Very odd that there isn't a LibDem on the panel - AGAIN! Either last week or the week before they didn't have anyone either. If I were them, I'd be furious. Panellists are Hazel Blears MP, Chris Grayling MP, Jean Lambert MEP, journalist Rod Liddle, and the Bishop of Rochester the Right Reverend Michael Nazir-Ali. A bit biassed towards the left methinks. Jean Lambert was my next door neighbour in Walthamstow when I lived there in the late 1980s. A nice woman, if often deluded. Chris Grayling has shot up in my estimation in the last 6 months. And Rod Liddle is becoming one of my favourite columnists. And you all know of my soft spot for the little chipmunk that is the delectable Hazel Blears. I think this Bishop is a bit of a leftie. But aren't they all...
QUESTION 1 - NIGEL CRISP & NHS FUNDING
Hazel is grinning already. Her default setting. Liddle slags off government for bankrupting hospitals. Says it is sad that Labour has 'ballsed up' education and health. Says he voted for them. Blears hits back hard. Gets a minor clap for saying NHS has improved. She keeps saying 'right?' Sounds a bit odd for a government minister. Jean Lambert talks sense. Shock horror. Says expectations of NHS are too high and can never be met. Ritual slagging off of Tories. Chris Grayling agrees with Liddle. Bit of a weak answer but gets a good clap anyway. The Bish predictably comes to Blears rescue and mutters inanities about how wonderful the NHS is and it shouldn't be dismantled. Er, no one has suggested that actually. Blears in deep do do about the fact Crisp wanted to stay on but was sacked. She's denying it. Sounds like a robot. Albeit a robot chipmunk. Grayling needs to get in more.
QUESTION 2 - ON PM'S DIVINE GUIDANCE
Jean Lambert says you have to take responsibility for your own actions. She says Blair is trying to pass the buck to God. Incoherant ramble. She asks where is the line between religion and politics. Growing question in the world today. Bishop says faith cannot coerce in the politial arena. Says Blair was not claiming infallible divine guidance. Was seeking God's will through prayer. Bishop endorses removal of Saddam. Says rthere is a danger of the peace being lost. He's certainly right on that. Rod Liddle wants God expunged from the political process. Wants God replaced by rationality. Eh? What a boring programme so far. Grayling sayspeople in public life should be free to talk about their faith. But it's sensitive. Blair shouldn't have mixed religion with a sensitive international situation. Blears leaps to Blair's defence. Cabinet job must be in the offing!
QUESTION 3 - IS IT TIME FOR A MORE ROBUST STANCE TOWARDS IRAN?
Bishop says you must distinguish between Iranian people and Iranian regime. Can't believe how the Iranians could elect such a President and election must have been rigged. Grayling says situation has the potential to become a serious crisis. Says it should all be handled by the UN. Not sure that's the best argument he should be deploying. Liddle has a go mat the Bishop. They clearly don't like each other. Mad woman in a hat says 'y'know' about twenty times within one sentence. Liddle says decision on Iran is being affected by Iraq disaster. Seems to be saying we will have to do something. Blears echoes Grayling on the need to use multilateral international organisations. Jean Lambert says there are double standards being operated on this issue. France is talking to Libya about nuclear power. Bush is talking to India about expanding nuclear power in India. She understands why there is an adverse reaction in Iran. I think this is a reasonable argument to make. She gets the biggest applause of the programme so far. Grayling makes a good point about Iraq invading other countries and chemical weapons being used against its own people but then gets a little lost in another cul-de-sac. Grayling thinks there are no double standards.
QUESTION 4 - DOES TESSA JOWELL HAVE MORE QUESTIONS TO ANSWER?
Chris Grayling perks up. He's on comfortable territory. Says Blair should agree to have an Independent Adjudicator to look into issues like Tessa Jowell. Blers takes an onion out of her pocket. Dimbleby trashes her by saying the PM is the only one that's cleared her. Blears really is all over the place on this. Dimbleby asks he if she agrees with Alastair Graham's remarks today. Blears avoids the question. Grayling looks too pleased with himself when he catches her out. Lambert and the Bish agree on an independent investigator.
QUESTION 5 - SHOULD WOMEN BE ABLE TO USE FROZEN EMBRYOS IF THEIR PARTNERS OBJECT
Blears says it's all very difficult. Says court has probably reached the right decision. Dimbleby says that the father has fertilised the egg so it's ending life. Bishop seems to disagree with that. Hmmm. Then contradicts himself saying that once conception has happened the parties should be committed to it. Says he doesn't know if the Court got it right. That's OK then - and this Bishop is on the Ethics Committee! Liddle makes a good point about what debate we would be having if it was the man who wanted to continue and the woman didn't. Lambert agrees with the Court, as does Grayling.
Extremely tedious edition. No one shone. They were all as boring as each other.