It was trailed as a "unique chance to rewrite the law of the land". Listeners to BBC Radio 4's Today programme were asked to suggest a piece of legislation to improve life in Britain, with the promise that an MP would then attempt to get it onto the statute books.
But yesterday, 26,000 votes later, the winning proposal was denounced as a "ludicrous, brutal, unworkable blood-stained piece of legislation" - by Stephen Pound, the very MP whose job it is to try to push it through Parliament.
Mr Pound's reaction was provoked by the news that the winner of Today's "Listeners' Law" poll was a plan to allow homeowners "to use any means to defend their home from intruders" - a prospect that could see householders free to kill burglars, without question.
"The people have spoken," the Labour MP replied to the programme, "... the bastards."
Having recovered his composure, Mr Pound told The Independent: "We are going to have to re-evaluate the listenership of Radio 4. I would have expected this result if there had been a poll in The Sun. Do we really want a law that says you can slaughter anyone who climbs in your window?"
Journalists on Today are thought to have been taken aback by the choice of their listeners. Observers had assumed that the winning suggestion might be a little more light-hearted - and a little less illiberal.
Indeed, there were suspicions the vote may have been hijacked by supporters of Tony Martin, the Norfolk farmer who was jailed for shooting a burglar. The winning proposal enjoyed a late surge in support in the final 24 hours of the poll, a jump attributed by the BBC to the fact that telephone votes - which were more firmly in favour of the anti-burglar proposal - were added at the last minute.
Today's long-running Personality of the Year poll was scrapped in 1997, after persistent attempts by political parties to fix it.
Mr Pound will go through the motions of presenting the Bill to Parliament but hoped he would fail. He said it was "the sort of idea somebody comes up with in a bar on a Saturday night between 'string 'em all up' and 'send 'em all all home'".Reuse content