<html><head /> <body> <META http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=UTF-16"><title>The Landscape of British Politics</title><meta name="keywords" content="britain,conservative,labour,election,opinion,polls,policy,hague,blair,peter,hitchens,max,clifford,neil,hamilton,bill,rammell,marc,oaten,politics,"><table style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:larger; " align="center" border="0" width="50%"><tbody><tr> <td style="background-color:silver; border-color:white; border-left-style:none; border-style:none; " width="730"><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:larger; ">The Landscape of British Politics</span></td> </tr> </tr> </tbody></table><br><table style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:medium; " align="center" bgcolor="white" border="0" width="50%"><tbody><tr> <td height="131" width="669"><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small;"><strong>Editors Introduction</strong></span><span style="font-family:Verdana; "></span><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; "> How does the "king of spin" react to a disgraced former MP? In this panel debate, some of Britain's high-profile media celebrities and MPs take on current concerns in British politics, discussing a range of issues, from the state of the Conservative Party, to the Oxbridge selection process, to the National Health System and English football hooligans. This lively debate gives insight into some of the individuals and ideas behind the UK's more right-wing personalities.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; "><b>Chair:</b> The Conservatives are just a few points behind Labour in the latest opinion polls. Can they win the next General Election?</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; "><b>Peter Hitchens:</b> Yes, undoubtedly they can. In this time of low polls and broken party allegiances I think that the collapse of support for Labour among its own keenest adherents is causing a great deal of worry for the Labour Party. I think it's probably more likely at the moment that the Labour Party could still be the largest single party after the next election, but a party that is unable, necessarily, to form a majority without the Liberal Democrats. That's something which I think Mr. Blair would like to happen, because it would enable him to do what he's always wanted to do--that is, abolish the Westminster Parliament as it currently exists and replace it with some ghastly semicircular chamber in which you could never ever get rid of a government again.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">This possibility tortures me, but I think there is a growing understanding among the people who were suckered by the Labour Party and its unscrupulous and dishonest campaigning at the last election. They understand that it wasn't actually a combination of Christmas, the French Revolution and the Second Coming when Tony Blair arrived in Downing Street to that fake spontaneous demonstration on May 7, 1997, but actually just another Labour government. Those who are decrepit and old enough will remember the very similar, equally disappointing, fraudulent and incompetent government headed by Harold Wilson which stormed into office in 1966 on an enormous majority and threw it all away in four years.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">So, yes, I think it is possible and I think the realisation that it is possible may revive the moribund democracy in this country. What's been happening over much of the past three years has been that large numbers of otherwise sensible people have acted as if there was no opposition. Since then, as Richard Neville once rightly said, there may be a very small difference of a few inches in this country between the Labour Party and the Tory Party, but it is nonetheless in those few inches that we all live and in which freedom exists. The fact that it is possible that this government may be thrown out, a highly desirable thing, at the next election seems to me to be very good news for democracy, as well as very good news for the country.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; "><b>Max Clifford:</b> No, I don't think they've got any chance. I hope not. I think as long as people remember Neil Hamilton, Jonathan Aitken, David Mellor, Jeffery Archer and what they were all about, they've definitely got no chance. I do think that the words "sleaze," "corruption" and "back-handers" still are very much hand in glove with "Conservative."</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">Our memories are a bit longer than three or four years, so it's going to take a long time for the public to forget what a corrupt, sleazy lot they were. William Hague is maybe a good head prefect, but never a headmaster. So no, they've got no chance.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; "><b>Neil Hamilton:</b> What I like about Max Clifford is his charm, but I don't think that Max's analysis of the last election is going to help him too much in relation to the result of the next one.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">I will say this: the Tory Party is doing a lot better than it was doing in the polls, but then, it was hardly possible to do worse. I also know the opposite of the question, which is that, however far ahead you might have been on historical analysis in the polls, or indeed even in actual votes, it is always possible to cock things up so gloriously that you end up losing. Of course, I've led the way in that department, personally. So I think the election result, whenever it occurs in the next two years, is still highly unpredictable.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">I think what we are seeing, where Blair is concerned, is the chicken coming home to roost. Because a government which isn't firmly bedded in some kind of principle, and which is guided only by what the focus groups tell you at the time, is ultimately going to become internally incoherent. Public opinion is very fickle, and if you divorce your decision-making from some kind of bedrock of principle and only go for the morning's headlines, then ultimately everything's going to fall apart. I think that is now what we're seeing.