Libertarian. Enjoys politics, technology, music, food and drink.
Last night’s Question Time was markedly different from usual, and not just because it was filmed from prison. For a start, no matter what your interpretation of each panelist’s politics, it was one of the fairest panels the show has seen in a long time. Second, the audience, with I think one notable exception, seemed more balanced as well. Third and this one was the clincher for me, there was a greater level of debate than usual. It was a combination of the smaller panel, the subject matter, and the fact that we didn’t have any loud-mouthed/whiney/celebrity/etc panelists to shout over each other at every stage. For an hour there maintained a good level of debate where points were elaborated upon and expressed in a detail not usually seen in Question Time.
I agreed mostly with Melanie Phillips throughout the show and despite the uproar that erupted on Twitter about her, there’s very little she said that I could disagree with. She was the first panelist to bring up my original concern with the reduction for the sake of the victim idea, in that it is not the trial that is the most traumatic part of it. It is the rape which is the most traumatic part of it. The victim will want justice, which will not happen with reduced sentences. When asked whether prison works, she responded “It doesn’t work terribly well, but unfortunately nor do the alternatives.” And as she said at some point “This is not justice, it is a farce.“
I agreed with almost all of her foreign aid remarks as well, although I am on the fence about whether the department should be shut down altogether. While there are many countries I am not happy that we give aid to, I know there are some that need the money. Yet I think that charity, volunteering and personal contribution are a lot more effective in helping the poor in those countries, than a cheque from Government to Government.
Jack Straw reiterated why he is one of the few members of the last Government I really quite admire. During the question of ‘does prison work’? Straw pointed out that crime has come down since 1995 and prison population as gone up. He talked about reoffending and prior offences rates and pointed out “96% of defendants sentenced to prison for short term offences have had one or more convictions. On average, it’s 16 sets of convictions.” He also hammered down on Ken Clarke for proposing his various reforms were anything other than purely to cost cut, rather than doing it for the victims. It wasn’t hard to joke that Ken was the only lefty on the panel.
I disagreed with Shami Chakrabarti more than I would do usually because my views of civil liberties and human rights change drastically once you have committed crimes. Which is not to say that I do not think many laws need reform, but when one is convicted of a crime, as part of one’s punishment and justice, one should have rights removed. Voting is one of them. Melanie Phillips made an astounding defence to a prisoner as to why they shouldn’t be granted the votes and the prisoner responded “Voting is a duty.” “So is abiding to the law” I responded moments later on Twitter.
Overall the whole episode was excellent. The narrow range of subjects allowed them to be debated in greater detail, and the exclusion of the usual ‘celebrity’ was incredibly welcome. And one of the best parts? One of the final questions was from a prisoner who asked,
Can’t we perhaps rid ourselves of the EU by having a referendum? It’s costing us a fortune.