(From the Independent)
Labour leadership contender answers your questions, such as ‘Why not sell your flats to help fight against poverty?’ & ‘What’s your guilty pleasure?’
Published: 05 March 2007
Are you a socialist? What does that mean today? MIKE WOODBRIDGE, Brighton
Yes, I am. A socialist believes that while the market has its proper place, the fundamental principles underpinning society should be equity, social justice, equality of opportunity, and democratic accountability. Even where the market is a dominant force, socialists believe it should be regulated to ensure high environmental, social and labour standards.
Why, as a socialist, do you own so many houses? GARY BROWNE, Glasgow
As I have regularly stated in the register of Members’ interests, I own four flats. I have saved throughout my life, and put my savings into property. I don’t think [that] is contrary to socialism.
Given your views on poverty, why not sell some of your houses and give the money to charity? Or are you just another hypocritical politician? V AHMAD, Birmingham
I already give a significant amount to charity . I agree there is an urgent need to build much more social, affordable housing but selling my flats which are already occupied would not contribute one iota to that.
Isn’t it delusional of you to challenge Gordon Brown for the Labour leadership? MAURICE BURKE, Birmingham
No. There should be a contest because only an election enables us to debate the real policy issues. I also believe that members of the Labour Party should have the right to choose their own leaders. I believe, too, that as New Labour, of which Gordon Brown is perhaps the main architect, has moved continually ever further to the right, the mainstream majority of the party has been left disenfranchised and without a voice. It is not sensible to assume the results of any election before the electors have had a chance to deliver their opinion which may sometimes come as rather a shock to the chattering classes. Not too many people I guess expected David Cameron to come from behind and win the Tory Party leadership.
Don’t you think Gordon offers Labour the best hope of winning the next election? VALERIE EVANS, Cardiff
Have you seen the last two polls? Both put the Tories 11 per cent ahead, and one poll found that if Gordon was leader, the Tories would be 13 per cent ahead.
I am a Labour supporter, but I despair that Gordon Brown has been such a coward over the war, talks nonsense on ‘Britishness’ and seems so in love with Rupert Murdoch that he will hand the next election to Cameron. Do you agree – and if not, which bits do you disagree with and why? DAVE FISCHER, Sheffield
Cameron has certainly, at this stage at least, improved the Tories’ poll ratings, but not, I think, for the reasons you give.
A majority on the Labour left support John McDonnell and see your campaign as a spoiler which will only split the vote and stop a contest. Will you stand down if John has more nominations when Blair resigns? SUSAN PRESS, Calder Valley
There is no evidence whatever that a majority of people on the Labour Party left and the affiliated trade union movement support John McDonnell for leader. I have a great deal of respect for John, but I don’t believe he can get the necessary 45 nominations, whereas I believe I can. I am not splitting the vote, but rather giving the centre-left the chance, to run a candidate who can pass the nominations threshold. But I do agree that whichever of the two of us has the larger number of nominations, the other should stand down when Tony Blair resigns.
Why not use that photo of you on Blackpool beach (very Daniel Craig) for your campaign posters? CONOR MURPHY, Reading
Good try. At least it shows I’m healthy.
Do you think Blair should stand down now?STEVE HARRISON, Bolton
The sooner he stands down, the better.
Why did you vote in favour of the invasion of Iraq?DEAN PALMER, Norwich
I made the biggest mistake of my political life when I supported the war, on the grounds that the Prime Minister repeatedly gave chapter and verse about Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction and assured us that if only we knew all the intelligence available to him, we would have no doubts about the necessity for this action. I still find it deeply disturbing for democracy that a prime minister can so massage and fabricate the evidence in order to push through a preconceived war plan.
Do you think Blair lied to his MPs and lied to the country over Iraq?JEFF TERRY, Dundee
I think the highly selective manipulation of such evidence as there was, together with the highly prejudicial use to which it was put, was deeply dishonest.
You claim you were misled that Saddam had a WMD programme. Yet you say the West has no right to tell Iran not to develop nuclear weapons. Aren’t you being rather inconsistent over Iraq and Iran?JIM ROLAND, London NW11
No, these are two quite separate arguments. Yes, we were certainly misled over Saddam’s alleged WMD programme. While we should try to prevent Iranian nuclear weapons by negotiation and UN sanctions, we cannot say that nuclear weapons are indispensable for our own security, and then say Iran does not need them for their own security, especially when Iran (unlike the West) is surrounded by seven states which are nuclear-armed and some very hostile.
Do you truly believe that the US government knew about 9/11 but failed to prevent it?CHRIS QUIGLEY, by email
Clearly the US government did not know the precise time and location of the al-Qa’ida attack, but equally clearly there was a great deal of intelligence beforehand which, for whatever reason, it seems that they did not follow up.
You have suggested that the US government knew about the 9/11 attacks (which is pretty obvious I reckon, but fair play to you nonetheless). How complicit do you believe the UK Government was in 7/7? PAUL HUGHES, by email
Not at all.
Do you also believe that the FBI shot John F Kennedy, that Princess Diana was murdered and the US government has covered up the landing of aliens?BEN TROTTER, Cirencester
No. Such allegations are cheap and rather silly.
What steps will you propose to counter global warming? DR GEORGE BLAIR, by email
We should rapidly increase our use of renewable sources of energy (windpower, solar, and micro-generation in people’s homes). We should require the airline industry, like every other industry, to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions each year. We should increase vehicle excise duty sharply for gas-guzzling cars and use the proceeds to subsidise bus and rail, and smaller-engine cars. We should give each family a carbon entitlement which then has to be reduced each year.
How often have you flown in the past 12 months? FIONA MILLS, Edinburgh
Not at all.
You criticise the ‘Westminster bubble’ but said you spent the last two months talking to MPs about your campaign. Does this not show you have the same disrespect for people’s views as the rest of the Westminster bubble? MARSHA JANE THOMPSON, by email
I said that when people around the country come to vote, they may well take a quite different view of things from the inward-looking Westminster scene, and should be listened to. But I also extensively canvassed my colleagues in the Parliamentary Labour Party because they alone are the ones who make the nominations.
Why did it take you so long to announce your intention to stand for the Labour leadership when John McDonnell has been campaigning up and down the country for months?MAX MITCHELL, by email
I have been told that John McDonnell announced his candidature without consulting his colleagues. I thought it right first to consult extensively to confirm that my candidature would have the necessary range of support.
What are your guilty pleasures (apart from homeowning)?ALICE SHERWOOD, Tadworth
Wouldn’t you like to know! Dropping childish comments in the waste paper basket is one of them.
You always look a bit boring. Are you? ROB JACKSON, by email
No. Why? Are you?