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">Having said that, I can't say that the most attractive face of the Tory Party in electoral terms is its leader. Politics is personalised to a great extent today, and although I think he's done very well recently, Tony Blair has a great deal to make up. So I think, speaking personally, that Labour may well squeak in again, but certainly a large part of its majority--I'm sorry to say, Bill, and I hope it doesn't include you--will disappear.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; "><b>Bill Rammell:</b> I was going to say I had a higher majority than most people, but then I remember your result, Neil, so that's no security. I'm by no means complacent about the result of the next General Election.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">You know, for the whole of my adult life before May 1, 1977, I lived under a Conservative government, and suddenly, within two or three years, the consensus has been established that Labour are unchallengeable in power. I genuinely don't believe that to be the case and I actually think in terms of motivating and mobilising Labour supports. The fact that up until now the Conservative Party has not been seen as an electoral threat has done the Labour Party no favours whatsoever, because it's actually meant that people think, "Well, of course Labour are in there; we don't like this, we don't like that," and, you know, "Maybe we'll not come out to vote."</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">It's also the case that we are now in a period of midterm blues and frankly it is astonishing. Midterm blues has taken place under every government in living history and it's astonishing that it's taken this long for criticisms to be voiced and a blip in the opinion polls to occur. Undoubtedly people have concerns. The Labour Party and the government, of course, respond to those and listen to those, but we've also got to get across our records to people.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">You know, the economic conditions that we have created are the best there's ever been in a generation. Now, I grew up with 3 million people unemployed in this country. We now effectively have full employment, and as the new money is now coming through the schools and hospitals, I think real progress is being made. So I think we've got to campaign on our record, but we've actually got to highlight the alternative, because, whatever reservations people have about the Labour Party, the alternative is a Conservative government led by William Hague!</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">I think we have really seen over the last few months exactly what that would mean--playing the race card as the Conservatives have always done. We've seen that on asylum and immigration, bringing us to the brink of withdrawal from the European Union, which would put 3.2 million British jobs at risk and they are still a fundamentally totally split party, particularly on the issue of Europe.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; "><b>Chair:</b> Is William Hague in tune with public opinion? He's just three points behind in the opinion polls.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; "><b>Rammell:</b> Well, polls go up and down. I'd look at the longer-term trend and I think I'd also say, before Marc says it, that we should look at turnouts. The local elections were bad for the Labour Party, but when you actually had a higher turnout in the Romsey by-election, where people could really focus on the alternative being the Conservative Party, you saw a massive swing against them in one of their safest seats in the country. So I'm not complacent. We've got to get our message across.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; "><b>Hitchens:</b> You just said, "playing the race card," which is a very potent and unpleasant allegation. Could you please give me one instance of any racially prejudiced remark, any speech, any statement calculated to create racial tension made by any spokesman of the Conservative Party whatsoever, or withdraw that rather low allegation? It's constantly being made by Labour spokesmen. There's no basis for it whatever and you know it.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; "><b>Rammell:</b> Well, I'll take you back to the document that was written by Andrew Landsley. He was then the Conservative director of research and is now a leading front bench spokesperson who, in the run-up to the 1997 General Election, actually wrote a paragraph within that paper, saying we must play the race card against the Labour Party. The Tory Party has always done it.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; "><b>Hitchens:</b> Send this document to me, because I don't think any such thing was said.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; "><b>Rammell:</b> After the meeting, Peter, because you know it exists and I know it exists. When you attempt to use the issue of asylum and immigration to wholly distort the situation, to fire up people's fears and apprehensions, I think that is playing the race card. Check it out.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; "><b>Marc Oaten:</b> In answer to the original question, I don't think there's a hope in hell, frankly. I think the problem lies around the leader of the Conservative Party.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">Generally speaking, most of the public think that he's a nerd and he suffers from the Kinnock factor on this. It's one of those issues where, however nice the guy may be, however good his ideas may be, there's a personality problem. The British public tend to focus in very much the way they did with Kinnock, who was also a nice guy, but the image was ginger-haired windbag Welsh. I think people have got a similar image of Hague as being Yorkshire, nerd, wearing the baseball cap the wrong way round, and ultimately that's the big problem the Conservative Party has.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">What he has been extraordinarily successful in doing in the last few months is to actually take a lead of his party and to put himself on the box day in and day out. We've seen the kind of issues where he's been talking some strong language on asylum seekers, where he's been taking an anti-gay stance on Section 28 and where he's been virtually supporting the kind of actions that the farmer Tony Martin did when he shot the criminals coming into his garden.