

Criticisms of the church, yes. Some Christians seemed to believe that Jesus was Jewish and Hitler was quite appalled by that.

And even today we can see in religious art many very non-Jewish, er I mean non-Semitic looking Jesuses. In Passion of the Christ too. Why? Because all this art (including the story adapted for Passion of the Christ) originated when christian culture was highly anti-Semitic. (I’m not seeking to absolve atheists here either, many of whom were also anti-semitic – Barn d’Holbach for example – and many others including communists.)

Yes a few Nazis were attracted to other gods, but this does not make them atheists!

by Joe Otten on March 10, 2008 at 3:14 pm. Reply #

Joe Otten:

Three questions:-

(1) How often did Hitler attend Roman Catholic Services (most Roman Catholics at the time did, and almost all living in rural areas)?

(2) How many senior Nazis attended church services of either denomination on a regular basis?

(3) How many Christian priests officiated at SS funerals?

If you want Alan Bullock’s primary sources, I suggest you check the references he gives.

I smell some rewriting of history going on here. I’m not defending the Church (far from it), just the truth.

by Sesenco on March 10, 2008 at 3:57 pm. Reply #

Sesenco, I have no idea what the answers to your question are, nor do I have access to your book. You do, so give us the primary source which it cites.

And please admit that believers in Wotan are not atheists!

I don’t go round making categorical assertions regarding what other people really believe in (sometimes despite what they say) because I can’t see inside their heads – and nor can anyone else. And so I am suspicious of all such categorical assertions. Machiavellian piety is always a possibility and never provable.

I agree there is probably revisionism going on, quite possibly from both sides; nobody likes to be lumped with the bad guys.

Does this leave us with no lessons to learn? Not at all. Whatever his beliefs were, it is clear that his politics were not secularist. He demanded religion in education, signed concordats guaranteeing tax money to the churches, proclaimed that atheism would be stamped out. Lets be lumped apart, whatever our religious beliefs, by keeping the state out of the religion business.

by Joe Otten on March 10, 2008 at 5:18 pm. Reply #

I’m aware that this is a very old topic and that no one is likely to read this comment, however I’m so struck by the mind-boggling stupidity of most of these comments that I feel compelled to say so.

The ones which really stuck out were by Laurence Boyce who says,

“I have not read the Lisbon Treaty, am not going to read the Lisbon treaty, would probably not understand the Lisbon treaty even if I did read it, and do not want a referendum on the Lisbon treaty.”

” Bang on Marcus. It’s not our job to read the treaty. A referendum is just a cop out. ”

The Lisbon Treaty was written to be unreadable! The euro-elite do not want people to know what their Treaty is about because they know people will oppose it. Like all European Union Treaties, the Lisbon Treaty is simply a monumental extension of the EU’s supranational powers and a further progression towards European statehood.

Claims that this is simply a “touch-up exercise” are laughable and nothing short of malicious deceit (or sheer ignorance).

If the elite genuinely wanted to encourage debate and informed discussion on this Constitution then they would have made it concise and eloquent. Instead it is an 80,000 word mess with the major clauses surreptitiously inserted throughout the text. (The American Constitution contained less than 5,000 words by comparison).

And why should the general public be expected to analyse this Treaty in great detail anyway? If a person is opposed to European federalism then they can quite correctly presume that they would oppose a Treaty which further extends the Union’s federalist nature.

Britain’s claim to being a democracy is becoming very spurious and its deteriorating state is due to many factors. One of the most significant being that we are becoming increasingly governed by a distant, incompetent, unelected elite in Brussels.

Now if you don’t believe in democracy then fine, but please remove the word ‘democrat’ from your party name.

The Liberal Democrats are generally a sensible party but I can never support them as long as they maintain their illiberal, undemocratic, hypocritical and actively repellent stance on the European Union.

by S Haworth on October 19, 2008 at 9:22 pm. Reply #

Nicolas Sarkozy even suggested changing the font.

by J Gundry on October 19, 2008 at 10:47 pm. Reply #

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