I joined the BBC Question Time panel on Thursday 11th February, with Lord Hattersley, Lynne Featherstone MP, Ruth Lea and Tom Conti. The program was in Middlesbrough on the day of the ‘moth-balling’ of the Corus plant. Middlesbrough was once the fastest growing city on earth and Corus was the last legacy of its dominant position in iron and steel manufacturing. Corus was connected to two Penrith and the Border businesses – Steadmans and the Shap plant – and its closure is a tragedy for the region but particularly for its 1700 highly skilled employees. The government suggests there may still be interested buyers. If so, it seems very disappointing that more attempts were not made to contact those buyers well before the ‘moth-balling’.
The program was defined largely by a discussion of different moral issues. In particular in the pre-screened segment, hunting and then later, Gordon Brown’s Morgan interview, press freedom and euthanasia. Curiously I found myself allied with Hattersley on Brown, press freedom and euthanasia (but not on economics). I found the Archbishop of Canterbury’s statement at the General Synod helfpul:
“The freedom of one person to utilise in full consciousness a legal provision for assisted suicide brings with it a risk to the freedom of others not to be manipulated or harassed or simply demoralised when in a weakened condition. Once the possibility is there, it will not only be utilised by the smallish number of high-profile hard cases but will also create an ethical framework in which the worthwhileness of some lives is undermined by the legal expression of what feels like public impatience with protracted dying and ‘unproductive’ lives.
“But most of us here, I suspect, would say that the balance of liberties still comes out against a new legal framework, and in favour of holding to the principle – not that life should be prolonged at all costs, but that the legal initiating of a process whose sole or main purpose is to end life is again to cross a moral boundary, and to enter some very dangerous territory in practical terms. Most of us would still hold that the current state of the law, with all its discretionary powers and nuances about degrees of culpability in extreme cases, serves us better than an opening of the door into provision for the legal ending of lives.”
Politicshome, quotes, me – accurately I believe – in response to Dimbleby on Afghanistan:
“The solution is not going to come just through fighting. How do we create long-term stability? That’s a twenty, thirty year project I’m afraid.” Stressing that it was his “personal view”, Stewart said: “I think we need to start thinking about the medium and long term and look at reducing troop numbers.”Clarifying later in the programme he said, “I don’t believe we should run for the hills and withdraw. I think it is perfectly possible to have a pragmatic position. “We need a light, smart solution where the focus is political… We should not be traipsing around every rural area doing what we cannot do.”