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">Now, those are populist issues, those are issues which will give you a quick fillip in the opinion polls, but deep down I actually think what matters to people is what's going on in the Health Service. Can their granny or their child get treated when they go to Accident and Emergency (A&amp;E)? How large is the classroom size where their kid is being taught? On those fundamental issues the Conservatives frankly have nothing new to say.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">The problem for Blair is equally large. When I speak to teachers or people in the health profession, they feel a sense of great letdown, that the promises which were so easily made before the election have not actually been kept. That's why I think we're seeing this change in the opinion polling. There's a disquiet that the promises haven't been kept on key issues of health and education, and there's a short-term populism for a guy who's running the country saying some pretty cheap things to try and shore up the right wing votes.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">That's my judgement of where we are, but the result at the next election, I think, will broadly be the same as it was at the last election, with a very low turnout because people are getting sadly turned off the politics yet again.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; "><b>Chair:</b> Do you think Charles Kennedy might become the next prime minister?</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; "><b>Oaten:</b> No, I don't. There's an honest answer. Not the next time round; watch it thereafter, but not next time round. I'm not going to lie to you. I can't see it happening next time round.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; "><b>Chair:</b> Do you think he'll be in the Cabinet after the next election?</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; "><b>Oaten:</b> I don't think that's going to happen, either. I think that we're looking, if I'm being honest with you, at a pretty similar-sized election result next time round. The only danger for Blair is if his supporters are so dissatisfied that they decide not to vote, or if the public assume he's going to win and just stay away. Then we'll see a low turnout in which the Conservatives, if they bring their support out on these right-wing issues, can actually win quite a few more seats. We may see the majority drop down, but not significantly enough to allow the Liberal Democrats to form a coalition with them.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; "><b>Chair:</b> After Gordon Brown and Tony Blair spoke out on the Oxbridge issue, they interviewed a number of state school students at Oxbridge. The students said said it hadn't helped the whole issue. Why do Gordon Brown and other senior Cabinet ministers do that if it's not actually helping them?</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; "><b>Rammell:</b> There's a real issue of concern. If you look at the Sutton Trust Report--it's not government propaganda; it's an independent research report--it has identified that something like 25 percent or more pupils from state schools should gain access to the best universities in the country and don't.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">We can have a long debate about why that is the case, but I think that highlights the fact that it is a real issue of concern. That's why their proposals to go out into state schools to put in mentoring schemes to actually encourage children from state schools to apply to those universities is absolutely important. It is why they are right to look at their selection procedures.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">I'll give you one example. One of my constituents, who came from Harlow, an urban working-class new town 20 miles north of London, went for an interview at Cambridge and had the ridicule taken out of her on the basis of her accent by the interviewer. Now, that actually made the national headlines and got into the national press. When something like that occurs and you put it alongside the significant underrepresentation of young people from state schools at our best universities, I think that highlights the fact that there's a real cause for concern, and that's why the government was absolutely right to say what it did.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; "><b>Hitchens:</b> I can't believe that I'm hearing this from a spokesman of the Labour Party. The Labour Party smashed up the grammar schools, which had allowed the children of the poor to get into university without their parents having to find huge fees. The Labour Party smashed up the grammar schools when the number of working-class students at Oxford and Cambridge was rising year by year by year, and it continued to rise until the moment Labour destroyed them. The next thing that Labour does is to introduce tuition fees to try again to drive the children of the poor out of university. Then it tries to set itself up as the party which gets the underprivileged into university.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">It is the party of privilege and the party which has actually made our education system more closed to the poor than it has been at any time in the past century. It slammed the last door a couple of years ago by smashing up the assisted-places scheme, which allowed many poor children to get into good schools and get into good universities.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">It makes me so angry to hear this drivel coming from the Labour Party when they themselves have been responsible for such an educational disaster. The only answer they can come up with is to reduce the entrance standards of some of the best universities in the world to cope with the fact that they've destroyed the state education system and reduced its standards. Why can't you just go back, apologise for the mess you've made and start putting right the state education system? Instead of these stunts and gimmicks and projects and schemes and task forces which do nothing, absolutely nothing at all.