Question Time: 2/4/15

Question Time was focused on the Leaders Debate that was held earlier in the evening. Michael Gove said that he believed Cameron won the debate and that a Labour government supported by the SNP would see Miliband being led by Sturgeon and Salmond. In contrast, Andy Burnham said that Miliband won the debate and that the momentum was behind him. Peter Hitchens agreed with a member of the audience who said that Farage sounded the most honest and real because he was unconcerned about making mistakes. Danny Alexander agreed that there was a lot of preparation that had gone into preparing for the debate, which is why so many came across as not being real; he also felt that Nick Clegg had performed well. Alexander then accused the Conservatives of talking up the SNP and Hitchens said that this was because the Conservatives would struggle to win an election outright whilst Scotland remains part of the UK. Yasmin Alibhai-Brown said that all three female leaders had performed well, particularly Sturgeon.

There was lots of speculation about possible deals and/or coalitions in the event of a hung parliament, with a Labour/SNP and Conservative/UKIP deal being the two most talked about. Gove said that he would prefer a Conservative majority and did not want to speak about any possible deals. Burnham guaranteed that there would be no coalition between Labour and the SNP and said that Labour are looking for a majority government.

Devolution was also discussed, with Alexander being in favour of more devolution; Burnham said that it is important for everyone to work together. Alibhai-Brown argued that fractions are appearing in society, with people turning against one another.

Gove (and Cameron’s) aim of a Conservative majority was challenged by a member of the audience, asking what has changed in the five years. Gove gave some (by now) familiar statistics, which Hitchens challenged by giving the figure of the debt (£1.5 trillion).

Alibhai-Brown admitted to being surprised by the debate because they contained more substance than she expected and that government is likely to become based more upon style.

The first past the post system was discussed and whether the coming election would be the last time it would be used. Gove, Hitchens and Burnham supported it, whilst Alexander and Alibhai-Brown hoped that a new system would be in place for the next election.

When asked about whether the country is full, Hitchens agreed that it was; he said that he admired migrants for uprooting and coming to another country, but a large influx of foreign people was putting the country and its resources under great strain. He added that leaving the EU would be needed to be able to decide upon this and for there to be self-governance. Gove argued that the country is not full and that migrants contribute to society, focusing on workers in the NHS and schools, accusing those who want no immigration or open-door immigration of poisoning the argument. Alibhai-Brown agreed with Gove, focusing on the migrant workers within the care sector. Burnham favoured taking a longer view approach, arguing that British people went abroad in the past to find work. Alexander agreed that migrant workers helped in various sectors and that further investment, as Clegg proposed in the debate, was required.

Alibhai-Brown said that she cannot understand why young people leave the country to join ISIS and that the influence of Saudi Arabia needed to be considered. Gove argued that Islam is being distorted by a minority and that the way to challenge it is to passionately defend values. Hitchens pointed out that only a tiny minority of British Muslims do travel abroad to fight and that the West has made foreign policy mistakes in the recent past. Burnham described it as a complicated situation and that there is no simple answer. Alexander admitted to not knowing why and generally agreed with Gove’s latter point.

Burnham gave his views on the NHS until Dimbleby interrupted him and asked him to answer the question; Burnham still did not answer the question in Dimbleby’s opinion, although he claimed he did by saying that NHS spending was accountable to Parliament. Alexander offered the view that some decisions with regards to the NHS were out of the hands of politicians, but that some level of politics has to remain in it. Alibhai-Brown agreed that the NHS should apolitical and not be privatised. Hitchens argued that it will remain political because Labour cling to the NHS due to it being the only thing that they have not ruined whilst in government. Gove favoured there being a cross-party group looking at the NHS.

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