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; "><b>Chair:</b> Max Clifford, do you want to respond on elitism in Oxbridge? Do you think Gordon Brown and Tony Blair were helping their situation by speaking out against the Oxbridge selection process?</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; "><b>Clifford:</b> Well, that's how it is. Whether by speaking out they're going to change it is another matter. I will make one interesting point, because it's something I'm involved with. Tony Martin, the farmer who shot the burglars, is one of my clients, unpaid. When I went to Amanda Patel and told her about what had been going on to see if it was something they wanted to take up, there was no interest at all. Then it happened that the editor of the <i>Daily Telegraph</i>, the <i>Daily Mail</i> and the <i> Sun</i> decided that it was a good campaign because their readers--95 percent, roughly, across the country--responded. So, then, a week, 10 days, two weeks later, William Hague started saying how disgusting this was. But that's William Hague. That's not political, that's just a fact, that's what happened. He wasn't interested. It became something. He could score a few points, so he jumped on the bandwagon.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; "><b>Hamilton:</b> I'd like to talk about the House of Lords having been undemocratic when it was full of hereditary peers, but apparently it's much more democratic now it's full of people who have been appointed by Tony Blair. Tony Blair has made over 200 peers since he became prime minister only three years ago and I think he's made more peers than any previous occupant of his office.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">What they've done, of course, is to destroy one of the most independent parts of our parliamentary institutions, whatever its democratic deficiencies, and tried to make it into a pliant tool of the elected part of the legislature. Given that in the House of Commons all MPs are whipped through the lobbies to vote for things that they've spent their lives opposing when they were in opposition, it doesn't seem to be a democratic improvement. So I think we'll have a little less hectoring on the virtues of democracy and consistency from the Labour Party, because what we've seen there, of course, is an organised apostasy.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">When I was first elected to parliament, in 1983, Tony Blair was a new boy as well. Michael Foot was then the leader of the Labour Party and Tony Blair was a very enthusiastic supporter of CND, a party which then had in its manifesto that they were going to leave the European Community, that they were going to vastly extend nationalisation, predatory taxation, 97.5 percent in the pound to be the top rate. All these were things they were in favour of. Margaret Thatcher converted the Labour Party and I'm delighted that we've got such a right-wing government in this country today. I think it's one of the things which may well help them to win the next election.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; "><b>Oaten:</b> Why did Brown get involved in the Oxbridge affair? I guess it was because he was getting slightly nervous that Blair was losing core Labour support and wanted to try and drag the government back to saying some populist things amongst their core voters. One of the things that Blair loves is what's been called the "big tent approach to government." He thinks he can say most things to attract the most people towards the Labour Party and I think that he's come a cropper at that. We saw how he came a cropper when he spoke to the Women's Institute (WI).</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">I've only been doing this job for three and a half years or so and I've begun to realise that you cannot in this job be all things to all people. It's tempting to do it at times, and there's nothing harder than when you're in front of a hostile audience to try and say things which are sympathetic to them. You will come a cropper, and sometimes in politics you've actually got to, frankly, piss people off by saying what you really believe in. I think that what Brown was trying to do was to put a warning shot across Blair to say, "Look. Get back to some core values, stop trying to appeal to all people at the same time."</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">On the issue of education itself, I went to a comprehensive, a tough old rough comprehensive. I don't have a university degree, and frankly I don't think I've suffered a great deal from it. I don't understand what all the fuss is about. I do not understand why we have to have so much dogma in education. From my perspective, I don't care whether people are taught in a grammar school or a comprehensive, or what kind of polytechnic or university they go to. What I want to see is good-quality teaching provided at all levels for all people, whether it's in the private or the public state.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">And for God's sake, if we can just keep dogma out of education, we'd go a lot further in this country, in the same way that some of our foreign competitors do. They have a much broader education system, which has allowed for a range of providers in it, rather than, as we have in this country, an education system which is basically hung up by old class issues.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; "><b>Oaten:</b> Going back to the situation in relation to Accident and Emergency departments. There's been an enormous increase in the number of people going to A&amp;E departments, something like a 17 percent increase in the last 10 years. We need to examine why that's happening. The difficult thing for a politician to do is to turn round to the local community and say that we cannot afford to carry on providing an A&amp;E in every single town. Bill Rammell, Neil Hamilton and others all want an A&amp;E in their constituency.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">Probably the truthful thing to say is that with the escalating costs going on, we can't afford to continue to do that. What we've then got to do is to turn round and say, "There needs to be some centres of excellence, there need to be A&amp;E departments in the region where we can get people in there within an hour so that they're given the critical treatment that they need." The difficulty is that no politician is going to have the honesty to turn round and say, "I think my A&amp;E department should be shut down, because the best health care for people in my area is to create one big A&amp;E department where the ambulance can get there and give them high-quality treatment." I think that's where the honesty comes in.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">Are you prepared to turn round to the public and say, "These are some tough decisions. We cannot afford it, and you're not prepared to put income tax up to afford it, so we've got to come up with viable alternatives"? Sometimes those viable alternatives are very difficult for politicians to talk to the community about. I wish on some of the health issues we could pull the party politics aside slightly and all agree that we need to be much more open and honest about how we're going to deliver good-quality health service.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">It will not just require money being thrown at it; it will require some very difficult choices about rationing, the role of the private sector and occasionally, yes, shutting A&amp;E departments down, so that we can create larger, more effective A&amp;E departments in regions.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; "><b>Rammell:</b> I think you do need honesty and I would acknowledge that I think the government actually created a problem for itself initially after the General Election by overinflating the progress that was being made in the National Health Service. That gives us a political problem, because if you look at it objectively we are now in a situation where there really has never been as much money being put in as there is now.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">To put it into context: Under the last Tory government the real-terms increase was 2.7 percent above inflation. It's now, for a five-year period, going to be over 6 percent. What difference does that make? An increase of 2.7 percent allows you to stand still, and 6 percent enables you over time to start to improve the service, and it's actually the amount of money that the Liberal Democrats were calling for. So I'd hope that Marc would actually acknowledge that.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">He's right as well that it's not just about money; it's also about changing the system, and one of the things that I think we need to do is solve the unresolved problem from the creation of the National Health Service. That is actually the status and role of the consultants and the power that they wield within the Health Service. I hope that within the national plan that's going to be published in July that issue will actually be tackled.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; "><b>Audience Question:</b> Do you think there is any link between UK opposition to Brussels and the European Union and the type of English football hooliganism we saw during Euro 2000?</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; "><b>Oaten:</b> What I find odd is--I mean, I suppose this is odd, but I'm a Watford fan, dare I admit it, a season-ticket holder, which despite that could mean I do enjoy football--one of the odd things is that if you have a German player, a French player playing for your side, the crowd all chant out their name. They're happy to applaud that player, they're full on behind that player and there's not a hint of nastiness or xenophobia towards that individual. But the minute that our national team go abroad and play countries with those very players that they support week in and week out, they start making Nazi salutes and they start making xenophobic comments. I just find that an absolute contradiction, I do not understand it.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">I suspect that what we have with so-called football hooligans is nothing to do with football, but the kind of thing that we had years back in Ibiza and stuff like that. Hot weather, youngsters together and drink lead to violence. That's got very little to do with football and it's got much more to do with human nature. If we begin to understand the problem from that perspective, rather than saying that it's a race issue or a football issue, I think we begin to understand human nature more and we may find the solutions. I think sadly we tag football issues onto it and we try to put xenophobic issues onto it, when it has much more to do with drink, young people and hot weather.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; "><b>Clifford:</b> No, I don't agree. As someone who goes to football a lot, I think it's happening in football grounds all over the country all the time. I can remember just a few years back, when Crystal Palace were playing Wimbledon and Wimbledon had four black players and Crystal Palace had eight. I just happened to be sitting with the Crystal Palace supporters and they were shouting, "You load of black bastards!" at the Wimbledon players, when most of their own team were black.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">Unfortunately, football is full of it and as long as football clubs tolerate it because it brings in revenue, it will increase and increase. It's there and it's there for everyone to see, but they turn a blind eye to it until it explodes at something like Brussels. It's been going on for years and years, and it's right the way through our game because so many of the people that go to football, they're not fans of football, they don't give a monkey's about the football. They're there because they're mindless morons and they want to cause trouble. Football is a place where they can do that.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; "><b>Hamilton:</b> Well, I don't play football or watch it either, so I'm not really too qualified to comment on this, but in my limited experience of football hooligans, they're not as intellectual as Max and nor are they so interested in politics, so I can't think that the explanation implied by the question is likely to be the answer. I think Max is probably right that there are mindless morons who if they weren't watching or following football and causing trouble there would be doing it somewhere else. So I don't think it has anything to do with the very serious arguments that we face as a country on the future of Europe and the euro.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">I don't know what the average football hooligan's view of the single currency might be, but it seems to me much more to do with the collapse of authority in society in this country. It goes back to the destruction of authority in the education system in the postwar period by the Labour Party, back in the days when the Tory Party just bent the knee in a rather cowardly and timid way and accepted all this. Unfortunately, we continued the destruction of the education system which produced such fine upstanding figures as those that you see sitting on the platform this afternoon.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; "><b>Rammell:</b> I'm just going to pick up that issue. This Liberal establishment within education is causing all of our problems. The Labour Party's been in power for 19 out of the last 55 years, so let's get it into some historical context. Who's responsible for the problems?</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">You know, I am a football fan and was horrified genuinely at what went on in Brussels that weekend at Euro 2000. I think Neil's actually wrong. No, there's not a well-developed political philosophy. But anyone who goes to a football ground in this country knows that for donkeys' years the National Front and the BNP (British National Party) have been organising within football grounds because they see it as a place where their views can come forward. Anyone who watched the BBC "Panorama" documentary on English football hooligans after the Euro 2000 Romania game will have seen people in bars in Brussels chanting, "No surrender to the IRA." So it is clearly linked up with a sense of distorted nationalism, and I think we've got to face up to the fact that in this country we do have a yob culture where racism, xenophobia and a complete disregard for your fellow citizen actually runs very strongly.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">I think that is fuelled by the kind of rubbish we see week in, week out in our national newspapers, particularly the tabloids: that we're under threat from Europe, that Europe wants to control us. The headlines about the Huns and the Frogs. You cannot disassociate that diatribe of xenophobia. People, in some circumstances, after a lot of drink and not with a great deal of education, actually then decide to take the law into their own hands and actually beat people up. I think that's a real cause for concern to us and we need to spend a long time thinking about it.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; "><b>Clifford:</b> It's terribly sad, isn't it, that everyone's saying that now that the English have gone home, we can enjoy the football, everyone can relax and enjoy themselves. All the fans, all the different nations can now enjoy themselves, now we've gone home. Isn't that sad?</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; "><b>Hitchens:</b> Two issues, one very quickly on football. There is a reason, I'm not quite sure what it is, that football seems to attract so much in the way of lowlife of all kinds. One of the things which distresses me about football is the way in which otherwise sensible, intelligent and educated people suck up to it and say, "Oh, I go to such and such, I belong to such and such, I always attend such and such," or how the prime minister pitifully pretends that he's a football fan and has himself filmed watching football games.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; "><b>Clifford:</b> Or John Major at Chelsea.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; "><b>Hitchens:</b> The very same. Yes, utterly pathetic grovelling to what they believe to be popular culture, when, in fact, it is a focus for violence, unpleasantness and drunkenness. Yes, these things are the result of the collapse of authority, the collapse of education, the collapse of the family--all the things associated with the liberal '60s generation, who may not have been in government but who were in power in many other places, notably the education system and the BBC, for much of this time.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">Now the other issue. I very much object to the questioner in the audience trying to suggest that there is any link whatsoever between opposition to the European Union and the hatred, the stupid, boneheaded hatred, of foreigners and foreign things which has taken place in Brussels and which often takes place at football grounds. And I object to this absurd and frankly defamatory use of the word "'xenophobia" to describe an honest concern for the democracy and independence of this country among people.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">Most of the people I know who are classified as eurosceptics know a great deal more about the continent of Europe than you do, sir, for instance. I've lived there, which I doubt you have. I don't know how many European languages you speak, but to describe such circumstances as xenophobic is actually insulting. He's just instanced the <I>Daily Mirror</I>, which is a paper in favour of this country throwing away the pound and abandoning its independence in the European Union. The two simply aren't linked.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; "><b>Clifford:</b> I thought what he was saying was that tabloid press stir up hatred against Europeans, and I totally agree with that.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">I know not many people read the <i> Express</i>, Peter, but anybody who reads the <I> Sun</I> or even the <I> Mail</I> or even the <I>Mirror</I> would have seen a load of racist propaganda over the years, because I see it all the time. So I'm sure that helps to create the kind of problems that we've just seen demonstrated in Brussels, and it's in the national press all the time.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; font-style:italic; ">Copyright The London School of Economics and Political Science.</span></td> </tr> </tbody></table> </body></html>